1984 Pairing Project

Pairing Project, Part One

Nicole Willekes, Tim O'Neil, Olivia Neider, Ashleigh Bowne


Basics: Orwell, George. 1984. New York: Penguin Group, 1949. Print.

Links: 1984 by George Orwell (Project Gutenberg Australia)

Possible Connections:
When comparing 1984 with a more modern science fiction piece of literature, the goal should be for the motives, the emotions, the experiences of the main characters to find similarity. Winston is a pawn in the overall schemes of the government, try as he might to control his own life or to take a step back from it or to even escape from it, he holds no power of his own. And once he is placed within the clutches of the Thought Police, he is pushed past his endurance and breaks. Afterwards he is never the same and is incapable of feeling and behaving the way he used to. While there are many aspects of this book that could be related to in modern dystopian novels, Winston’s lack of control against a stronger force seems the most relatable to middle and high school students. One young adult novel that would fit into this nicely is Ender’s Game. Ender and Winston as people are not exactly similar, however their experiences echo each other very strongly. Both are used by the ruling power for a purpose—Ender’s seems to be more integral than Winston’s—but both are needed to behave in a certain way in order for the ruler’s goals to succeed. Both are monitored constantly and are afraid to reveal their true intentions to outsiders. Both are constantly manipulated by these powers and, in the end, both are broken by them. Winston becomes a mindless drone in Big Brother’s world, unable to love again. Ender is shattered by the teacher’s manipulation of him into destroying the Bugger race and the knowledge of his murder destroys him, much as Winston’s betrayal of Julia is his final breaking point. Ender's Game is not the only modern book doing this: Uglies and The Hunger Games are other possibilities as well.

Elements of this classic work that might connect to a work of young adult literature can be found in the political aspect of 1984. “Big Brother” in 1984 represents a government that is absolutely drunk off power. The “inner party” of this totalitarian government agency is focused on reading the thoughts of some of their citizens at all times, and therefore protecting their corrupt regime from “unorthodox”, anti-governmental thoughts. Ironically, the majority of the habitants of Oceania do not qualify as “citizens”. Many young adult science fiction novels revolve around the concept of a corrupt government that controls much more than it should. The sociocultural conditions regarding the classes and hierarchy of status from this novel are gold mines for connections with a modern-day science fiction novel. The novel has three main groups in Oceania: The inner party members, the outer party members, and the proles. The inner party members and the proles are a relatively easy study. Students will understand how the proles represent the modern-day ghetto, replete with poverty and crime. Similarly, the inner party is a concept that students can grasp and connect with a YAL work: the controlling faction of the government that is corrupt and ruining/running the country, keeping the rest in destitution. The outer party, however, is a very interesting one for students to take an in-depth look at. How does the inner party make the outer party members feel included, while at the same time subjecting them to lives of poverty and misery? How is it that Winston “belongs” to the party and yet he cannot even buy a razor blade or a pound of coffee when he desires? These questions could possibly be connected with a young adult science fiction novel by placing the two side-by-side and finding where the “outer party” is and who is represented in this group in the other book.

Another angle that students could be asked to explore is that of the role of technology and/or propoganda in this novel. This would connect very smoothly with most modern-day sci-fi books which feature a controlling governemnt. Winston is constantly monitored by the goverenment as they use technology to intrude into and run every part of his life. Ex./ the telescreen. "Big Brother" also uses his technology for intense propganda and editing of all history in Oceania. This could lead to discussions with the students about media and how much we should trust the media and everything they say. This is a great opportunity to bring up critical thinking and analysis of primary sources for the students' own lives after they read about Winston's life and the lack of critical thinking in Oceania. Questions could be asked and discussed such as: What is the governement's role in monitoring its citizens? When is it taken too far? Why do we need monitoring at all? To what extent?

Research Focus: Pairing Classics with Young Adult Works

1.Gallagher, Janice Mori. "Pairing Adolescent Fiction with Books from the Canon." Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 39.1 (1995): 8-14. Print. Link

This article presents good ways to pair classic books to adolescent fiction. It presents eight pairs of books, each pair consisting of a classic book paired with an appropriate adolescent fiction. Each of these pairs has their own themes that correlated with each other. This article also provides a literary focus for each of the pairs. For example, “A Doll’s House” by Henrik Ibsen is paired with “Dragonsong” by Anne McCaffery. Their common theme is “independence of female character,” and the literary focus is character development. This article goes through each theme of each of the pairs and discusses them.

2. Leigh Van Horn. Adolescent Literature as Complement to the Classics, Volume 4. 8 Vol. , 2000. Print. Link

This is another source that helps pair classic novels with adolescent fiction, only in this article, the author, Joan Kaywell brings in a group of educators who help address the issue that students dislike to read classics. These educators want to find a useful way to present classic ideas to students where they will actually retain and learn from them. The chapters are organized in a very helpful manner; cultural awareness, social outcasts, relationship, courage, etc. Each chapter contains a summary of the classic work as well as a summary of the adolescent fiction. After the summary, suggestions on how to teach or activities to teach these works are presented.

3. Beadle, Gordon B. "George Orwell's Meaning of 1984." Social Education 48.3 (1984): 183. Print. Link

This is a book source that goes through George Orwell’s novel and examines all of the central themes. While doing so, the author, George Beadle, presents other ideas that he believes was Orwell’s main intention to present. Traditionally, we have all been taught to think of Orwell’s novel as a political attack, with all of his central themes surrounded by the Soviet Union. After all “Big Brother” is considered to portray Hitler and the “Thought Police” considered being the Nazi’s. Instead, Beadle presents the real target; “the deadly combination of advanced technology and unbridled exercise of power over the individual.”


Now that Tim has birthed the wiki and has (evidentially) filled out the "Process" part of it, Nicole and Ashleigh have discussed possible connections, and Olivia has found some scholarly sources related to pairing classic texts to young adult works, we can move onto part 2. Our plan is not set in stone quite yet, but we have an idea of where we're going. We will discuss what we thought of 1984 in class on Monday Feb. 4th and then begin to read Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card once we part ways. The wiki for part 2 is up and ready for editing once we have completed Ender's Game. Tim has set up a google doc for us to share notes on as we procede.

Reading Schedule for Ender's Game:
Feb. 11 Ch. 1-5
Feb. 18 Ch 6-10
Feb. 25 Ch 11-15