As far as I know, below something is like saying that one thing is physically under something else because it’s beneath it. But I’ve come across what looks like a different usage of the preposition below in this sentence from George Orwell's 1984 (emphasis mine):

All good things in the world of Oceania today, all knowledge, all happiness, come from Big Brother. Nobody has ever seen Big Brother. He is a face on posters, a voice on the telescreen. We can be sure that he will never die. Big Brother is the way the Party shows itself to the people.

Below Big Brother comes the Inner Party, which is now six million people, less than 2% of the population of Oceania. Below the Inner Party comes the Outer Party. The Inner Party is like the mind of the Party and the Outer Party is like its hands. Below that come the millions of people we call 'the proles', about 85% of the population.

This is confusing because it does not use the preposition below with the “under” sort of meaning that I have been taught. Does below have other meanings that apply here? How could it have been written not using below so that uses a word with a meaning I already understand?

  • 2
    It simply describes a pyramid of power. Compare to "At the top is the king. Below the king (a bit lower in power!) are his advisers. Below them are the nobles. Below them are the common people."
    – oerkelens
    Commented Aug 19, 2018 at 13:48
  • @oerkelens I also want to ask, below the Inner Party comes the Outer Party.. in this sentence, "come" word is using for "turn into" right ?
    – Hasan Tıngır
    Commented Aug 19, 2018 at 13:51
  • 1
    No, it doesn't mean turn into. It means it comes next in a sequence. After the king come his advisers (in order of precedence / power. It can also be simply literal: "when we look at this flag, we see red at the top, below which comes white, below which comes blue."
    – oerkelens
    Commented Aug 19, 2018 at 13:56
  • Now I understand what it says in the paragraph, thank you four all your help @oerkelens
    – Hasan Tıngır
    Commented Aug 19, 2018 at 14:00
  • 1
    I added a citation to your quote so as to avoid possible issues of plagiarism. (You want to always give proper attribution, a link—if possible, and to make a note of any changes you've made to the text.) Commented Aug 19, 2018 at 16:42

1 Answer 1


Perhaps some would say beneath would have been a better choice here but nobody wants to argue with Orwell. At least I don't. Speaking of which, when you quote someone's work it is good to cite the source.

In this case, the word means at a lower level, in fact if you look up the word beneath under the identical "lower level" definition as below, an example is given "considered of lower status or worth than." which is what Orwell is writing about I think.

be·low /bəˈlō/

adverb: below 1. at a lower level or layer. "he jumped from the window into the moat below"

synonyms: further down, lower down, in a lower position, underneath, beneath

Source: Google Dictionary (Oxford English Dictionary, Pocket Edition)

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