Let’s Argue: “1984”; Transgressive Fiction or Just Another Dystopian Sci-Fi?


1984 by George Orwell; is it also considered transgressive fiction or is it just a dystopian?

I realize 1984 was placed in the top ten list here, but there’s still the above question going around on whether or not it should remain on the list or not.

Well, let’s go over the definition of a dystopian:

A dystopian is set in ‘a dark, nightmare world’; it’s generally the opposite of a utopia. The dystopian theme is usually used in science fiction novels or speculative fiction novels. (Dystopian)

Disclaimer: if you haven’t read 1984 by George Orwell, don’t proceed.

Do not pass go. Spoilers are ahead. 

Dystopians sound like they could be in the same category as transgressive fiction… but do the main characters fall in line accordingly? Well, in 1984‘s case, Winston Smith goes against everything. The average lifestyle is full of screens, Big Brother, and primarily consists of the governments’ version of a cookie-cutter world. In the world of Orwell’s fictional totalitarian government, Newspeak was the common ground. Originality and freethinking were always discouraged; they were illegal.

Newspeak in 1984

So, let’s look more into Winston and how he started questioning everything. First, he wrote in a diary while working in the records department at the Ministry of Truth, which could be punishable by death. Then he decided that no matter how inhumane the world got, he wouldn’t let his humanity go out the window. With Big Brother watching, no move of his was safe. He was a part of the “Outer Party” which took of 13% of the world’s population and during the Two Minutes Hate portion, he made eye contact with O’Brien (a member of the Brotherhood) and Julia (a member of the Inner Party).

John Hurt as Winston Smith in the film adaptation of 1984 (1984)


Well, Winston and Julia eventually hooked up in a room they thought was safe from screens. However, when it came down to Winston and Julia trying to console with O’Brien, it turned out he was keeping a close eye on Winston all along. This results in O’Brien taking Winston in and torturing him and Julia until they both give into Big Brother. In the end, they both turn each other in and the book ends with them both giving into the cookie-cutter life that is Newspeak, doublethink, screens, and unoriginality.


So, did Winston really accomplish anything? Then again, when you look back at Tyler Durden in Fight Club, did he? The difference between the two is that  Tyler didn’t let society take him back into that 9-5 job. He just kept going on with fight club and Project Mayhem regardless of the consequences.

Winston? He just trusted the wrong person with his personal information. Winston would’ve been caught eventually because his steps to going against the government were too risky. He was one person going against too many other people that were too afraid to jump in on his ideas and questionings. His conquest was a lost cause from the beginning.

No wonder George Orwell’s novel is one of the most terrifying novels ever written. However, despite Winston’s lack of success, I do think it can be considered transgressive. As a fellow GoodReads reviewer stated:

Winston is a nihilistic outcast with a miserable life who feels confined by the norms of his society and decides to rebel against them in socially unacceptable ways (by joining a group whose aim is the destruction of the Party). From Big Brother’s POV, Winston is a pretty transgressive pain in the butt. (Comments)

Well where do you, the reader, think 1984 belongs? Is it a transgressive fiction or just a dystopian? Is it both?

Feel free to comment below!




“Comments for Best Transgressive Fiction.” Goodreads, Goodreads, http://www.goodreads.com/List/19917/comments?tab=book.

“Dystopian Literature.” List of Books and Articles about Dystopian Literature | Online Research Library: Questia, http://www.questia.com/library/literature/literary-themes-and-topics/dystopian-literature.

Orwell, George. “1984.” Book Summary, http://www.cliffsnotes.com/literature/n/1984/book-summary.  (I used Cliffnotes to refresh my memory on the novel, I haven’t read it in a while so I needed a crash course.)



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