1984 - What does Orwell do in the opening two pages of the novel to unsettle the reader?

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What does Orwell do in the opening two pages of the novel to unsettle the reader?

In the novel ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’, the author, George Orwell employs a range of different techniques such as similes, metaphors and symbolism to unnerve and keep the reader in anticipation, impelling them to read on.

     The novel is in a third-person narrative style, this technique employed by Orwell creates a distance between the central character, Winston Smith and the reader. This vagueness adds tension and mystery to Orwell’s depiction, only allowing the characters emotion to be revealed through dialogue. The narrative viewpoint also allows the reader to grasp an unbiased view of the character and his circumstances. Throughout these first couple of pages Orwell purposefully refuses to expand on things which confuse the reader. For instance, “The hallway smelt of boiled cabbage and old rag mats”, and simply doesn’t give an explanation why. This deliberate omission is employed to purely keep the reader on edge and impel him/her to read on. Another example of this is towards the end of the second page, “The Patrols did not matter, however. Only the Thought Police mattered”. This line immediately grabs attention and creates suspense, but Orwell leaves it here. The reader is now left feeling insecure and leaves us questioning ourselves through mere confusion of what may be happening in this society.

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      Another technique utilized by Orwell to disturb the reader is the use of unusual contradictions; an example of this is given in the first line. “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” After reading this opening line the reader becomes confused because usual connotations of the word ‘Bright’ wouldn’t normally be associated with the word ‘Cold’. Therefore a ‘bright cold day’ would seem a little irregular but effectively creates atmosphere and tension, this poetic technique is called an ‘Oxymoron’. After this Orwell goes on to portray the clocks striking thirteen, ...

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The essay has a great structure. The introduction is clear and concise, not including any irrelevant background information to the novel. I liked how the techniques used were summarised, as this allows a focussed structure of looking at a technique in isolation per paragraph. The conclusion is equally strong, not simply repeating what is said in the introduction, but going further to say why Orwell has made the opening unsettling. This shows a great ability to craft an argument, and so will gain credit. Spelling, punctuation and grammar are flawless. I really like the style here, and the range of language used. Opening sentences are not repetitive, and phrases such as "furthermore" and "therefore" show a logical progression between points. An essay which is short, but definitely to be admired!

The analysis here is strong. Whereas the majority of essays I read simply feature spot, this one managed to look at techniques as a collective entity, then allowing them to explore how these shaped meanings. I feel as if the analysis could be slightly more focused on the word unsettling, and it would've been a good idea to have defined unsettled in the introduction to make the essay stronger. For example "The narrative viewpoint also allows the reader to grasp an unbiased view of the character and his circumstances" is correct and shows a great understanding, but it just needs to go further and discuss why this unsettles the reader. The points here are sophisticated, and literary terms are used well. This essay has a great understanding of how language, form and structure shape meanings within the narrative, and this is exactly what examiners are looking for with this sort of question. The biggest difference is that this essay never retells the story, but always focuses on presentation and technique rather than the plot.

This essay engages superbly with the task. There is a clear focus on Orwell's techniques, and the aspects of narrative are analysed with great clarity. I liked how there was a range of analysis, looking at language, narrative, structure and symbolism. This is great to see in a GCSE essay! I particularly liked how the essay commented on the effectiveness of Orwell's techniques. If this essay wanted to go further, it could explore the significance of the dystopian setting contributing to the genre of the book, looking at why Orwell chooses to have the opening become unsettling.