Book Review: 1984-George Orwell

1984WAR IS PEACE.

FREEDOM IS SLAVERY.

IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.

As one of the most famous and first dystopian novels, it was only a matter of time until I had finally read it. I enjoyed Animal Farm so I was excited to be able to read another work by Orwell. Published in 1949, Orwell gives us a look into the future where people live under a totalitarian society and are dictated by the infamous BIG BROTHER.

The year is 1984 and the world is divided into two parts: Oceania and Eurasia. The novel takes place in Oceania (formally Great Britain) where your every move and thought is being watched. The main character Winston Smith works at the Ministry of Truth in the records department where he is responsible for revising history, and in a sense making the past obsolete. Secretly Winston hates The Party and BIG BROTHER and wishes to rebel against both, however he knows if he is found guilty of thoughtcrime, his impending death is not far from the corner. In order live at peace with BIG BROTHER and society in general, one must fully submit their lives, thoughts, and being to the mercy of the government. The world is diminishing into a simplified form where vocabulary is being shortened, sex is only used for production of more humans, loyalty is found only in the Party, and the family unit is non existent.

“In the end we shall make thoughtcrime nearly impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten.”

Winston’s every day plight and hate of the world he lives in separates him from the rest of society, labeling him as an “outsider” or “rebel.” Society’s grasp on the mind dictates your every move, leaving you without an identity. You are an empty shell filled with the reasoning, philosophy, and dictation of The Party. Winston’s lack of loyalty to The Party leads him to another like minded individual Julia. Together they indulge in everything anti-party, including a sexual relationship.

“Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.”

The idea that rebellion equates to freedom, is prevalent underlying theme in 1984. Society’s lack of dynamics and diversity leaves the world full of “bareness, its dinginess, its listlessness.” When Winston and Julia pledge their allegiance in taking down BIG BROTHER, they only meet their demise, tortured by The Party Leader, O’Brian.

Orwell’s invention of the future world is genius and brilliant.  The book’s chilling telling of the future resonates deep inside you, leaving you speculating how society and the world is run now. “Everything faded into mist. The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth.” We as humans are placed in a communistic society where conventions such as the Thought Police, BIG BROTHER, Doublethink, and Two-Minute Hate ensure there is no concept of individualism. Every facet of history is controlled by The Party, blurring the lines between truth and fabrication.  Although Winston’s inclination towards “corruption” sounds daunting, it is the only thing that creates freedom. The end of the novel is where most of the ideology of The Party is weaved together, and the eerie message of O’Brian rings loud.

“Everything will be dead inside of you. Never again will you be capable of love, or friendship, or joy of living, or laughter, or curiosity, or courage, or integrity. You will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty, and then we shall fill you with ourselves.”

1984 is a foundation for most dystopic novels, serving as a timeless literary trope. I did not feel particularly attached to any of the characters in the book, and felt like they only served as vehicles into the ideology of the novel.  I also didn’t really start to enjoy the novel, until the very end when Winston undergoes interrogation and torture. I’m not sure if this was Orwell’s intention or if it was my own passivity. I am glad that I read this novel as it is probably noted as a classic; however it was definitely not a favorite read for me. In the middle of the novel, I felt it was a bit too dense and slow-paced and it was hard to keep me interested. I applaud Orwell’s obvious foresight into the future that is so applicable to today’s modern world. 1984 does provide a scary look at the potential peremptory government. I would classify 1984 as not only a must-read classic but an excellent introductory novel to other dystopic books.

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