Theme: The Potential Dangers of Government
Grades: Grades 9-10
This novel sounded a warning and left its mark on the language. The
term Orwellian sums up the chilling vision of a future totalitarian
society, a world where the government can control individual thought
and even reality itself. 1984, a modern classic and the culminating
work in Orwell's life as a novelist, remains timely and continues to
stir the imagination while asking fascinating questions about human
Note: This novel contains intimate scenes that some readers
may find objectionable. You may wish to preview the novel before assigning
it to your students.
- Keeping a Diary.
Ask students whether they keep or have ever kept a diary, and then
discuss the purpose of a personal diary. Explain that the main character
in 1984, Winston Smith, starts to keep a diary, which in itself
is a political act of rebellion. Suggest that as they read Part One,
students keep a diary to exercise their privacy and freedom of expression
and also to understand Winston's process of self-awakening that the
- Tapping Prior Knowledge: The Role of Government.
Begin by asking students to think about the word government.
Have students work in small groups to answer the following questions:
Who or what is government? What doesor what mustgovernment do?
What different kinds of governments are in the world today? How does
government affect you personally? Ask students as a class to share
the information gathered in their groups. If time permits, have volunteers
share stories about dealing with government agencies.
Ask students to create political cartoons that may have appeared
in a secret publication of the Brotherhood. Encourage them to use
contemporary political cartoons from newspapers and magazines as
- Be Warned!
Let students design posters or T-shirts that express the warnings
of 1984 that relate specifically to our time. Suggest that
their creations include both visual and verbal warnings and that they
are specific about what they are warning against. Encourage students
to use language and images from the novel.
- Communist Leaders.
Instruct students to research one of the key personalities in world
communism: for example, Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Joseph
Stalin, Fidel Castro, Alexander Dubcek, Mikhail Gorbachev, Eric Honecker,
Wojciech Jaruszelski, Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Minh, or Pol Pot. Have them
write a biographical sketch that includes a discussion of how the
life or ideas of this leader relate to 1984.
- Communism in the United States.
Have your students find out about the Communist Party in the United
States: its beginnings, its history, its key personalities, membership
during the Stalin era, the McCarthy years, and the party today. Instruct
them to combine what they learn into a report.