Cheri P, January 14, 2015 (view all comments by Cheri P)
I swear I read this book before... and yet, nothing was familiar. The scene that stuck in my mind from my supposed previous reading? Not there. All in my imagination.
An invented memory. Surprisingly apropos, in a twisted, not-quite-linear kind of way.
I liked the book - mostly. The twenty-or-so page passage of The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism didn't endear me to the book; in our household, this "here's what you need to know" technique is referred to as "The Librarian" method of storytelling (a la Neal Stephenson's convenient data-dump device in Snow Crash), and it's a readerly peeve of mine.
The Librarian Data Dump aside, I did like 1984. I get why it's a classic. Heck, it's a classic that's held its own - over 60 years old and the ideas in there are relevant. Scary. Thought provoking. I especially enjoyed the discussion of language, and how controlling one's access to language controls one's thought.
In the coming days, I'll be thinking about concepts of power, control, and what happens when we destroy human bonds of friendship, love, and empathy. When we hate simply because we're supposed to hate. When we fear original thought. It's dangerous stuff.
Makes me worry even more about the way popular media functions... it seems to me that some "news" functions more like Big Brother, whipping people up into thoughtless frenzies, revising truth to mirror ideologies.
How far are we, really, from those Big Brother telescreens? How many people let their sets murmur rantings all day and into the night?
We are not so far from 1984 as we would like to think, I fear.
This book is unsettling (as it's supposed to be), and even crept into my dreams (no, not restful dreams, thank you Mr. Orwell). It was not a happy book. I finished the last page and wanted a shower, a cry, and a drink.
At least we can get better gin than poor Winston Smith.
Cristal, June 30, 2014 (view all comments by Cristal)
George Orwell's classic was incredibly visionary. It is hardly fathomable that this book was written in 1948. Things that we take for granted today - cameras everywhere we go, phones being tapped, bodies being scanned for weapons remotely - all of these things were described in graphic detail in Orwell's book.
Now that we have the Internet and people spying on other people w/ webcams and people purposely setting up their own webcams to let others "anonymously" watch them, you can see how this culture can develop into the Orwellian future described in "1984."
If you've heard such phrases as "Big Brother," "Newspeak," and "thought crime" and wondered where these phrases came from, they came from this incredible, vivid and disturbing book.
Winston Smith, the main character of the book is a vibrant, thinking man hiding within the plain mindless behavior he has to go through each day to not be considered a thought criminal. Everything is politically correct, children defy their parents (and are encouraged by the government to do so) and everyone pays constant allegiance to "Big Brother" - the government that watches everyone and knows what everyone is doing at all times - watching you shower, watching you having sex, watching you eat, watching you go to the bathroom and ultimately watching you die.
This is a must-read for everyone.
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davidhughes, April 2, 2014 (view all comments by davidhughes)
George Orwell’s 1984 is in its own league of its own. The story is about a man named Winston Smith who lives under a totalitarian rule in futuristic London. Winston yearns for more in his life than to work for the Party covering up their lies in the Ministry of Truth. Winston meets a woman named Julia who ignites a rebellious fire inside of him. Winston and Julia eventually are caught and tortured for their crimes against the government. Orwell’s book was written in 1949 during the Soviet rule and after the Nazi collapse. It was written as a warning to the risks of life in total government control. 1984 is like no book I’ve ever read. It is something that can’t be predicted because of how foreign the idea of totalitarianism is. It is very detailed about the daily lives of Winston and others under the control of Big Brother.
George Orwell's 1984 is a book written about the future under a totalitarian government. Big Brother is the supposed leader of the country of Oceania in a world where they are in a constant war with Eastasia and Eurasia. Rockets are casually striking through the city destroying people and their buildings. The government does allow sex or any close relationships. All of the people work for the government and receive very little in return. Hidden microphones and cameras monitor every citizen. Winston Smith works for the Ministry of Truth, which covers up details for the government. He ends up having a relationship with a girl named Julia and is eventually caught and brainwashed. It is told in order of about a month. Orwell uses small flashbacks and slight foreshadowing to keep the reader thinking. The book is a futuristic story predicting what would happen under totalitarian government. The book develops characters very well and in great detail because the story is told from third person omniscient point of view.
