1984 Book I Reading Questions + Essay Prompt

1984 Questions: Book I

1. Describe the government of Oceania.
2. Why does Winston keep a diary? How is the diary an important literary device?
3. What is the purpose of the Two Minute Hate? How does Winston react to the
Two Minute Hate?
4. How does his momentary eye contact with O’Brien affect Winston?
5. Who are the Parsonses and what do they represent?
6. What is the significance of Winston’s dream in which a voice speaks to him
about meeting in a place where there is no darkness?
7. Why does Winston place a speck of dust on the cover of his diary?
8. What do Winston’s dreams about his mother, the Golden Country, and the
dark-haired girl reveal about him?
9. What are the Physical Jerks?
10. Describe Winston’s job. Does he like it?
11. What is revealed about Party philosophy in the discussion between Winston
and Syme?
12. What do Winston’s memories of Katharine and his visit to a prostitute reveal
about the attitudes toward sex in Oceania?
13. Why was the photograph of Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford important?
14. How does Winston view the Proles?
15. What does Winston realize about the past after his discussion with the old man
in the pub?
16. What treasures does Winston discover at Mr. Charrington’s shop?
17. What does Winston think about the dark-haired girl when he sees her outside
Charrington’s shop?
Book 1 Mini-Essay Prompt
Write a three-paragraph essay about one of the novel’s themes. First, choose a
significant quote from Book 1. Explain how the quote (and, possibly, other evidence
from the text), reveals one major theme of the novel: totalitarianism, individual vs.
collective identity, reality control, class struggle, etc. Below are some optional quotes,
but you are welcome to choose your own.

Chapter 3:

To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while
telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which
canceled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them,
to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to
believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of
democracy, to forget, whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back
into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to
forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process
itself—that was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness,
and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had
just performed. Even to understand the word “doublethink” involved the use of

Chapter 4:

The process of continuous alteration was applied not only to newspapers but
to books, periodicals, pamphlets, posters, leaflets, films, soundtracks, cartoons,
photographs—to every kind of literature or documentation which might
conceivably hold any political or ideological significance. Day by day and almost
minute by minute the past was brought up to date. In this way every prediction
made by the Party could be shown by documentary evidence to have been
correct; nor was any item of news, or any expression of opinion, which
conflicted with the needs of the moment, ever allowed to remain on record. All
history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as was
necessary. In no case would it have been possible, once the deed was done, to
prove that any falsification had taken place.

Chapter 7:

It was as though some huge force were pressing down upon you—something
that penetrated inside your skull, battering against your brain, frightening you
out of your beliefs, persuading you, almost, to deny the evidence of your senses.
In the end, the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you
would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim
sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity
of experience, but the very existence of external reality was tacitly denied by
their philosophy. The heresy of heresies was common sense. And what was
terrifying was not that they would kill you for thinking otherwise, but that they
might be right. For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or
that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable? If both the
past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is
controllable—what then?

To help you write this essay take a look at the essay checklists, to be sure you have covered everything. Good luck!