Literary devices

Allusions and direct references

Orwell frequently makes direct references to real-life people and events, to make the story appear more realistic. In a general sense, it is implied that the history of Orwell’s world matches the history of our own world up until the middle of the 20th century - so it contains direct references to real totalitarian governments such as the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany - especially in Goldstein’s book, which frequently makes comparisons between them and Oceania. Note that these would have felt even more relevant when the book was published in 1949, since Nazi Germany had only recently been defeated in World War II, and the Soviet Union continued to exist.

Real-life authors are often brought up by name, though usually in the context of the Ministry of Truth’s attempts to adjust and censor their works to fit the Party’s messages. For example, famous British authors such as Shakespeare, Dickens and Kipling are mentioned. These are used to create a contrast with the imaginative, creative use of the English language in the past, and the current development of Newspeak and use of machines to create novels and songs.

The book’s Appendix about the language of Newspeak contains a direct transcription of the first section of the Declaration of Independence, as an example of a piece of text that would be nearly impossible to translate into Newspeak, because it is full of ideas and concepts that would be forbidden to even consider in Oceania - such as individual liberty, human rights, or rebellion against established government (p. 325).

Finally, the real-life British nursery rhyme “Oranges and Lemons” plays a significant symbolic role throughout the story. You can read much more about that in the Symbols section of this study guide.


Foreshadowing is a very common device in Nineteen Eighty-Four, as most of the main plot points are foreshadowed to some extent. We will focus on a few important examples here, but there are many more to find.

The book’s most direct piece of foreshadowing comes from Winston’s dream about a person who says “We shall meet in the place where there is no darkness” (p. 27).

Winston interprets ...

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