George Orwell's 1949 dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four describes a futuristic alternate reality where a totalitarian government tyrannises the population through constant surveillance, public mind control, propaganda and on-going overseas war. Orwell uses his novel to foreshadow and predict the state of world affairs following World War 2 leading up to 1984, the year in which the book is set, and the effects unchecked, rampant capitalism has had on the world, leading it to develop into three global super-states where knowledge and information are heavily regulated and supreme power is held by the select few as opposed to the many. This overarching theme of the downtrodden masses versus the empowered elite minority is constant throughout the narrative, thus leaving the novel openly suitable for analysis from the Marxist perspective of literary theory. There are several other key themes, tropes and connotations throughout the novel which can also be connected strongly to the Marxist school of literary criticism, of which are discussed in greater detail below.
To gain a deeper understanding and context of Nineteen Eighty-Four, with its heavy political and social commentary, it is worth briefly considering the author himself, George Orwell. An anarchist in the 1920s, by the 1930s Orwell considered himself a socialist and in late 1936 he travelled to Spain to fight for the Republicans against Franco's Nationalists in the Spanish Civil War. Here he was forced to flee in fear of his life from Soviet-backed communists who were oppressing revolutionary socialist dissenters1. The experience left Orwell a staunch anti-Stalinist, and as such anti-Stalinist themes would become prevalent within Orwell's literary works, especially in Animal Farm (1945) and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949). Orwell's experiences and political standing are marked within his work in the form of awareness of social injustice, opposition to totalitarianism and belief in democratic socialism, three themes that feature heavily within Nineteen Eighty-Four.