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1984 (Signet Classics) by George Orwell
1984 (Signet Classics)

paullocker, April 2, 2014

1984 was written by George Orwell in 1949. At the time it was published, World War Two had concluded a few years prior, but the scars were still very fresh. George took a look at countries like Russia and Spain and how their governments were extremely controlling and corrupt. In wake of the world’s recovery from war, he didn’t want more countries to adopt such a horrible and power hungry system, so he began writing. 1984 is Orwell’s warning to the world. It takes place in a world much different from ours. There are only three countries: Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia. All three have instituted a totalitarian government and are locked in a state of perpetual warfare. Winston Smith lives in London, part of Oceania. He works as someone who edits historical documents to match the needs of the ruling Party. No matter where he goes or what he does, he is watched. “Asleep or awake, working or eating, indoor or out of doors, in the bath or in bed-no escape. Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimeters insider your skull” (26). Winston is not as accepting of the Party’s practices as everyone else seems to be. One day, he meets a girl who shares in his sentiment against the Party. Everything about their relationship is in rebellion against it. Every day Winston’s hatred for the Party grows, but he knows that he was doomed to be caught since day one. 1984 is a fantastic story about control, censorship, and surveillance.
Winston has to make a conscious effort to act just like the Party wants him to. He is not allowed to have a single thought that differs from what is deemed the “correct” way of thinking. Even something as small as a facial twitch out of line will result in severe physical and mental punishment. The Party controls its citizens through massive amounts of propaganda. Big Brother-the man that supposedly runs everything-is plastered everywhere accompanied with the words “WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH”. His gaze is inescapable, and also serves as a representation of the two-way telescreens and microphones hidden everywhere keeping a 24-7 watch over the citizens of Oceania. The Party has control over every historical record, and it makes sure to edit those records to match exactly with what it says. If the Party decides that one day it is actually at war with Eastasia instead of Eurasia (like it had been for the past five years), it is Winston’s duty to make sure that “within one week no reference to the war with Eurasia, or the alliance with Eastasia, should remain in existence anywhere” (150). The Party is also developing a new language called “Newspeak”. In this language there are no words that exist that could possibly question the power of the government. In this way, the Party is shaping and limiting what individuals can think simply because they wouldn’t know how to put anything “bad” into words. They wouldn’t have the capability to express themselves in any way that the Party doesn’t want.
I would say that 1984 absolutely achieves Orwell’s goal of warning the world about the dangers of a totalitarian world. Words like “Orwellian”, “Big Brother”, and “Thought Police” are part of our vocabulary now, indicating that this story has had a great impact on American culture. Orwell’s novel presents a future in which nobody is a true individual. Those who are individuals are punished severely until they bend to the will of the ruling party. This is in stark contrast to Aldous Huxley’s A Brave New World, in which, though still a story about a dystopian future, the government controls the masses through pleasure, not pain. Orwell suggests that the abuse of power is too much of a temptation to resist in these governments, and that it results in the infringement of basic human rights such as the rights to think freely, have privacy, and be an individual. His ability to convey emotion and thoughts so well make reading the novel a piece of cake. For the most part the vocabulary is pretty simple. The characters (Winston in particular) are very complex. Mood and tone seep from the reading and create an atmosphere that completely immersed me in the world of the story. This is an easily accessible book. However, the big philosophical questions and emotionally wrenching scenes make the novel a little hard to wrap your mind around. This isn’t a story that you can casually read towards the end-you are going to want to make sure your thinking cap is securely fastened.
I would recommend this novel to everyone. Trust me, the way I describe this book hardly does it any justice. It’s something that has to be experienced first hand. There’s no other way to put it. Every aspect of the novel-the plot, the tone, the mood, the characters, the themes-everything, comes together to create a very moving and compelling piece. Thanks to recent scandals, this story will become even more relevant as we start to worry more and more about our privacy. It is a true work of literary art, and I certainly won’t be forgetting it anytime soon.
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