I came across the question about George Orwell’s 1984 that is—for all intents and purposes—pretty useless as-is. In my humble opinion, the book is extremely well known, 68+ years old and past that the whole thread the question inspires is ripe for spoilers anyway.

I have attempted to edit it to remove the spoiler tags, but the original poster reverted my edits and left this comment:

“I strongly disagree with your idea that spoilers are not needed and you gain nothing by removing them. A book or movie may be well known, but not all of us have had time to see or read every well known work. There is no reason to remove spoilers for the few who may not have read it and it does nothing for those who have.”

I have read this meta thread regarding the policy—unofficial and casual—for spoilers, and from what I am reading a question such as this 1984 is the type of use of spoilers that should be avoided. And—from my perspective—pretty much every school child or thrift store shopper has read this or has had the potential to read this for the 68+ years it’s been around.

So should this question be protected? Will anyone really have the story ruined by speculating about Winston Smith’s fate? Heck, the whole question is attempting to get clarification on the “open to interpretation” ending of the book, so if it is open to interpretation, then heck… How can it be spoiled?

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    Excluding chatter, 100% of this question is behind spoiler tags.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 20:30

3 Answers 3


Arguing against spoilerficiation on the basis of age is contrary to our established policy

Such as it is, anyway; this is admittedly something we're not always very good about enforcing, but the meta discussion you linked to in this question does pretty clearly say:

  • Don't consider the age of the material. There are still people new to Star Wars, the Matrix, and The Lord of the Rings, even though these could all be considered so established that the main points are common knowledge.

So, although philosophically I'm inclined to agree with you that it's probably not necessary in this case, it's good manners if nothing else, and I wouldn't go against the post's owner on this basis.

Arguing against spoilerification on the basis of "it won't ruin the story" seems...wrong

I studied 1984 in school (the first time I'd read it, no less), as I suspect many people did, and the entire time I was reading it, I knew exactly how it was going to end: Winston was going to succeed in his rebellion against Big Brother, and then do....something. I didn't expect him to dismantle the empire in an afternoon (I hadn't gotten into YA fiction, so I wasn't primed for that ending), but I figured he'd at least set out to form some kind of resistance movement.

Obviously I was completely wrong, which not only took me entirely by surprise, but is also quite central to many of the themes of the book, about the importance of individuality and the difficulty in resisting oppression.

I don't think it would have ruined the story for me, if I'd known the ending a head of time, but it certainly would have made it less immediately effective. And that's kind of the point of spoilerification; learning the ending doesn't (necessarily) ruin the story, but it does lessen the impact of significant events and character moments.

Arguing against spoilerification on the basis of readability is more reasonable, but the question would need to be largely re-written

As you accurately point out, there's very little useful information in the question that isn't spoilerified. This is frustrating for a reader, and ideally should be avoided.

However, that's hard to do with the question as written. There are probably ways the question could be re-written to be more useful, such as:

At one point, Winston is told that the Party doesn't "just" execute people; they break them down and teach them to love Big Brother. Then, when they're broken and soulless and content to be a member of the party, that's when they're executed.

At the end of the story,

after he's been forced to betray Julia, and sees her later and realizes his love for her has been destroyed, he realizes he loves Big Brother.

Does this mean that


Will soon be executed?

And there are probably better ways. I wouldn't be opposed to editing the question along these lines, but, since we largely respect post ownership, I'd want to do any editing in collaboration with the OP.

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    @JakeGould Personally, I'm generally less concerned with spoilers in answers, since answers require more effort to get at to read. There's also a certain element of respecting the wishes of the post owner; as I've said here before, you're always welcome to try to improve a post, but as a community we tend to defer to the poster for how they want to format their post, and it's best to be graceful if you disagree with them. As in all things, it's a compromise Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 21:07

I agree with everything Jason Baker said in his answer, but I'd like to point out that you don't need to pontificate about how spoilerific your question is in addition to the spoiler tags. Just ask the question and use spoiler tags (and a vague title) if necessary. I'm half-tempted to remove said pontification from the main-site question we're discussing, but I don't want to start an edit war.

