Bryan Podell, English Teacher, Intrinsic Schools
1984 is a dystopian novel that tells the story of Winston Smith as he deals with an oppressive, totalitarian regime. Orwell draws an extreme picture of an individual’s struggle with an oppressive society and that individual’s willingness to risk his own life for freedom.
Thinking through the novel’s various themes including social responsibility, nationalism, and surveillance is a difficult task for some of my students. In order to support them, I ask my students to read a real-world account or a fictional short story that includes themes similar to those in 1984. Adding a supplementary text to the novel helps my students more fully understand the themes and make meaningful connections between the texts. My twelfth graders connect Winston Smith’s actions under government control to Henry David Thoreau’s ideas on democracy and individual responsibility. My ninth grade students compare the historical events of the women’s suffrage movement to Winston Smith’s oppression. These CERCA Sets, Applied Lessons, and Free Lessons provided plenty of connections!