What is worth reading and why? The Ecole Bilingue Middle School Independent Reading blog
1st Day of Lit Circles:In the first day of Lit Circles, we had decided to read chapters I - IV of part one of 1984, but actual amount of reading each person did varied, going from 3 chapters to 5. For this discussion, I (Zoë) was the Discussion Leader (as well as Check-up), Asa was the Line Lighter and George was the Literary Luminary. First, Asa presented the three quotes he had chosen to discuss, and all three discussed them as well, before moving on to the smaller essential questions that I had prepared. These essential questions focussed on the underlying struggle between a strong government and individual freedoms, as well as what Orwell might be saying about English society at the moment the book was written. As we were only about 50 pages into the book at that moment, George had very little to say on the themes of the book, other than what had already been stated and discussed in the essential questions.
Thanks, Zoe, for the report. Be sure your blog posts are about the ideas and the discussion and not a formal update on the output of certain members in the group.
Thank you Ms. Campbell, I'll make sure to insist on the ideas discussed in our next blog post.
1984 Prediction Essay:At the beginning of the year, when Ms. Campbell introduced the Lit Circle assignment, I had no idea which book I wanted to read. 1984 wasn’t introduced as an option, but I was informed that you could, in fact, do that book if you were able to find 2 more people to do it with you. Asa approached me and we decided to do this novel and also decided to wait to find the 3rd person, as it seemed very far away, even though that was only a few months ago. This is why I chose to read 1984 by George Orwell for this assignment. After reading the first chapter (and maybe a few more pages), I have a few ideas on how the book will play out. First, I noticed that the people were instructed to call each other ‘comrade’, reminiscent of Soviet stereotypes, which makes me think that this book will have many Communist themes. Additionally, we were introduced to the main character, Winston, a ‘small and frailish’ man, as well as his secret: a book that he wanted to use as a diary. We are also introduced to his situation and to 2 more characters, who we can assume to be future main characters. These are a high-ranking official in the ‘Party’ named O’Brien whom Winston suspects to have some ‘counterrevolutionary’ leanings and a woman who is assumed to work in the ‘Fiction’ section of the Ministry of Truth and had caught Winston’s eye. From these hints, I believe that these three will band together into some secret society, or all join ‘the Brotherhood’ (an underground group that opposes the Party), and use their positions as ways to sabotage the Party and Big Brother, who is some sort of all-knowing figure. I believe that Winston’s specific role in the group will be that of the Scribe, and one of the more dangerous ones, as he is in possession of concrete evidence in support of the Brotherhood and, more importantly, information contradicting the Party.
From what I’ve read and heard about this book, I’ve come up with a few ideas about how it will go down. So far, it seems like the world that the characters live in is the typical dystopia. The government carefully monitors everything, to the extent of actually putting cameras in the homes and appliances of the public, and has a very strict grasp on what can be said. I think the plot, judging by the cover and the main character’s actions in the first chapter will be about him standing up to the system and “Big Brother”. In the second chapter as far as I can remember, the character walks outside and sees a woman walking into either the Ministry of Love or Truth, I can’t remember exactly and is very intrigued by her. Also on the cover of the book, you see the main character with a woman companion, looking at a face of big brother so I assume that she will probably be his partner in crime throughout the book. I want to read this book because I am really into science fiction and dystopian worlds that are so similar to our own, but have one key difference that changes everything, including the people. I have also already read to the other two sci-fi options given and do not think true stories are quite as interesting, even though they can be inspiring.
1984 Prediction EssayI decided to read 1984 because I am interested in learning about what a 1950s-era man would think thirty years into the future would look like, based on his knowledge. I am also a big fan of alternate history and science-fictionesque stories, making this an interesting read.In this 1984, a severely totalitarian communist government led by a symbolic person (whom we don’t know whether or not he is a real person) named Big Brother, and citizens are monitored, both physically (through tele-screens and mentally (through the thought police), and people have been executed for just thinking revolutionary thoughts, this is called “throughtcrime.”Winston, the main character who is beginning to have some rebellious thoughts against the uniform dictatorship, has a hidden diary that he writes anti-B.B. thoughts in ink, as well as writing a journal for a free future. We have also been notified of two new characters: a woman in the Anti-Sex League sworn to chastity, and a man named O’Brien whom Winston is frustratingly confused about: as to whether he shares some rebellious tendencies such as Winston, or whether he is a sort of double agent, or something else entirely. Combined with the supposed existence of an “anarchist” and “evil” society known solely as the Brotherhood, led by a man named Goldstein, who is working against Big Brother, calling him an evil dictator, etc., and is hated by the Party. As Winston is now writing extremely revolutionary, rebellious, and apparently illegal thoughts and subjects of writing. I believe that within the next several chapters, Winston will alliance himself (possibly romantically) with the Anti-Sex League woman, and possibly O’Brien, to either find the Brotherhood, which I believe may not exist at all, or merely escape the crushing oppression of Big Brother. I also believe he will probably face a betrayal on one of the other persons’ parts.
