George Orwell’s 1984

George Orwell‘s 1984 is a dystopian story;

Written in 1948, 1984 was George Orwell’s chilling prophecy about the future. And while 1984 has come and gone, his dystopian vision of a government that will do anything to control the narrative is timelier than ever…

The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.

Winston Smith toes the Party line, rewriting history to satisfy the demands of the Ministry of Truth. With each lie he writes, Winston grows to hate the Party that seeks power for its own sake and persecutes those who dare to commit thoughtcrimes. But as he starts to think for himself, Winston can’t escape the fact that Big Brother is always watching… (from Google Books)

It is a book which was written by George Orwell shortly after the end of WWII, when the cold war was going on, and has been filmed more than once.

The study guide below will work with any filmed version (and the book) but has been written with the film 1984 directed by Michael Radford, in mind, which was filmed during 1984. The film stars John Hurt, Richard Burton and Suzanna Hamilton.

Orwell's 1984 (study guide for film)


 Study Guide

(read the guide online or download it)




Other useful resources

LitCharts has an extensive 1984 study guide

How to Analyze a Novel (works for film too)

Literary Devices and Terms

Bitesize History The Cold War

Related posts

George Orwell

Edward Snowden – surveillance and privacy in a digital age

Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden: Leaks that exposed US spy programme from BBC News 17 January 2015

For students


The Geeks Who Leak  from TIME magazine and  Snowden and the NSA from Bill of Right Institute

Find out about:

NSA, Congress, the Constitution of the USA, wikileaks, online privacy, whitleblowers, prevention of terrorism.

Note! Always check your sources and research organisations/writers.


Note that the questions below (fetched from Snowden and the NSA ) are from an American point of view.

  1. How should Congress exercise its oversight of intelligence agencies?
  2. Do foreign citizens have an expectation of privacy? In the U.S.? In their own countries? If so, should this change U.S. government intelligence operations?
  3. General warrants, or ‘writs of assistance’, were warrants issued by King George III to authorize general searches of colonists. Agents of the King could search a suspect or a suspect’s home and documents at will. These types of investigations were one of the major complaints of the Founding Fathers. What are the parallels with bulk collection of data? What are the differences?
  4. There have been reports that the NSA weakened U.S. Internet companies’ security (i.e. made the computer security easier to break) to facilitate data gathering. What constitutional issues might this raise?

More to read and discuss:

Read NSA Surveillance & the Politics of Whistleblowing:

  1. Defenders of NSA surveillance contend that the program is necessary to prevent terrorism. What do you think of their argument?
  2. What are some of the reasons that civil libertarians give for why the NSA’s activities are damaging to American democracy?
  3. What safeguards do you think should be in place to keep the government from intruding on the privacy of its citizens? In your view, do the NSA’s activities meet these safeguards or violate them?
  4. In the age of the internet, many Americans have grown accustomed to sharing personal information on websites and to having data about their online activity tracked by private companies. How do changing standards of privacy in the internet age affect the debate about government surveillance? Can you think of reasons why we should be particularly concerned about government surveillance?

Questions from NSA Surveillance & the Politics of Whistleblowing, Morningside Center )

For teachers

Online privacy and Prism – news and teaching resources round up from The Guardian

Breaking News English ESL Lesson Plan on Edward Snowden

NSA Surveillance & the Politics of Whistleblowing  from Morningside Center

This post is a collection of digital material which can be used for learning and teaching.

The ton of bricks that crushed Aaron Swartz

Aaron Swartz

Aaron Swartz stood up for freedom and fairness – and was hounded to his death from The Guardian Sunday 7 February 2015.

For students

The film begins with a quotation from Henry David Thoreau: “Unjust laws exist; shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once?”

Pause and think about what this means in the context of the film. Come back to this quote after watching the whole film.

Find out about:

Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), Creative Commons licenses, Gatekeeper JSTOR, Net neutrality NSA, Patriot Act/Electronic Crimes Task Forces and Working Groups, Piracy, Remix culture RSS, SOPA Whistleblowers.

Note! Always check your sources and research organisations/writers.

Now consider these questions:

  • Who made the documentary? Why? (What is the purpose?)
  • What ideas/beleifs can you see in the content? Do you agree or not?
  • How might different people see this film differently?
  • Who and what is shown in a positive/negative light? Who and what is left out (not shown at all)? Why?

Also see the post Looking at Documentaries – Media Literacy


Read the Guerilla Open Access Manifesto – discuss.

More reading: Aaron Swartz news round up from the Guardian

For teachers

1415297898_stock_save-pdfThe internet’s own boy: the story of aaron swartz (Docs for Schools, Educational resource). ”This guide has been designed to help teachers and students enrich their experience by providing support in the form of questions and activities. .”
Lesson Plan: Introducing Documentaries to Your Students (Grades 7-12)  from POV: documentaires with a point of view
Common Core Standards Writing Task Lesson: Aaron Swartz and the Free Culture Movement from the school improvement network

This post is a collection of digital material which can be used for learning and teaching

Looking at Documentaries – Media Literacy

link image_film4”Media literacy – with critical thinking, reflection and ethical behaviour at its core – is a key part of what it means to be educated in today’s world.” (from Media Smarts)

To be media literate you  have to be able to find and evaluate  information. Is it what you need? Then you should be able to  synthesize the information you find into useful knowledge and/or communication.

One way to become media literate is through the study of documentaires.

For students:

The presentation Communicative situations (pdf) should help you with what to look for and how to analyse documentaries and/or other films as well as texts.

Some questions to think about:

  • What is a documentary and how is it different from other films?
  • Who made the documentary?
  • Why? (What is the purpose?)
  • What ideas or beliefs do the filmmakers have that you can see in the content?
  • Who are the audiences?
  • How might different people see this film differently?
  • Who and what is shown in a positive/negative light?
  • Why might these people and things be shown this way?
  • Who and what is left out (not shown at all)?

For more detailed instruction on what to think about see  Key Concepts for Media Literacy from Media Smarts (extract below).

1. Media are constructions

Media products are created by individuals who make conscious and unconscious choices about what to include, what to leave out and how to present what is included… As a result of this, media products are never entirely accurate reflections of the real world…

2. Audiences negotiate meaning

Different audiences can take away different meanings from the same product. Media literacy encourages us to understand how individual factors, such as age, gender, race and social status affect our interpretations of media.

3. Media have commercial implications

Most media production is a business… Questions of ownership and control are central – a relatively small number of individuals control what we watch, read and hear in the media.

4. Media have social and political implications

Media convey ideological messages about values, power and authority. In media literacy, what or who is absent may be more important than what or who is included…

5. Each medium has a unique aesthetic form

For teachers:

Looking at Documentaries – A resource package from Hot Docs’ to assist with critical discussion in the classroom. Free PDF download. It is a teaching guide that sets out questions designed to help teachers include the study of documentary film in their curriculum.
Using Docs in the Classroom: A teacher librarian’s personal website where there are excellent resources for teaching with documentary films.
The National Film Board of Canada: On this site is an area with teaching resources and short documentary films that can be used as teaching aids.
Key Concepts for Media Literacy from Media Smarts.

The Representation Project