Below you will find four outstanding thesis statements / paper topics for 1984 by George Orwell that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the themes found in Orwell's 1984 and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements for offer a short summary of 1984 in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from 1984 by George Orwell, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: The Forced Repression of Natural Impulses in 1984
Nearly every aspect of the society presented in 1984 by George Orwell is controlled, including the most natural impulses of sex and love. The suppression of these innate urges is encouraged through a program instituted by various forms of media in society in 1984 by George Orwell that propagates mistrust so severe that even mothers and fathers cannot trust their own offspring—another supposedly natural bond and impulse. Throughout the novel there are many examples of oppression of natural reactions and they cause a number of problems, not just for the main characters, but for the society at large. For this essay, you could provide detailed examples of how natural impulses are stifled and what consequences there are.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: The Lack of Privacy and The Effect of No IndividualismPersonal privacy and space is never granted throughout 1984. Every person is always subject to observation, even by their own family members and friends. Furthermore, since Big Brother is always watching and the Thought Police are always on the lookout, it is impossible for any kind of individualism to flourish. For this essay you can look at the ways this occurs and how various characters attempt (successfully or not) to subvert it. Then move out to consider how this lack of privacy (and by proxy, individualism) influences individuals and society as a whole.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: The Role and Representation of Women in 1984
Although it's often considered to be an “easy” topic choice for a paper, examining the role of women would make for an excellent essay, especially since many of things that make women what they are in many novels (adhering to ideas of romantic love, sex, femininity, marriage, etc) are subverted by the totalitarian society. For this essay, look at the depictions of women, keeping in mind such issues as the Junior Anti-Sex League, Winston's Wife who is the “human soundtrack,” and others. All of the women or groups of women presented offer a very twisted view of all of the things typically associated with women in literature. Look at why this is and offer numerous examples.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: The Power of Words and Rhetoric in 1984
Rhetoric, words, and language have enormous power in this society. Consider the phrase, “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Ignorance is Strength” as well as the fact that the state of war and who it is with is constantly shifting. In this society (much like ours) reality is based on information and Orwell's novel, the information is all related by words. The power of language in this novel (just as in Animal Farm, another novel by George Orwell) is one of the most potent forces that exists and as a result, the state goes through great lengths to influence and control language. For this essay, find a number of examples of contradictory, misleading, or otherwise bad rhetoric and how it is used to manipulate the population. A good essay might include three examples and then use one paragraph for each to fully pick apart the language and discuss the effects it has.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #5: 1984 in Historical Context: How Current Events Shaped the Themes in the Novel
In some cases, it is not always feasible or worth it to consider too heavily the time period during which a novel was written. This is not the case in 1984. In fact, the historical context is of the utmost importance as the threat of totalitarianism, fascism, and domination based on skilled rhetoric was at the forefront of public fears during Orwell's time. Written in 1949, 1984 reflects the period as fascist empires were growing and the effects of others were becoming more clear with each passing day, such as was the case Germany. For this essay, make sure you include some biographical information about Orwell and what he witnessed during his lifetime and make reference to the many fascist regimes that are reflected in the novel.
* For an excellent article on the influence of the media on the society in 1984, click here *
There are tons of scary stories—ones filled with ghosts or vampires or zombies. But in my opinion, there’s nothing scarier than the stories that show what the world could be like if left in the hands of the wrong people.
One of the books that demonstrate this point the best is George Orwell’s 1984. And while the content of this book might scare some, writing an essay about it scares others.
But don’t worry—I’m here to help you break it down and write a great 1984 analysis essay.
First, Figure Out What Your 1984 Analysis Essay Will Be About
You can’t have an essay without a topic, so the first thing you have to decide is what yours will be about. You may be thinking, “We’ve already covered this—it’s about 1984.”
You’re thinking too big. What you want to do is narrow your focus on one element of the story—a theme or a character. You could also concentrate on a literary device like symbolism.
Don’t try to cram all the stuff you know about the book into your essay. It never works out well. What ends up happening is that you either start summarizing instead of analyzing, or you just don’t have the time or the page count to fully flesh out your ideas.
A good analysis is a focused one. But what can you focus on in your 1984 analysis essay? Here are just a few suggestions.
Focus on a Character
You can certainly write about the protagonist, Winston, if you connect more to him, but let’s talk about O’Brien for now.
O’Brien is an interesting character because he’s so mysterious. Winston looks up to O’Brien and thinks he’s a member of the Brotherhood, a supposed secret rebel group.