On the second day of Lit Circles, we had decided to read chapters 5 and 6 of Part 1 of 1984. In this specific Lit Circle Gathering, I (George) was the Discussion Leader/Check-up, Asa was the Literary Luminary, and Zoe was the Line Lighter. We spoke about the references to Nazi Germany, such as the Blitzkrieg, went over Communist stereotypes and speech control stereotypes briefly, and how Newspeak is a form of mind control, because it wouldn’t be possible to think ‘counterrevolutionary’ thoughts because rebellious words and thoughts wouldn’t even be in their vocabulary. In all, a fairly successful Lit Circle Discussion.
3rd Day of Lit Circles:For the third day of Lit Circles, we had yet again switched roles with me (Zoë) as Elemental, George as Line Lighter and Asa as Discussion Leader/Check-up (he would have written this post but due to scheduling, he asked me to do it). First, we spoke a bit about what Orwell was trying to say about human nature in the face of oppression in Winston’s indecisiveness and confliction, with the aid of a few quotes. Then we moved on to Asa’s questions and talked about what a few moments said about this society (namely, a comparison between Winston’s description of Katherine, the prostitute and the woman he met at work, with a focus on what light he seemed to portray them in) and about what the paperweight said about Winston himself and why that paperweight seemed so important to him.
Can you be more precise about what Orwell is saying about human nature in the face of oppression? Also, explicate the image of the paperweight more precisely. What did it say about Winston. What were your conclusions?
I believe that we came to the conclusion that Orwell was saying that, when faced with an oppressive government, there were 4 options, one of which is almost impossible. The first option was to simply live under these strict rules, or 'live' as well as you could, like the proles or most party members. The second was to secretly yearn for something more and to believe that one day it would come, but never really do anything about it, like Winston. The third was to adapt to the system, and learn break and/or bend the rules in your favor, like Julia. The fourth and most dangerous being like the second but taken farther: mounting an actual opposition to the oppression, as with the Brotherhood (if it even exists).As for the paperweight, we thought of it as Winston wanting something from a bygone age, something to prove that just maybe things hadn't always been the way they were then, and to even want something that was a bit of a luxury, something useless but beautiful, in a world where there were shortages of even the most basic things (i.e. razor blades). We thought that Winston, whose world is constantly rationing down his luxuries, wanted something out of the ordinary as well, something that could prove that he wasn't just a prole or a regular Party member, but that he was still hesitant to break the rules.
On the fourth day of Lit Circles, we decided that, as we had just finished the first part of the book, to do a bit of a ‘cumulative’ session to discuss the themes, ideas, and characters in the first third. We started off by having Asa read a few quotes that highlighted the paradoxes proposed by the book: the fact that the proles can’t think until they are aware and they couldn’t be aware until they started to think and how that was possibly just another form of control implemented by the Party. Then we moved onto the questions I (Zoë) posed, asking why, in the beginning of the book, writing is ‘automatic’ when thinking about hating Big Brother and whether the goverment is leading the people away from categorization. We concluded, for the Asa’s quote, that yes, it was, and that it was another facet to the theme of manipulation that seems to permeate the book. For the my first question, we concluded that, as he had never really let himself simply write out his thoughts before, he was using this diary as a bit of a ‘vent’ for his conflicting feelings (what his society has taught him vs. what he, as a person, thinks) and finally, for the second question, that the government was leading them away from categorization because even having separate categories for things was to acknowledge that the government hadn’t smoothed out anyone who wasn’t orthodox.
