1984 – George Orwell
Genre: Dystopian, Classics
I’m so glad I re-read this now, I didn’t know I could love it more! Orwell has always been one of my absolute favourite authors with 1984 being the front-runner for me every time. However, I was nervous – you know when you love a book so much and it’s been years since you’ve read it, all you want is it to live up to what you remember but very rarely does it EXCEED your expectations because damn, it certainly did.
1984 follows Winston Smith, a rather ordinary name for a rather ordinary man, as he endures the dystopian society in which he lives, Oceania. Oceania is a totalitarian state where surveillance is inescapable and individual thinking is punishable by death. Winston works in the Ministry of Truth, one of the four ministries that overlook society, and his role is to do precisely the opposite of what the ministry is named – he changes historical records in order to fit within the current political climate and removes all sources of tracing back to the original record. While it has the majority of the population fooled, Winston has a desire to remain honest in his memories and not fall under the scheming that he partakes. As a result, he becomes increasingly interested in the ‘Brotherhood’, a secret organisation that wishes to overthrow the Party that runs this autocratic state. However, as his activities grow more suspicious and his unusual behaviour becomes more prevalent, he begins to fear that he’ll be discovered by the ‘Thought Police’ and be ‘vapourised’ (a.k.a. killed) for his crimes.
The key element of this book is the world in which it is set. The characters aren’t particularly impressionable nor is the plot necessarily fast-paced yet the society is so thoroughly fleshed-out that one can enter it with ease. Orwell is fantastic at creating such a vivid setting for his story; the Two Minutes Hate, the wars with Eurasia and Eastasia, the thoughtcrimes, Newspeak – all completely developed aspects to the novel. I have always appreciated the depth at which we explore Oceania and only now, as I have re-read the book, can I look at from a completely different perspective. Now, I can see how influenced Orwell was by the happenings of the early 20th century. Having recently learned all about the Soviet Union at college, I now have a greater understanding about parts of the world that were less significant to me before. For example, the ‘proles’ representing the proletariat, the High/Middle/Low as with a class system, the Ninth Three-Year Plan like that of the Five-Year Plans, the common way of addressing the population as ‘comrades’ and even the cult of personality created for Big Brother is greatly comparable to that of Stalin. For me, it added a whole new richness to the story that I was yet to uncover.
The plainness of our protagonist, Winston, makes his curiosity of the past and resistant behaviour all the more unique. There is great sadness in that Winston was one of only few who remained untainted by the propaganda that swarmed his life, an indication of how susceptible we are to wholly believing in what society deems as ‘fact’. Winston’s forbidden relationship with Julia shows how deprived they are of love and affection as they depend on one another to satisfy their human instincts. I cannot review the book without discussing O’Brien, our antagonist. He’s a deceptive character whose suspicious nature had me intrigued from the very beginning. As more is revealed throughout the book, my hatred towards him steadily mounts before the utterance of his name makes my blood boil; safe to say, his spitefulness doesn’t go down well with me.
In order to avoid divulging into spoilers, I think I’ll sign off with just one last word of appreciation. 1984 is an incredible story that exposes how vulnerable society is in the face of an over-bearing power and how authority is there to be challenged when flaws can be identified. The writing is not difficult to follow, as with all of Orwell’s works, so I would recommend this to anyone, especially to those who enjoy reading about politics or dystopian worlds but regardless of your general tastes, it is a definite must-read!
– – – – – – – – POPSUGAR Reading Challenge Update – – – – – – – –
A book you haven’t read since high school ✓
A dystopian novel ✓
Happy Reading Bookworms!