1984 by George Orwell
Book of the Month
Winston lives in a bleak, totalitarian world where his job is to rewrite newspaper articles to support present political propaganda. He has no joy and no love. His world is grimy, regimented, and callously violent. His conversations with other people are functional remarks or rituals of allegiance to Big Brother and the Party. Armed with ubiquitous surveillance and tools to indoctrinate the populace from the cradle, the Party seems to control everything. But they do not control Winston’s thoughts, and secretly he begins to rebel.
He writes a diary, he purchases antique remnants of the forgotten past, he forms an illicit romance, and he starts trying to remember and question what is real. He knows that if he is caught, he will be tortured and ultimately ‘vaporised’, but once he has started he cannot stop. These small gestures of self-expression—thoughtcrimes, his world calls them - are addictive, and Winston desperately searches for any hint that organised rebellion against the Party is possible. He longs to exist, not as a mindless drone, but as an individual. But what chance does he have in a nightmare of social control so complete that it does not just suppress free speech, it suppresses free thought?
In the end, what is most chilling about the social control in Winston’s world is its objective. Whereas Animal Farm was about a cycle of revolution and corruption, 1984 imagines that complex social mechanisms have been put in place to halt that cycle by detecting, containing, and eliminating dissent. The system is so ‘fair’ that no one is in charge. It is social control for its own sake. The people in 1984 work feverishly against one another to maintain the status quo, which is ‘a boot stamping on a human face - for ever’.
Written in the late 1940s and ostensibly set in a then-future world, 1984 has not dated despite its title. The society is evoked in a way that avoids relying on contemporary references, and the prose is deceptively simple. The Party’s ultimate method of destroying unorthodox thought is to limit language itself, and Orwell revels in the visceral verbs and nouns that the Party disallows. For me, what is most fascinating about 1984 is the way it shows us how dependent we are on language for our collective memory and understanding, and the power of language to empower. 1984 gave us a new vocabulary to identify and resist the political control of information, with terms such as thought police, Big Brother, doublethink, and thoughtcrime.
1984 is not only a classic of dystopian fiction, but one of the most influential works of fiction ever written.
This 1984 book review was written by Caroline Norrington
Have you read 1984?
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1984 reader reviews
Pearl from US
George Orwell was a seer, or at least he appears to be so. The parallels are astounding to the age of today when the State gains power and uses all factions of media to mold the thinking of it's citizenry. "Speech Crime", "Thought Crime", are punishable by death, histories of major and minor events are continuously rewritten to serve the State. Will Smith works for the "Ministry of Truth" and we find our protagonist well adept at his job rewriting captions for photos, changing a line here and there of past news stories. It's a society where it's almost impossible to keep a secret, your motives are constantly under scrutiny if you don't show up for "The week of hate", or if you aren't a member of this club or that club. Children are encouraged to be in a young spies club and turn in their parents if they don't adhere to the proper protocols. Privacy is a forbidden thing, there is simply no such thing and if you are out of view of a telescreen for any length of time, then even that is suspect. The story begins when he enters his room and out of the telescreens view he begins to write in an old blank diary just a few sentences. Will Smith has just defied the State. Will he survive his rebellion? Will Big Brother (The State) be one step ahead of him? As he begins an affair with a woman who belongs to an "Anti Sex League" he rolls the dice as he explores his human needs, to connect with another person on a deeper level where privacy is a crime in itself. I think Orwell is warning us that when the Government gets too powerful it will regulate supply/demand, thought/media, time/history, thought/action, even sex/love. There are some disturbing parallels in this book in todays culture (U.S.) (U.K.) that the younger generations must take to heart before they fully resign themselves or their children to this fate. We have been warned by wiser noggins. I'm pleading with you young people to read this book before it's banned and it's too late. George Orwell really was a seer, some have that gift. A MUST READ! This is a warning to us how an all powerful Government who pretends to be like a big brother looking out for you ultimately takes control of every facet of your life. This my "Speech Crime" for the day and I didn't give out any spoilers for this insightful masterpiece. I cannot recommend this book enough, I've read it about twenty times already, maybe more. We are headed there, pick up some pointers if we can't avoid this fate.
RaphaŽl from France
A must read. Powerful and unsurpassable, this is the apex of political fiction.
10/10 from 3 reviews
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