On the 5th day of Lit Circles, we discussed the first 3 chapters of part two. We started the meeting off with a continuation of our discussion the day before about mind control and manipulation, and also in-part because George found some quotes relating to the subject. We decided that the "mind" control that is and referenced in the book isn't solely the party inculcating their beliefs on the people of Oceania with organizations like the spies and the Youth League, but also with Newspeak and the Thought Police. We decided that Newspeak wasn't just a new language, that would revolutionize writing and conversations by making them shorter and simpler, but also a fashion of controlling the thoughts of people by limiting their ability to express what they were thinking. By the point we reached that conclusion, the class was already over so we couldn't discuss anything more.
We also said that this book showed a very cynical view of a future where Communism would be prevalent, something that seemed completely possible at the time that it was written.
On the sixth day of Lit Circles, we discussed 5th, 6th and 7th chapters of Part Two. As a passage in the reading we had just done confirmed that the paperweight was something Winston wanted as a sort of keepsake from the past, we started off the discussion with a quote about said paperweight. We talked about how Winston was similar to people in our current society who constantly romanticize the past. This builds on our previous conclusion that Winston was the type to hope for things to get better (or for things to be as they were in the past, in this case) but to never do anything about it, unless prompted by an outside force. We concluded that Winston seemed also nostalgic for a time period he hadn’t lived in, and that he had no proof of its existence, which made his encounter with the old prole all the more disappointing. Then we moved on to a different topic with the aid of a new quote, this one highlighting the difference between O’Brien and Julia and the ways they avoid being stopped by the Thought Police. O’Brien, we saw, avoided them by pretending he had nothing to hide while Julia avoided them by tricks she had developed over the years. Though we don’t yet know much about O’Brien, we guessed that he would most likely not have so much self-satisfaction from in his evasion of the Thought Police than Julia did, and put more in what he did after evading them. Finally, we discussed Winston and his relationship with Syme. Winston said that, when O’Brien mentioned Syme, his heart “stirred painfully,” showing that even in a society where all you were supposed to love was your government and Big Brother, people still managed to form bonds.
On the 7th day of Lit Circles, we discussed the 8th chapter of 1984 (it was meant to be the 8th and 9th chapters, but due to lack of enough communication, the 8th chapter was the only one we had all read). We started it off by talking about themes that I (Zoë) provided, specifically the theme of objects Winston loved for no particular reason but nostalgia. These include the paperweight, the poster in Mr. Charrington’s room and, though it isn’t an object, the ‘bells of St. Clements’ rhyme. We talked about how, in the style of the book, these 3 objects might actually foreshadow future events. We looked up the rest of the rhyme and when we heard the last few lines (‘chip, chop, chip, chop, that last one’s dead’) we speculated that these three items might, in fact, lead to Winston, Julia and O’brien’s deaths. We then talked about our performance task and decided to do a debate between George Orwell, Joseph Stalin and Chairman Mao about political theories, or how Orwell thought Communism on a large scale would play out vs. how it actually happened.
8th Blog Post - March 15th, 2013 On the 8th day of Lit Circles, we discussed the 9th and 10th chapters of 1984. We started by talking about the role of the rhyme “Oranges and Lemons, say the bells of Saint Clements” and came up with two theories. Since individual characters provided a separate line of the rhyme, we thought the line that they provided might correspond in some way to their own personality or their beliefs. Our other theory was that the rhyme didn’t correlate with the characters, but served as more of a souvenir to the past and the memories of shared culture that everyone once knew. After we talked about the rhyme, we talked about the comparison of Julia and the old red-armed woman to a flower and a fruit, and the government of Oceania to a tree. We decided that Julia was compared to the flower because she has the potential to become the pawn of the party, like a fruit, or to get blown off the tree, like all the people who were vaporized. The woman was compared to the fruit because she is basically the fruit of the party’s labors and will believe what they say till death, and the party is compared to the tree because it supplies it supplies all the materials for the flower and the fruit to go, but it’s all for their own gain
9th Day -- March 19thOn the ninth day of Lit Circles, we discussed the 1st and 2nd chapters of part three. We started the discussion off with some essential questions, talking about what type of torture we thought was the most brutal and why. We concluded that, as we all had different answers but all had solid justifications for our answers, all of the types were awful. We also said that Winston was also subject to a different type of torture outside of the Ministry of Love by having his thoughts and originality suppressed. Next we talked about the quote, “He became simply a mouth that uttered, a hand that signed whatever was demanded of him,” (p. 242) and asked ourselves how, or if, this was any different from a regular party member, except for the heightened sense of danger. We gathered that the only difference was in the sense of danger: in the Miniluv, danger is much closer while outside as just a regular Outer Party member, danger seems a little bit more distant. Finally, we talked about the theme of betrayal in the book and how it could possibly mirror Orwell and how he felt betrayed by the Socialist party. After that we talked to Ms. Campbell about our performance task and wrote 1 possible question for our debate.
