1984 – George Orwell
WAR IS PEACE.
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY.
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.
Written in 1948, George Orwell’s dystopian fiction ‘1984’ is a great 21st century classic, and my favourite novel to date. I first read this political novel in 2012 when I was 16, and since then have read it twice more, appreciating the genius of the author again and again. Writing my first book review on this novel is daunting to say the least, but I feel that I need to start this blog on a personal favourite, to ensure I make it interesting, hopefully!
The quotation written above the introduction is perhaps the most famous of this novel, and to anyone who has not already read 1984 it may seem extremely contradictory – and that is exactly what it is. Orwell created a totalitarian regime in a post WW2 country named Oceania (one of three in the world), headed by ‘Big Brother’, that regulates their citizens to the extreme, far past the level of Hitler or Stalin. Everything society does is controlled by the state, eating, sleeping, even thinking. These actions are monitored by a telescreen in every room in the country, and any notion of unorthodoxy would result in you being taken away.
The dictatorship can modify the past, simply rewrite the history books into something that favours ‘Big Brother’ and their future policies, and Oceania is constantly at war with one of the two countries, changing country when necessary. This results in Oceania having no real truth. The “truth” is what Big Brother says it is, no arguments. If the price of chocolate goes up and the state say it has gone down, the public blindly accepts that it goes down. Everyone, that is, apart from Winston Smith, the protagonist who tries to go against the omnipotent regime. However, perhaps different from many novels, the supposed ‘hero’ Winston does not break away from the regime by pursuing a sexual relationship with a woman named Julia, but the regime breaks him, and he is left an empty shell of complete indoctrination due to torture and brainwashing.
I personally find this book incredibly disturbing and powerful, as it explores the post WW2 American views and scares of what communism leads to, and I think it is a great foreboding message to countries who give their leaders too much power in the present world. Although many critics may find the characters bland and the writing more like an essay rather than a novel, I believe that the overriding idea of an all powerful controlling state and the dangers of this is so strong, that it is imprinted on your mind and actually modifies your views on the modern world we live in today. Not only was it a prominent piece of literature in 1948, 65 years later it is still just as important.