The boots were approaching again. The door opened. O'Brien came in.

Winston started to his feet. The shock of the sight had driven all caution out of him. For the first time in many years he forgot the presence of the telescreen.

'They've got you too!' he cried.

'They got me a long time ago,' said O'Brien with a mild, almost regretful irony.

In the discussion on this question about why O'Brien seemed regretful, we discussed whether there was any chance that O'Brien was referring to a time before the Party was in power.

My question, then: does the book offer any clue as to when and/or how the Party took power originally? Is it possible that O'Brien remembered it, and was perhaps even part of putting them in power in the first place? Did Orwell ever comment on either point outside the text?

1 Answer 1


It does not give a specific date, although it is said sometime after the unification of the United States and British commonwealth.

The splitting up of the world into three great super-states was an event which could be and indeed was foreseen before the middle of the twentieth century. With the absorption of Europe by Russia and of the British Empire by the United States, two of the three existing powers, Eurasia and Oceania, were already effectively in being. The third, Eastasia, only emerged as a distinct unit after another decade of confused fighting.

-- Part 2, Chapter 9

However, the book gives some clues, saying there was an atomic war in the 1950s and shortly after the Revolution followed.

Although the Party, according to its habit, claims the invention for itself, atomic bombs first appeared as early as the nineteen-forties, and were first used on a large scale about ten years later. At that time some hundreds of bombs were dropped on industrial centres, chiefly in European Russia, Western Europe, and North America. The effect was to convince the ruling groups of all countries that a few more atomic bombs would mean the end of organized society, and hence of their own power.

-- Part 2, Chapter 9

Quote from Wikipedia:

Oceania, the fictional superstate in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, appears to have emerged from a formal political union of the United States and the countries of the British Commonwealth, which later annexed the remainder of the Americas. Big Brother and Emmanuel Goldstein, fictional characters from the book, led the Party to power in Oceania after a revolution of some kind. After the Party achieved control of Oceania, Ingsoc became the official governing ideology and other political beliefs were increasingly marginalized. Goldstein and Big Brother later became enemies and differed in their interpretation of Ingsoc. Goldstein was eventually branded a criminal and was used as a symbol of treachery and sedition by the party.

  • 4
    This answer would be greatly improved with some actual quotes from the passages you're referring to, to see precisely what Orwell said. The full text is legally available and searchable online.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Aug 24, 2019 at 6:03
  • 1
    I've added the quotes I think you meant from the book (these are the most relevant mentions of the United States and atomic war respectively in the whole book), but they're not really conclusive. Is the state of Oceania synonymous with the Party? Did the Party come to power before or after the creation of Oceania? A Wikipedia contributor has made an unsourced guess, but that's all you're going on.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Sep 24, 2019 at 15:13

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