It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
This is the opening line of the novel “1984” written by George Orwell and it sets the overall tone of the story. April is spring, the month when most of the flowers shall bloom and the nature awakes from the winter dream (at least at the Orwell’s latitude). The bright April day should hint that there is hope and everything is going to change for better, but the day is cold. Nothing is blooming, nothing is waking. The hope is futile and fruitless and all the characters’ efforts are destined to fail.
The theme of failure is continued with the clock. Thirteen is the unlucky number in most of the European cultures. Also this number is tightly connected with the theme of betrayal in Bible, giving us a hint that the main character will be betrayed by his friend in the end, just like Jesus. The more subtle hint is that “thirteen” instead of “1 PM” is more often used in military. This gives us the first impression of a highly militaristic state where everyone is alerted and everyone lives like the war is already here.
When we read the book for the first time we don’t notice this symbolism, but if we reread the novel more thoroughly, looking for such vague hints, we’ll see that the ending of the story is ciphered in this phrase.