Stephen McElroy Textual Analysis November 7, 2011 For this assignment in textual analysis, I set out to engage in some “disciplined play” with George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four. One of my favorite books, Nineteen Eighty Four is as influential a text as any written in the twentieth century. The story of Winston’s trials under the rule of Ingsoc and his eventual succumbing to the thought police is woven into our culture, and elements of Orwell’s fictional lexicon remain with us now in our everyday language. For example, the words newspeak and doublethink, each appearing in the novel (82 and 30 times, respectively, according to TAPoRware), can be seen rising out of the x-‐ axis of Google’s ngram viewer and bookworm in the years following the book’s publication in 1949. One word that is often attributed to Orwell but that does not appear in his novel is ‘doublespeak’ – which word, beginning in the late 1980’s (according to Google ngrams) is printed in more books than its genuine counterpart, doublethink. Other than perhaps this last relational fact, all the preceding information could have been discerned without the use of either TAPoRware or Google/bookworm ngrams. These tools simply make analysis nearly instantaneous – admittedly no small feat. The following is a look into and summary of some of the other analytical exercises I ran with these tools. First, the basic stats: not including the Glasgow stop words, Nineteen Eighty Four (and its appendix) contains 9,357 unique words and 42841 total words (103,416 words including stop words). The top five words, in descending order, are Winston (appearing 450 times), said (339), party (280), like (203), and time (197). That the protagonist’s name is the most frequently appearing word is no surprise, nor is the fact that the word ‘party’ appears often. What did surprise me (although I admit it has been a few years since I read the book cover-‐to-‐cover) was the face that ‘O’Brien’ is the eighth most frequently appearing word (173 times), appearing more than twice as often as the name of Winston’s love interest, Julia (79 times). The word ‘big’ appears 93 times; 79 of those times (as I discovered with the co-‐occurrence tool), it was immediately followed by ‘brother,’ which again is no surprise. It may be of some interest to note that ‘Big Brother’ and ‘Julia’ appear the same number of times – after all, the novel’s ominous parting words are “he loved Big Brother.” This thought led me to look at the distributions of mentions of Julia and Big Brother over the course of the novel, and the graphical depiction of those distributions are strikingly inverted. A majority of O’Brien’s mentions are near the very end, when Winston is getting his re-‐education in ‘room 101’ (ten mentions). Orwell’s other most famous and influential work, the essay “Politics and the English Language,” is also often cited by political wonks and cultural critics. In it, he critiques the meaningless, pretentious diction that he sees appearing in newspapers, journals, and political speeches and thereby choking up society’s ability to think (which theme plays a major role in 1984). One of Orwell’s chief complaints is the growing adherence to the “notion that Latin or Greek words are grander than Saxon ones.” Putting Orwell to the Orwell test, I wanted to see if 1984 was at all guilty of this crime. Unfortunately, the closest thing to sorting the origin of words in TAPoRware is the “Speech Tagger,” which purports to be able to find and tag “Foreign” words. Even more unfortunate is the fact that the tool is slow (and admittedly so in the tool’s ‘About’ wiki) and not intended to tag large works, novels included. So, just to test the tool, I ran the paragraph from ‘Politics’ in which Orwell
names a list of foreign words that he considers pretentious. To its credit, the Speech Tagger found and tagged “status quo,” but it did not find cul de sac, ancien regime, deus ex machina, mutatis mutandis, gleichschaltung, or weltanschauung. It would be conceivably useful to integrate, say, the OED (we can dream, right?) into a toolset like TAPoRware so that the origins of words could be a part of any analysis. But, since that hasn’t been arranged yet, I did the next-‐best thing and used the comparator tool, comparing Orwell’s essay to Orwell’s novel, looking to see if any of the words he claims to disdain in the essay appear in the novel. The results were inconclusive, but I found no damning evidence. Although I haven’t uncovered any earth-‐shattering revelations about Orwell or his works using TAPoRware or Google Ngrams, I have added to my own personal understanding of Nineteen Eighty Four, if for no other reason than working with these tools – and drawing any kind of conclusions from them – requires a certain level of engagement that a simple reading does not require. For instance, until I searched Ngrams for “Winston,” it had never occurred to me that the protagonist took (or at least shared) his name with England’s revered war-‐time Prime Minister (I am ashamed to admit this). To even begin to use these tools invokes different ways of seeing.