If the question is basically all spoilers, I would recommend putting something like the following at the top of the question in lieu of spoiler tags:

**Spoilers for [thing] are unmarked below.**

But since this is less commonly done, I would not edit it into someone else's question.

  • @JakeGould: No. The whole point is that you aren't marking the spoilers with spoiler tags. The idea is to "mark" the whole question, instead of individual paragraphs.
    – Kevin
    Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 3:05
  • If you want to remove the warnings, that's fine with me. My main concern is not to spoil and ending that I, and at least one other person found unexpected.
    – Tango
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 5:02
  • The spoiler tags prevent content from being previewed in the oneboxes in the chat feed and on the front page. Just marking "spoilers below" does not.
    – phantom42
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 13:44

As the poster of this question, my reasoning was that not everyone has read every, heard, or seen every "well known" story, film, show, or audio play in the SF&F genre. I read this particular book when I was about 13 years old and it had a strong impact on my life and world views. Part of that came about because, as mentioned in this answer I also expected the book to end one way and was stunned it ended in an entirely different fashion. I wouldn't dream of depriving anyone else of that experience.

My putting most of the question behind a "spoiler shield," does no harm. Removing that can have a negative impact on someone who has not yet read the book. There's no solid justification for removing the spoilers and there is a reason for preserving them.

The reason given for removing all spoiler protection is:

The spoilers are utterly not needed here since this book is well known and—as phrased—the question is fairly useless with 80% blocked by spoiler tags.

This reasoning is faulty. First, "since this book is well known" does not mean it's universally read. I know many SF fans who have not read it and keep hoping they'll get around to it. Second, saying the question is, "fairly useless with 80% blocked..." is clearly wrong since, as of now, it has 29 answers. Clearly people are having no trouble reading and responding to it, so it's useful.

There is a reason, even if it's weak, to leave spoiler shields in place. There is no clear or compelling reason to remove them.

As it was edited, it looked like very minimal effort was put into the editing. Just removing the spoiler markdowns seems to be all that was done. This lack of effort to keep any information hidden and even the reason for editing show no concern for readers trying to avoid spoilers. If it had been attentively edited to allow more to be seen while leaving key information still hidden, I would not have had an issue with it. I would even be okay with a total rewrite that keeps only the key information hidden. However, just removing the markdown syntax implies to me either just a dislike of hiding spoilers or a lack of effort or concern for the editing process. (Note I'm saying it implies that. I don't know if that is the case or not and I'm not about to say it is.)

ADDENDUM: I just came across this article about how, as of today, Orwell's "1984" is number 6 on their current bestseller list. With that in mind, it makes it even more appropriate to keep spoilers hidden.

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    Although I'm not overly inclined to do any editing on this one, my resolute opinion remains that any question where more than 80% of the relevant text is hidden behind a spoiler tag is probably in need of a compete rewrite. In this case, removing the irrelevant parts would leave almost 100% of the question hidden.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 15:05
  • I understand you don't want to edit it, but I'm open to making it less spoilerish. However, I think a rule like setting any kind of limit to how much is hidden is rather arbitrary. For instance, if we found footage for Citizen Kane and someone asked, "Does this found footage mean Rosebud was originally supposed to be the second sled in the movie?" that would appropriately be entirely hidden - unless there was more explanatory material which, from your statements, you would classify that extra material as chatter. When it's about a key plot point, hidden text may be the only choice.
    – Tango
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 15:43
  • Also, I find it interesting that the edit was done as a 100% undoing instead of, as I pointed out, giving it enough attention to keep the most prominent spoilers hidden. I don't know the editor's motivation, but that smacks of (in my view) the old, "Gotta do enough edits to get a badge" attitude. That may not be the case, but it just comes pretty close to worrying more about doing an edit than how the edit is done.
    – Tango
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 15:45

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