The novel’s title Nineteen Eighty-Four is meant to describe the approximate year the story takes place in, even though Winston himself admits that it is impossible to know whether this is accurate, as the Party has probably adjusted the calendar countless times since the Revolution (p. 9).
Since the novel was first published in 1949, the title also reveals that it will most likely be a science-fiction story, as it refers to a year several decades into the future. The contemporary reader would probably have been instantly curious to see how the author might describe this unknown, distant future.
Of course, readers today would instead see a year a few decades in the past, and so the title might create different expectations in them. For example, they might wonder whether Orwell’s future scenario presented an accurate view of the realities of 1984 in any way, or whether any of his predictions about the future have come true.
Orwell at first meant the book to be set in 1980, but as the manuscript took several years to complete, he adjusted the proposed time setting several times as well. In the end, Orwell settled on 1984 because it was a reversal of the last two digits of 1948 - the year when he worked on the final version of the novel (which was finally published in 1949).
Beginning (Part I)
The story begins in medias res, starting with the famous sentence: “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” (p. 3).
Because Nineteen Eighty-Four is a science-fiction story, the first part of the book serves to introduce us to its rather unusual setting, giving us detailed descriptions of the social and political mechanics of London in the ...