1984, Orwellian, Thought Police, unperson. Are you familiar with these words? George Orwell started a new vocabulary with his stark, dystopian masterpiece 1984. Having heard these terms my whole life, I wanted to know what the big deal was about 1984. It's not a big book but it packs a wallop.
In 1984, the nation of Oceania is constantly at war with other world powers. The Party, headed by Big Brother, keeps watch over it's citizens for their own protection. Winston Smith works for The Party, shredding old newspaper articles and occasionally rewriting them the suit the political whims of The Party. The workdays are interrupted by the Two Minutes of Hate, when all the workers rant at a video of Goldstein, enemy of Big Brother. All the while, they are being scrutinized through telescreens for any sign of dissent. Even at home Winston has no reprieve from the constant surveillance. He takes a chance after buying a journal and starts writing his true thoughts on Big Brother. It's both exhilarating and terrifying.
Winston believes he is the only person who feels this way until he meets Julia. Where Winston uses his writing as a protest against tyranny, Julia uses her body. Sex for pleasure is forbidden in Oceania. Having found a safe place for rendezvous, Julia tells Winston that Big Brother may watch them every moment but they can't get at their thoughts: "They can't get inside you." Or so it seems.
I read 1984 for both the For the Love of Reading Challenge and Dewey's Reading Challenge. Since Dewey had read this, I checked out her review where she interviewed her husband. He had some very interesting thoughts.
I had always that 1984 was about Communism but it's not. It's about totalitarianism which could happen in any government that has too much power. What's disturbing about 1984 isn't so much the lack of privacy but the government's desire to know the thoughts of it's citizens and then control them. At least, if you are being watched your thoughts are safely tucked away in your head. Big Brother has ways of getting them out.
1984 is brutal and violent, but the people seem to enjoy that brutality. In the first pages, a group of moviegoers cheer after seeing a film of a boatload of children being bombed to pieces. Violence is part of their daily lives. When I started reading the book, I imagined a world of yellowish-brown, dirty and bleak. Orwell describes an ugly world, even the people are described as small and beetle-like. Occasionally, there are moments of beauty: a bird on a branch, a field of bluebells, and a woman singing as she hangs laundry. Those moments stand out about against the ugliness.
Dewey admitted to skipping the section called the book, which is an explanation of history of the party and it's tenets. It is dry reading but is very important to the story. Winston starts to understand but "He understood how; he did not understand why." When at the end, he finds out why, my reaction was, "um...huh...that's just nuts!" I wasn't alone in that thought: "I know that you will fail" says Winston. Unfortunately, Winston, the individual, fails and it's seems that mankind is doomed, but Orwell, that tricky little devil, has one last trick up his sleeve. There is an Appendix on Newspeak, the language of The Party, it's an academic paper and it's written in past tense and seems to indicate that The Party has fallen out of power before 2050. It's been the subject of much argument. Has mankind been saved? Being an optimist, I believe that Winston's prediction that, "If there is hope, it lies in the proles" (the ordinary people) is right.
1984 both repulsed and fascinated me. When I finished, I felt like I needed to scrub my brain, but I couldn't stop thinking of it. I'm glad I read it. Orwell died a year after 1984 was published. I wonder if he had any idea of what an impact his book has had on the world.
Maree @ Just Add Books