10th Blog Post - March 22nd 2013 For this lit circle, none of us were really prepared. Zoe and Asa both did quotes due to a miscommunication, and I didn’t do questions because I forgot and was also busy with my correspondents. Zoe and Asa brought up several quotes, which we discussed what they meant and what their relevance to the ending and the Performance Task. After that, we talked about the four final chapters at length and the poem, and the relation between the two. Then, we discussed the ending and how it seemed somewhat disappointing, and continued discussing more about the now-revealed background throughout the story, such as the nonexistence of both Big Brother and Goldstein, and then Winston’s case of crimestop in his mind. Then we commenced work on our Performance Task research.
Lit Circles: Day 1Jake Lyons, Kostya Natsoulis, Antoine Sobel, Malo Gostlin 8EBook: 1984, George Orwell Today was our first day of discussion in our Lit Circle. We read chapters 1-5 of 1984. The jobs were distributed evenly: Kostya was the discussion leader, I (Jake) was the check-up, Malo was the Literary Luminary and Antoine was the Line Lighter. On the day of discussion, we were somewhat prepared with essential questions, quotes, and literary gems. We discussed the first 5 chapters in detail, astonished at how cynical and distorted the world was portrayed as being. I think that this book is an exaggerated vision of the eventual failure of socialism in England (In Newspeak, a language in the book: “Ingsoc”). We had very productive discussions about these essential topics, including “What is the point of the Two Minutes Hate?” and “How does the Party get the people to revere and respect Big Brother?” Our first day of discussion went very well and we will hope to continue our good work.
Please elaborate. What were some of the specific conclusions you made about the essential questions?
We asked essential questions such as:"Why does Winston write a diary?" "Who is Goldstein, who does he represent, and how does the Party use him to help the people like Big Brother more?""Why is this book depressing?"We drew the conclusion that Winston writes his diary (in secret, of course) to be able to express his thoughts on paper in a time where expressing your thoughts is not an easy thing to do freely without getting punished in some horrible way. This diary is probably something very important to Winston, and he will want to hold on to it.Goldstein is a person who has rebelled against the Party and Big Brother and gone into hiding. The government uses the Two Minutes Hate to make the Party members hate Goldstein even more and therefore like Big Brother more. This is a very useful tool for the government, but the Party members don't realized how they are being manipulated.1984 is depressing because the world is portrayed as this twisted, cynical society where people are not freely allowed to express their thoughts and are very limited and restricted to do anything.
