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This map describes the world of George Orwell's 1984—or does it?

Illustration for article titled This map describes the world of George Orwells em1984/em—or does it?

This map shows the global superpowers described in George Orwell's 1984, but does this map truly reflect the political state of the world in the novel or is it just another form of Party propaganda?

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User LupivTheGreat posted this map to reddit, and fellow redditor dr_van_nostrand_MD provides an apt description of its reality within the world of 1984:

It's fictitious in the sense that George Orwell made it up, but it's also fictitious in the sense that it could have been just another lie that the government created. There isn't any evidence in the book that this is actually how the world is structured. For all we know the UK in 1984 could be like North Korea today; just a small isolated state that has effectively brainwashed their population.

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Maps are a common feature of speculative fiction works; they help orient us to the world we're inhabiting. But 1984 is a world where reality is in doubt, one where the readers don't get a map to the "real" world. We don't actually know what the true nature of the world outside of Airstrip One, only what the Party tells its citizens. This map provides some context for how the credulous inhabitant of Airstrip One, armed only with maps distributed by the Ministry of Truth, might view the world, how vast the realm of Oceania seems and how close the supposed enemies in Eurasia.

By examining 1984 in terms of a map, we're invited not just to question the truth of the Party's geography, but to remember that even real-life mapmakers have their own perspective on the world—and sometimes their own agenda. It's easy to poke at a map like this with close readings of Orwell's text, but in doing so it's useful to consider the history and context behind the boundaries on our modern maps.

The fictitious world of Orwell's '1984' [r/MapPorn via mental_floss]

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DISCUSSION

I'd find it unlikely that the wars are a fiction. It would seem like a lot of wasted effort to change who they were at war with every few years, then have to rewrite their entire history since they "are at war with Oceana. We've always been at war with Oceana." Changing history is what lead to Smith's dissent, and I'd think it's safe to assume that the more the did it, the more questions would arise in the minds of Smith's coworkers.

On the other hand, if the real goal is a psych experiment to see how far you can push people with contradictory information, it would be effective. Although there's historical precedent, I just don't see the logic in actively trying to break the cogs in your own machine.