As the reader later discovers, O’Brien is actually a hardcore member of the Party. He ends up tricking Winston into admitting his disdain for the Party, which is a pretty big deal. But how can you focus your 1984 analysis essay on O’Brien?
As with any other character, you have to analyze O’Brien—instead of just telling the reader what he did in the story. Here are a couple directions you can take.
1. O’Brien as a father figure
Throughout the beginning of the story, Winston sees O’Brien as trustworthy and looks up to him. O’Brien is part of the Party’s innermost circle—he has power. And Winston thinks O’Brien is part of the resistance.
This establishes a friendship/mentorship. Even after O’Brien reveals his true intentions, he still acts as a type of father figure, though this time it’s a bit more malicious. He’s the one torturing Winston, but it comes from a place of caring.
O’Brien thinks he needs to purify Winston of his bad thoughts so that Winston can excel in society. After all, isn’t that what every father wants?
2. The Party got O’Brien long ago
While torturing Winston, O’Brien says that the Party got him long ago. Analyzing what this means can make a really great essay. His comment alludes to the fact that he might have once been as rebellious as Winston. It also alludes to how O’Brien realized that being powerful meant being obedient.
But does he buy into the Party’s ideology? Does he really prescribe to doublethink, or does he just put up the facade to avoid being tortured like Winston?
You can argue it either way in your 1984 analysis essay, but whichever stance you take, be sure to make it clear and back it up with evidence.
Need more help analyzing a character? Check out these posts:
Focus on a Theme
Themes are common in analytical essays, but they’re certainly not boring. Themes touch on certain truths the author wants to get across to the reader.
In the case of 1984, Orwell touches on several themes, but one that strikes me is the use of language to control people.
- Controlling what words people use: In the novel, the Party controls what people are and aren’t allowed to say, even in the privacy of their own homes. The Party bans words related to rebellion because, if there are no words for something, people can’t talk about it or spread ideas about it.
- Rewriting history: The Party also controls language through the rewriting of history. The Party “corrects” historical text to fit its latest whims, and because every reference is changed, what it writes becomes “truth.” This makes individuals rely less on their memories and perceptions, and more on what the Party says is true. That’s how the Party controls people.
Need more help with writing about a theme in your 1984 analysis? Try one of these posts for additional guidance and tips:
Don’t Forget Your Outline
The importance of creating an outline cannot be understated. Outlines are maps that guide you much more easily through the writing process.
Not only do you know where you’re going, but you also know every checkpoint you have to hit along the way. Without all the detours into unnecessary rambling, you can write faster and make your analysis a lot clearer.
Your outline doesn’t have to be super detailed, but it should lay out your argument and the evidence backing up your thesis. The example below is based off the discussion above about themes:
- Thesis statement: By controlling language, the Party was able to control the masses.
- Monitoring speech
- Ban on words related to rebellion
- No way to spread ideas
- No way to argue points against the Party
- Rewriting history
- Propaganda becomes truth
- People not able to trust their own memories
- Must rely on the Party for what’s “true”
You can have as many or as few body paragraphs as you need, and as many or as few supporting details as you need. The more time you spend on your outline now, the less time you’ll spend worrying about the details later.
Write a Killer Thesis Statement and Don’t Lose Steam
I’ve always found that starting an essay is the hardest part. But with a strong thesis statement, you set yourself up for a strong essay.
When writing a thesis statement, you want to be direct—take a firm stance, and explain exactly what you’ll be writing about in the body of your essay. This lets your readers know what they’re in for and gives you a reference point throughout your essay.
My thesis statement for the 1984 analysis essay outlined above might look something like this:
In 1984, George Orwell shows how language can be used as a form of control. The Party monitors and bans some language and rewrites history so that it can be seen as the only source of truth.
After you write your thesis statement, just follow your outline. Flesh it out with full sentences, details, and references to specific parts of the book. With a strong thesis and detailed outline, you can keep your momentum going until you wrap up your essay.
There are tons of things you could write about in a 1984 analysis essay, and just reading the couple of examples I’ve provided might not be enough for you. (Don’t worry, I don’t take offense to it.)
To give you a little more inspiration, here are some 1984 analysis essay examples you can look at:
Once you’re done with your essay, you can have the Kibin editors look over it. They’ll help you with more than just spelling and grammar—they’ll make sure you have a strong thesis and supporting details.
And don’t worry—they won’t turn you into the thought police for any rebellious things you write.
Now get to writing!
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