Within my group (Reda, Shiven and I, Diego), I am the discussion leader. Here are a few questions I asked my group and the critical responses I came up with. What do you think?Diego SalguesHedlund 8E5 / 26 / 161984George OrwellEQ’s :Who is George Orwell?George Orwell is the Author of 1984. He published the book in 1949, a little bit after WWII. He died 6 months after the book was published.What type of government is “The Party” / “Big Brother” in George Orwell’s “1984”?Totalitarianism. It is he type of government communist Russia ruled by Joseph Stalin exercised on it’s people. It is also the type of government Nazi Germany ran in WWIIWho is Winston Smith?Winston Smith is an “Outer Party Member” who works in the Ministry of Truth editing photographs, newspapers, journals, books and etc… in favor of “The Party”. He starts a Diary because he does not like how his society is, unlike other people in his community. He starts going out with a girl, Julia, and has sex with feelings to rebel against the Party. Julia claims to have had many affairs before but her lovers killed themselves before the “Thought Police” could get to to them. He then brings his rebellion to new levels because he notices somebody at work, O’brien, who may not like “The Party”, like him and Julia. He thinks that there maybe is a “Brotherhood” led by “Goldstein”, that he could join to rebel against “The Party”
What is the “Brotherhood”?It is a rebellious group led by “Goldstein” that hates “The Party”. It is considered to be a myth.What are the three slogans “The Party” preach?The slogans are ; WAR IS PEACE and FREEDOM IS SLAVERY and IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. What are the four ministries in “1984”?They are ; The Ministry of Peace (deals with war), The Ministry of Plenty (starvation), The Ministry of Truth (lies), The Ministry of Love (torture). These ministries name contradict their purpose hence the next question on this list.What is “doublethink” in “1984”?Doublethink is the ability to have two contradicting thoughts and being able to lie to one’s self that the thought the party tells you is true, is true. Doublethink is lying to yourself.Why did Nazi Germany and Communist Russia not succeed like the Party did in “1984”?Unlike “The Party”, Nazi Germany and Communist Russia tried to seem somewhat good. The Party does not care what the people think of them because they know what the people think of them. They have completely brainwashed the people.What does “The Party” hope to do with human emotion?“The Party” wants their to only be fear, anger, and hatred towards “Eurasia” (Europe + Asia) and “EastAsia” (East-Asia), opposing powers in the rest of the world. The hope to wipe out the sex drive in everybody, to take children away from their mother at birth and to put everyone on edge about everybody else (suspicion). They keep everybody busy with “The Hate” (a time to scream and shout and take out your anger on Goldstein, a character that once stood up against The Party. He is a founding member of the Party as well.) They hope to wipe out religion, no faith in the world whatsoever and to estrange children from their parents in the “Junior Spies” program.Why does “The Party” hope to control the past? Who controls the past Controls the future Who controls the present Controls the past
Why does the Party have cameras and microphones everywhere?So that they can send anybody remotely against the Party to “The Ministry of Love” (TORTURE)sWho are the “Thought Police”?The Thought Police are a group of spies that monitor all thoughts among “Oceania” (Country ruled by the Party). They have microphones and cameras and monitors to see if anybody defies the word of “Big Brother” and “The Party”.What message is the author, George Orwell, trying to send us?Totalitarianism is bad. If the world doesn’t change soon, it will all go to hell. SIDE-NOTE : George Orwell was writing this in 1949, a little bit after WWII. After witnessing the horrors of this war and how Nazi Germany and Communist Russia almost succeeded, he is warning the people of the world that this can happen again - TOTALITARIANISM. Also, Totalitarianism can lead to Psychological Manipulation. Propaganda manifests and takes this form.Source :George Orwell, 1984
Day 2:Couldn’t Oceania (Big Brother) be lying about the other three big “superstates”?WAR IS LIFE in “1984”. Constant war gives a false sense of patriotism to the people of Oceania therefore they are in constant control. They don’t need to control the rest of the world, the are the world in their state. They are all powerful and they control the population by manipulating their anger and rage towards a common enemy. Each superstate does this to control their people. They don’t need any resources such as fuel or labor because the war isn’t real. The war has no goal. Each superstate has already won. How to beat Oceania?Doubt + Proles (1/2 of the population).
Question: How do you defeat Oceania?Answer #1: There is no possible way to defeat them, and the only thing you can do is wait until they die downAnswer #2: You need to find someone on the inside, you need to drop hints all over the city, use subconscious thinking , and make the hint very subtle and memorable Answer #3: You would have to do a suicidal act and when you start there’s no turning back, and what they would do is that they would have to make the people question the government.Question: How does the party defeat Mr. WinstonAnswer #1: The party defeats Mr. Winston by finding his weaknesses and using his weaknesses against him, and his two primary weaknesses are that he is afraid of rats and that he is in love with a girl named Julia, so what the government does is that they take away his lover and for the rats, the attach him to this thing right next to some rats and scare him so badly that he wants Julia to be punished instead.Answer #2: The party made Mr. Winston believe that nobody knew about anything because of double thinking so that they can get inside of his head and completely brainwash him.The biggest offense in the book is too not double think, if you think about something and tell yourself that your right then you have messed up in that society because there goal is too make you think what they want you too think. The party wants you to think that 2+2 is actually equal to 5. What we also talked about was that we would like to see the perspective of the party, and if George Orwell made a sequel to this book then we would want to see what the party does to the people ext.