[DWJ] Archer's Goon and 1984

Kyra Jucovy klj at sccs.swarthmore.edu
Mon Sep 19 08:29:00 EDT 2005

I knew I had read somewhere about AG definitely being a response to 1984!
Now, thanks to Deborah's great diligence, I was able to find that
reference in the archives!  Although I also have this vague feeling that I
had read about it in a book somewhere, too, at some point in my
adolescence.  Whenever I came across a work of criticism of children's
literature, I always did check the index for DWJ, so it's entirely

Apparently, Dorian said the last time this came up that she was going to
reread the books in light of this information - I wonder what you found,
Dorian!  For me, I reread AG this week, and I have to say, I felt like I
had finally gotten a good handle on why the book is simultaneously about
the concept of government and sibling relations - it's all Orwell's fault
for having the figure of Big Brother ;-).  My speculation is that maybe
the way in which AG is a response to 1984 is the sort of unrealistic
perfection of the system in 1984 - rather than give us that, DWJ has bad
government be caused by the same sort of petty, human foibles (magnified
by the power of the characters involved) that also cause trouble in
families.  Which makes it, also, a lot more defeatable than Orwell's

And "Big Brother is watching you" becomes ambiguous - obviously, Archer
comes right out and says that he is, but Archer doesn't actually know that
he is "Big Brother" to any member of the Sykes family.  In the meantime,
other Big Brothers, like Erskine and Howard, are also watching people, and
this isn't presented as a purely negative thing.  And Little Sisters,
like Awful, are also watching, and sometimes do a better job of watching
than Big Brothers.  In fact, reading the story in this particular light, I
couldn't help but read the last page or so as being Howard deciding to go
on being Big Brother and watch Awful, but then realizing that this could
be dangerous unless he watches himself, also. . . .


More information about the Dwj mailing list