Nineteen Eighty-Four

1984__spanNineteen Eight-Four by George Orwell

I have just finished the first book on my list and I gotta say…it was a definitely a brain stretcher.

Nineteen Eight-Four was written by George Orwell. He is also know for his famous allegorical novel Animal Farm. Nineteen Eight-Four was published in June 1949. It has had a huge impact on our culture and society, with several of the themes and words used now a part of everyday life. The term “Big Brother’ is now synonymous with the government and its monitoring of its citizens. I knew a bit about the novel before I read it but I cannot deny that the story, as well as the ending did come as a surprise to me. I will say as always that this does contain spoilers so please give the book a read if you don’t want any part ruined.

Nineteen Eighty-Four centres around Winston Smith, a Party member who works in the Ministry of Truth doctoring newspapers to reflect the history that the Party wishes the world to know. Winston lives in Oceana, one of three main countries that the world is separated into. He is constantly watched and must conform to every aspect of what the Party determines to be correct behaviour. Citizens are monitored through tele-screens and are routinely vaporised if there is even a hint of irregularity, often referred to as “Thought Crime”. Winston becomes involved in a forbidden love affair with a young women named Julia, with whom he shares his doubt in the Party and its mysterious overlord “Big Brother” Eventually Winston and Julia are discovered and Winston is tortured and brainwashed into understanding that there is no fighting Big Brother. The novel ends with Winston accepting Big Brother and confessing that he loves him, proving that all free thought has been stamped out of him.

The thing that really struck me most in this novel was how blasé the characters in the book seemed to be about the terrible things going on around them. Winston would think about people who had only just moments before been blown up by a rocket bomb with indifference. This made me think about how our own society turns a blind eye to some of the terrible things going on in the world. Often people just block out what happens to people because “ well what can I do?” this is becoming a dangerous practice for many people and lead to self centred individuals who care nothing for the suffering of others.

One aspect which really shocked me was that while I was reading was that I was building up Winston as a hero and was waiting for the moment when he would start to over throw the Party and maybe take down Big Brother, but that moment never came. The ending was bleak and depressing, hammering in the idea that it’s too hard for one person to fight against the government, and that in the end you can trust no one but yourself. Winston is left as a shell of the person he once was, and the reader is left with the harrowing knowledge that no rebellion was coming for the people of this world and that within a few generations the people would be nothing more than drones that kept the world moving, and that at some point history would stand still, as there would be no new developments, no new ideas or thoughts.

I definitely recommend this book, though maybe not one if you need to be cheered up. I recommend following this book with a good hard think about the world around you. You never know, may find that you want read a newspaper to catch up on current events, or find out more about your privacy and freedom of speech rights. What ever you do, don’t forget to keep your eyes and ears open for any sign that this book could become a tome of prophecy rather than a work of fiction, because once something grows too big, nothing can stop it.

Thanks for reading guys,

—K.L.Mars

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4 thoughts on “Nineteen Eighty-Four

  1. Pingback: The Book List | The Five Lists Project

  2. Nice review. I think an argument could be made that the book has already come true. Phantom wars, widespread information collection, cameras everywhere. But, the thing I found most illuminating about the book, is the scene with the rats. They knew his fears and used them to break him, but the torture itself seemed out of place and, as a result, jarring. It was very medieval and broke with the futuristic theme of the book up to that point. I think Orwell was reminding us that underneath all the systems, society, and structure, we are still barbaric and primal. The torturer takes a perverse pleasure in such primal cruelty and the victim reacts accordingly. Later in life, as I’ve witnessed the use of water boarding, sleep deprivation, and prison isolation in some of the most advanced societies, I fear we will never have an enlightened civilization. There will always be cruel, vicious, animals underneath the structure reminding us that we are just weak, vulnerable, creatures existing only by the whims of the powerful. Orwell was a very insightful writer, but extremely depressing. Thanks for reminding me. Ha.

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    • Always happy to help. Yeah It was a real eye opener for me…made me realise that in my current job I do some things that would definitely be done in the ministry of truth….but as long as my thoughts are my own I good 🙂

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  3. 1984 is without a doubt my all time favourite book, ever. It is very bleak, the futility of hope in the face of authority, but I would question the assumption that we are moving inexorably towards an Orwellian dystopia. Check out a summary of Stephen Pinker’s Better Angels (the actual book is v v long) – it documents the decline of violence in human society over recorded history. Torture and warfare are well publicised as common place, but statistically the evidence shows they are not. Unless you watch Game of Thrones obv 😉

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