Cours Citoyenneté et mondes virtuels


Read the following document and answer the questions. 


The hallway smelt of boiled cabbage and old rag mats. At one end of it a coloured poster, too large for indoor display, had been tacked to the wall. It depicted simply an enormous face, more than a metre wide: the face of a man of about forty-five, with a heavy black moustache and ruggedly handsome features. Winston made for the stairs. It was no use trying the lift. Even at the best of times it was seldom working, and at present the electric current was cut off during daylight hours. It was part of the economy drive in preparation for Hate Week. The flat was seven flights up, and Winston, who was thirty-nine and had a varicose ulcer above his right ankle, went slowly, resting several times on the way. On each landing, opposite the lift-shaft, the poster with the enormous face gazed from the wall. It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran.

Inside the flat a fruity voice was reading out a list of figures which had something to do with the production of pig-iron. The voice came from an oblong metal plaque like a dulled mirror which formed part of the surface of the right-hand wall. Winston turned a switch and the voice sank somewhat, though the words were still distinguishable. The instrument (the telescreen, it was called) could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely. He moved over to the window: a smallish, frail figure, the meagreness of his body merely emphasized by the blue overalls which were the uniform of the party. His hair was very fair, his face naturally sanguine, his skin roughened by coarse soap and blunt razor blades and the cold of the winter that had just ended.

Extract from 1984, George Orwell, 1949

Question 1

Present the document and introduce its author.

The document is taken from the book Nineteen Eighty-Four which was published in 1949, four years after the Second World War ended. That war was fought against totalitarian countries such as Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy. In 1949 Russia, under Stalin, was a Communist empire that Orwell had come to fear and criticize. 

Think about its source and the form it has.


The date is also very important.

If you don’t know the author, make some researches on the internet.

Question 2

Why is this document interesting in order to underline the limits of progress? 

The satire is here a way of making fun of people, systems, ways of government, etc. It usually does so cruelly, by making them look ridiculous and exposing them to laughter. With this strategy, satire is able to make those people see differently. Nineteen Eighty-Four is not a novel that really makes us laugh. The book is made in order to warn us. It shows the danger of our systems. The fight for freedom and rights seems relevant. 

Here, with the famous "BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU", we understand easily that the oppressor is using technologies as a way to keep under surveillance his population. 

The progress is "the process of gradually improving or getting nearer to achieving or completing something".

Question 3

Are the ethical issues generated by progress an old debate?

The "idea of progress" was already interesting according to the authors of the XXth century. They anticipate the massive progress of technologies which create a lot of ethical questions. It is particularly obvious in Orwell’s books which are in total compliance with the news and our time. Progress can be used in order to watch and follow people's life. For instance, social media can be an efficient instrument in order to manipulate people and their votes.