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Activity Overview


Themes, symbols, and motifs come alive when you use a storyboard. In this activity, students will identify themes and symbols from the novel, and support their choices with details from the text.

1984 Themes, Motifs, and Imagery to Look For and Discuss

Government Overreach

One of the novel’s key themes is the dangers of governmental overreach. When the government can communicate with you via telescreens, watch your every move, punish you for thoughtcrime, and indoctrinate children to believe nothing is more important than The Party, quality of life, the sharing of ideas, and simple things like freedom all become repressed. The government continues to maintain control of its people by making them think they are constantly at war, but no side ever wins in this war. When there is a common enemy, there is camaraderie. In addition, rather than focusing on emotions like love and tranquility, the government fires people up through exercises such as Two Minutes Hate, and Hate Week. While there is no resolution to this absolutist tyranny in the novel, it does lay out the dangers of allowing a government, political party, or dictator gain too much control over citizens’ privacy and lives.


Propaganda

The media reports in Oceania are all propaganda, because they are all controlled by the government. For example, Winston is sent a few short missives that come down a mysterious pneumatic tube. The first reads “times 17.3.84 bb speech malreported africa rectify.” According to Winston, his job is to go back into old news items and change them to make them true, even if they were not. In the first message, it appears that on March 17th, Big Brother had predicted a Eurasian offensive to be launched in North Africa; in reality, the offensive had been launched in South India instead. Winston must change, or “rectify” this discrepancy so that Big Brother is never incorrect. In addition to rewriting history, other propaganda includes: Ingsoc’s slogans of “War is Peace”, “Freedom is Slavery”, and “Ignorance is Strength”; large posters of Big Brother everywhere, reminding citizens they are being watched at all times; the constant stream of news telling the citizens of Oceania who they are at war with that week; entertainment is provided solely by the government; and children are indoctrinated from a very young age and even encouraged to turn in their parents for any instances of thoughtcrime.


The Importance of Free Thought and Speech

If nothing else, this novel warns about what a society could potentially become if freedoms of thought and speech are repressed. The loss of individuality, privacy, and the complete control of thoughts, well-being, and even physical movements are highlighted as consequences of letting a dangerous government or dictatorship take control. The inability to share or debate ideas, to choose one’s marriage partner, to fall in love, and to speak freely are scary to those of us who live in free societies. Equally scary is the loss of a free media to share important information with the public, which oftentimes counters what the government would like it to say. Embracing the right to do all of these things is a reminder of how special these free societies are, and how we must do everything to protect these basic human rights.


Ministries of Truth, Love, Peace, and Plenty

The names of these organizations/buildings are paradoxes: the Ministry of Truth changes the truth through propaganda constantly; the Ministry of Love tortures people; the Ministry of Peace is where wars are planned; and the Ministry of Plenty is a lie because the rations for the people are always running out. The Ministries hold the truth about the government: it is one big lie. These buildings are also used to help suppress any incidents of free thought or speech.


Big Brother

Big Brother represents the power of the Party, and the pinnacle of the propaganda machine. It is unsure of whether or not he truly exists, since he never seems to age, and since readers are privy to what goes on at the Ministry of “Truth.” He is plastered in posters and on telescreens all over Oceania, and citizens are constantly told that “Big Brother is Watching You”, a reminder to control their thoughts and actions at all times.


Goldstein’s Book

For Winston, Emmanuel Goldstein’s book represents hope, a potential way to revolutionize and overthrow this oppressive government and bring back free thought and personal independence. However, once Winston actually reads the book, he feels let down because he gets a history of how Ingsoc came to be, but he doesn’t get the why it came to be, or even what can be done about it. He thinks the book will hold the key, or some answers, to solving their current predicament.


Room 101

Room 101 holds everyone’s deepest fear, and it depends upon the person what that fear is. For Winston, it is rats. Room 101 is where people who have been tortured for weeks are taken to finally break their spirits completely. When Winston is faced with a cage full of angry, hungry rats coming towards his face, he tells O’Brien to do it to Julia instead. With these words, he finally gives up all of his private loyalties, and dedicates himself fully to Big Brother. Room 101 represents the broken spirit and the complete loss of free thought and speech of the people of Oceania.


Lesson Plan Reference

Grade Level 9-10

Difficulty Level 3 (Developing to Mastery)

Type of Assignment Individual or Partner

Type of Activity: Themes, Symbols & Motifs



Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Use This Assignment With My Students", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)



Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes in 1984. Illustrate instances of each theme and write a short description below each cell.


  1. Click "Start Assignment".
  2. Identify the theme(s) from 1984 you wish to include and replace the "Theme 1" text.
  3. Create an image for an example that represents this theme.
  4. Write a description of each of the examples.



Rubric

(You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)



Themes, Symbols, and Motifs (Grades 9-12)
Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes, symbols, and/or motifs in the story. Illustrate instances of each and write a short description that explains the example's significance.
Proficient Emerging Beginning Needs Improvement
Identification of Theme(s), Symbol(s), and/or Motif(s)
All themes are correctly identified as important recurring topics or messages in the story. Symbols are correctly identified as objects that represent something else at a higher level in the story. Motifs are correctly identified as important recurring features or ideas in the story.
Most themes are correctly identified, but others are missing or incomplete. Most symbols are correctly identified, but some objects are missing or incomplete. Some motifs are correctly identified, but others are missing or incomplete.
Most themes are missing, incomplete, or incorrect. Most symbols are missing, incomplete, or incorrect. Most motifs are missing, incomplete, or incorrect.
No themes, symbols, or motifs are correctly identified.
Examples and Descriptions
Quotes and examples are accurate to the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) that are being identified. Descriptions accurately explain the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) and highlight their significance to the story.
Most quotes and examples are accurate to the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motifs that are being identified. Descriptions mostly accurately explain the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s), and highlight their significance to the story.
Most quotes and examples are minimal, incorrect, or unrelated to the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) that are being identified. Descriptions contain inaccuracies in their explanations, or do not highlight their significance to the story.
Examples and descriptions are missing or too minimal to score.
Depiction
Depictions chosen for theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) are accurate to the story and reflect time, effort, thought, and care with regard to placement and creation of the scenes.
Depictions chosen for theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) are mostly accurate to the story. They reflect time and effort put into placement and creation of the scenes.
Depictions chosen for theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) are inaccurate to the story. The depictions may be rushed or show minimal effort, time, and care put into placement and creation of the scenes.
Most depictions are missing too many elements or are too minimal to score. Little time or effort has been put into placement and creation of the scenes.
English Conventions
There are no errors in spelling, grammar, or mechanics throughout the storyboard. All writing portions reflect careful proofreading and accuracy to the story.
There are a few errors in spelling, grammar, and mechanics throughout the storyboard. All writing portions show accuracy to the story and some proofreading.
There are several errors in spelling, grammar, and mechanics throughout the storyboard. Most writing portions do not reflect proofreading or accuracy to the story.
Errors in spelling, grammar, and mechanics in writing portions of the storyboard seriously interfere with communication.




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