Symbols

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“Oranges and Lemons”

The old British nursery rhyme “Oranges and Lemons” plays a significant role in the story, as Winston gradually tracks down its lines.

You can read the full text of the rhyme here
 

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The symbolism of this rhyme has several different layers. For most of the book, Winston’s efforts to track down the entire poem represents his fascination with the past before the Party, and the image of a London free from their control. The rhyme therefore seems to symbolise something beautiful and nostalgic in the early sections of the story:

It was curious, but when you said it to yourself you had the illusion of actually hearing bells, the bells of a lost London that still existed somewhere or other, disguised and forgotten. From one ghostly steeple after another he seemed to hear them pealing forth. (p. 103)

However, the final section of the rhyme takes a much da…

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The coral paperweight

The paperweight that Winston buys at Mr. Charrington’s shop is described as follows:

It was a heavy lump of glass, curved on one side, flat on the other, making almost a hemisphere. There was a peculiar softness, as of rain-water, in both the colour and the texture of the glass. At the heart of it, magnified by the curved surface, there was a strange, pink, convoluted object that recalled a rose or a sea anemone. (pp. 98-99)

Winston buys it because he is fascinated with its beauty…

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2+2=5

This twist on a basic mathematical problem is a symbol of the Party’s ability to manipulate the truth. Since the Party controls all records and has influence on all human minds, their logic is that they have full control of what the basic facts of life are - even mathematical truths may be altered if the Party wishes.

Winston, on the other hand, clings to the idea that there are actual truths about the world independent from the Party, and that to be free means to have the ability to realise and express that. This is directly stated in a phrase he writes in his diary while consid…

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Light and darkness

Traditionally, light is used to symbolise something that is good and positive, while darkness is used to symbolise something evil and negative.

However, Orwell sometimes reverses this symbolism in Nineteen Eighty-Four, playing with the reader’s expectations and reinforcing the ironic tone of the novel.

We see an example of darkness representing something positive early on, when it is clarified that only darkness prevents the telescreen from observing people: “You had to live - did live, from habit that became instinct - in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard…

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