The novel is very slow developing book. Winston starts the story off by briefly describing London and what Big Brother has done and how they monitor their lives with telescreens. The Party creates a bunch of ways to control citizens with Thought Police and Junior Spies. London is a part of England which is part of a larger state called Oceania. Winston works at the Ministry of Truth. Winston's job is to fabricate files for the Party to cover up anything to make them look bad. In Book Two Winston meets a girl named Julia. Winston and Julia begin to have a relationship and are both rebelling against the anti-sex laws. Winston rents a room above Mr. Charrington's shop for him and Julia. Winston assumed that there was no telescreens in the room. Julia and Winston go to meet O'Brien about opposing the Party. O'Brien lies about being a rebel and the Brotherhood that opposes Big Brother. Winston and Julia continue to meet but get caught by a hidden telescreen in Mr. Charrington's room. “One thing alone mattered: to keep still, to keep still and not give them an excuse to hit you." (222-223). Winston's fear of the government is shown through that quote. even the smallest flinch could get him in even greater trouble. Winston and Julia are taken to holding sells where they are submitted to torture and brainwashing. “I’ve got a wife and three children. The biggest of them isn’t even six years old. You can take the whole lot of them and cut their throats in front of my eyes, and I’ll stand by and watch it. But not Room 101!” (237). Room 101 is a room where Winston is tortured by his greatest fear of Rats. The room is feared by many as it is the most extreme disciplinary action the Party takes. Since the government constantly monitors its citizens, they know everyones fears. The book is separated into 3 books, each book gets deeper and deeper into the corruption of the Party.
Orwell's 1984 is a book written to teach people about the dangers of a totalitarian government. Orwell does a wonderful job of creating a world where all citizens are afraid of their government. He is showing readers that no matter how hard they try, their government will always have full control once they give up their rights. When he wrote the book in 1949, the Soviet Union was the closest thing the world had to this government. He wanted to discourage the world from the idea of total government takeover. Orwell does a very convincing job of duplicating communism. He clearly researched the ways of the Soviet government and took it to another level. The reason 1984 is always relevant will be because everything he mentioned is in the capabilities of a government. Orwell develops his main characters very well, we are able to know almost everything about them. There is also no divergence from the plot. Each event is directly related to the development of the plot. He also creates a tone of very gray and boring lifestyles while using his own commentary to keep it interesting.
George Orwell's 1984 is a timeless classic. Winston Smith is very much alike the common person and most people can relate with him. Orwell addresses many issues with government and shows people why they should oppose complete control. Orwell doesn't look to challenge the morality of a single person or their views but merely shows the common world the issues with a communist government. 1984 is a book that will forever be imprinted in my memory because it gives readers an inside look at the struggles of a totalitarian government for an average citizen.
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paullocker, April 2, 2014 (view all comments by paullocker)
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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Signet Book -
by Anthony Burgess,
"1984 is a fantasy about disaffected journalists, novelists, poets, professors, and schoolmasters imposing an idealistic philosophy on the countries of the West — amalgamated into the superpower Oceania — which is no more than a notion of the nature of reality forged in an Oxford or Cambridge common room."
by V. S. Pritchett,
"The most solid, the most brilliant thing George Orwell has done."
View our feature on George Orwell’s 1984. Written in 1948, 1984 was George Orwell’s chilling prophecy about the future. And while 1984 has come and gone, Orwell’s narrative is timelier than ever. 1984 presents a startling and haunting vision of the world, so powerful that it is completely convincing from start to finish. No one can deny the power of this novel, its hold on the imaginations of multiple generations of readers, or the resiliency of its admonitions—a legacy that seems only to grow with the passage of time.
Satire on the possible horrors of a totalitarian regime in England in 1984.
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