1984 by George Orwell

WAR IS PEACE

FREEDOM IS SLAVERY

IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

Considering how much I loved ‘Animal Farm’ and the amount of praise I had heard for 1984 from various people, I was really looking forward to getting stuck into this novel. The concept of always being watched ‘Big Brother’ is obviously a huge part of everyday life now. There are cameras everywhere, scrutinising so I imagined this book would be more poignant for that reason. I was disappointed.

Ultimately, the plot of the novel is straightforward and not particularly complex. Winston Smith lives in London, chief city of Airstrip one and a key part of Oceania. Oceania is at war with Eurasia (or is it Eastasia) and always has been. Oceania is led by a omnipresent government – there are telescreens in every home, every building, watching, waiting – and has a strong overlying force of public mind control. The Party persecutes any who have any form of independent thinking or rebellion against the party. They are an oppressed people, led by Big Brother, supposedly an actual person but more like a figurehead for the Party itself.

Winston lives in the ruins of London and is starting to feel a growing resentment for Big Brother. He works for the Ministry of Truth, who are responsible for historical revisionism which ensures everything to party says and predicts is correct and they essentially change the records of the past for their own advantage. Though he rebels in many small ways he fears being accused of ‘thoughtcrime’ by the Thought police, he keeps a diary regardless, writing down his thoughts against the party. Eventually he meets Julia and they start a passionate affair, even going so far as to hire a room for ‘privacy’ and they discuss the concept of freedom from their oppressive government and . But Big Brother will not tolerate disloyalty to the party, it is well known that those who commit thoughtcrimes can and will be ‘vapourised’ completely wiped out of existence in records and in memory. For those with original thoughts, there is room 101…

When i mentioned I wasn’t enjoying reading this book, somebody commented that it was seen as being cleverer at the time. Undeniably, it is a chilling prediction of the future by Orwell and dubbed as a classic but although I found this novel interesting in that it was an original plot and concept, it was an extremely dull read. My copy is a meagre 325pages long and I rushed through it in order to not have to endure it for too long. I struggled to form any kind of sentimental attachment to Winston and found huge chunks of text extremely laborious to read. When I read a novel, I expect to be engaged, to be kept on my toes, expecting the unexpected but ultimately the plot is very predictable. You can guess at the end result within the first few pages of the novel and I found the ending, after all that hassle of trawling through this book, a big disappointment but I did understand the message behind it even if I didn’t wholly appreciate it.

Relative to the state of this country and the world in general, 1984 does bring to light the flaws in governmental systems. Although 1984 is such an extreme it is not a impossible eventuality – certainly not in this country but the state of the Middle East and of countries in Africa are not unlike Oceania in some ways. The corrupted government, the oppressed people etc. considering it was written just after World War Two its an astute prediction by Orwell, I can see why it is hailed with so much praise but ultimately this wasn’t a novel I enjoyed or intend to recommend to people.

Maybe I’m being ignorant. Maybe I’m missing something fundamental or didn’t look into the text in enough depth but I didn’t enjoy this book and I was glad to move onto reading something else.

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8 thoughts on “1984 by George Orwell

  1. “Relative to the state of this country and the world in general, 1984 does bring to light the flaws in governmental systems”

    I would not say governmental systems. The story takes a form of organisation to make a point about the divide between the individual and the collective, a divide marked by indifference (which can easily rub us the wrong way because psychologically it opens a bit of a wound with the idea of individual responsability). It is a book that can be hard to like indeed, though probably because he portrays fundamental flaws of human behaviour in an organised manner that instinctively tends to upset us. I often get the idea the book was not written to be liked, but merely to be considered. Orwell’s beef, so to speak, was with the individual as foundation of “systems”. The word “governmental” can be substituted with all too extreme ease with “religious” and “corporate”.

    • You have certainly made an extremely astute observation. I would agree that it was probably written more to make people think as opposed to literary enjoyment. Undeniably, Orwell is making a bold statement with this novel and maybe due to the fact I didn’t enjoy it, I’m not learning as much from the novel as I could.
      Maybe it’s subjective though – it could be argued to be governmental, religious or corporate depending on your interpretation.

      • Everything human is by default subjective 🙂 Great writing in that sense gives us the means to face mirrors and possible scenarios taking fully into account that inherent subjectivity. Orwell is a master in that. Great writing challenges us, in our enjoyment, in our thinking and in our choices.

      • Yah, I would suggest that 1984 is a masterwork not only for “making the reader think” (which all good literature does anyway) but also for his stylistic choices, fearsome imagery, and especially the brittle language — perfect for the character and environment….

  2. Not sure you understand how important this was in forming our obsession with dystopias….

    Also, think the era in which this was written — the rise of Communism….

    Also, this is a “rewrite” (well, some would argue it isn’t) of the earlier Russian (and anti-communist) novel We, by Yvengy Zamyatin which I highly, highly recommend.

  3. Pingback: George Orwell – 1984 | FiWeBelize

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