Nineteen Eighty-Four is George Orwell's last novel, chronicling the life of a man under a modern totalitarian state.
Nineteen Eighty-Four (alternately 1984) chronicles the life of a man under a modern totalitarian state. "1984," "Big Brother" and "Thought Police" are routinely used as shorthand for state encroachment on civil liberties, excessive surveillance, and other encroachments onto freedom of speech and of the press. Ironically (yes ironically, I do know what that means), abuse of these words is sometimes used to keep people towing the party line, e.g. yelling "Thought Police" if you question someone's opinion, or using totalitarianism as the culmination of a slippery slope argument, e.g. "If we create a public option for healthcare, then Big Brother will just get stronger!"
The book's influence on the English language was extensive: concepts like mediaspeak, crowdthink and fashion police owe Orwell a debt of gratitude. Even the man's name became its own adjective (see below).
Both Orwellian and Kafkaesque are misused by the vast majority of its users. In casual conversation, anything from going to traffic court to walking around stoned on mushrooms can be compared to a hellish trap from which there is no escape. While both authors give people a useful shorthand to refer to distressing experiences at the hands of authority, there are important differences between the two.
To avoid further mix-up, here is a handy chart on How to Tell if Your Nightmare Existence is Orwellian or Kafkaesque.
Mitigating circumstances can complicate things. If, for example, you're an attractive Jew with confidence issues in North Korea, or a penniless Englishman in Cesky Krumlov, all bets are off. High School