Nineteen Eighty-FourPosted: October 27, 2012
1984, by George Orwell, is a grim look at our past, present, and future.
“For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable? If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable—what then?”
Like Feed, 1984 is scarily possible and very real. 1984 was written around the time of WWII. 1984 is like Animal Farm in that it is trying to caricaturize communism and the power of propaganda. In this book, the main character, Winston Smith, goes from a person who is barely more than a figure in the lines of people of the community, to an active participant in rebelling against the totalitarian regime under which he lives. By “totalitarian,” I mean that there is a dictator; but this dictator is totally in control. There are no more individuals. There are just masses, swayed very easily by propaganda. The government controls the past, so it also controls the future, and the present. When nothing can be trusted but your mind, what is real? Is it possible to have a minority of one?
1984 paints a really grim picture, of bleak, desolate grayness and “Sameness.” When you wipe out the individual, you are left with nothingness upon nothingness.
The plot of 1984 is vague, because it’s not the point of the book. Winston meets Julia, another main character, and slips in and out of reality. He can’t trust any document, propaganda, or words from another’s mouth. Everything is erased and rewritten so many times that the words left at the end cannot be read anymore. I found it a little hard to follow along when the narrator barely even trusted himself. However, the point of this book is not the plot. It’s the look at this society, one the author felt we were too close to touching. 4/5
The characters in this book were very weak. Winston himself, the main character, had very little motivation, strong emotion, or real connection with the reader. That’s because, like I said before, the characters weren’t the point of the novel. George Orwell did not want me to walk away thinking, Gee, that Winston guy was really annoying, or Winston Smith was amazing; I’ll remember him forever. He wanted the reader to walk away with chills. He wanted to leave the reader thinking about himself, and counting the reasons he had to live, and realizing that if the world continued along the path this novel prophecies, all of those reasons will be obliterated.
“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”
In fact, this part of 1984 was beyond don’t concentrate on the characters; it was, in this society the characters don’t matter. There was no individuality, no dramatic deviations from the status norm. There weren’t strong emotions or passions. How could Winston have them, if society didn’t allow the idea of them to exist? A whole language was being created so that the citizens could not express even in their own heads what made them different from their neighbors and friends, what made them special, what made them an individual.
It raises an important question: what is equality? As small children, maybe you, too, made a fuss when your sibling got more of something than you did, and it wasn’t fair. If we’re all treated exactly the same from birth, we still won’t end up with true equality, because we each have special needs of our own. The only way to have perfect equality is to make everyone exactly the same. So what we want isn’t equality; it’s justice and fairness. It’s each person having exactly what he needs.
“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”
In 1984, every single person was brainwashed. For example, the slogans of the three main bodies of government were:
“War is peace.
Freedom is slavery.
Ignorance is strength.”
Society was built on a lie, but it was also built on the knowledge that the lie was actually a truth. It didn’t make any sense, and yet it made perfect sense. It was really hard to see through, because it was hard to tell where the confusion stopped, and whether what was behind it was in fact solid. The purpose of the society here was to squash: to squash the individuality out of the people and the people out of the community, until what was left was a general idea that everyone followed, because they were all the same.
The writing of 1984 was harsh and grim and rhythmic. It followed strict rules to the letter. Not a word was wasted or too long. This style fit the book exactly as it should have; it, however, made memories of the book gray and steel-like: hard and cold with straight, heavy lines. 4/5
Je Ne C’est Quois
This book was not a pleasant place in which to dwell. That was the point. It left me with an unpleasant feeling. It left me disturbed and slightly hopeless. Looking at the way the world has moved on, perhaps this is not hopeless so much as hopeful, but this book will haunt me.… 1/5
One thing that really struck me about 1984 was the first line. “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” This seems a weird thing to focus on, especially as it makes perfect sense. However, when I first saw it I thought, But clocks don’t have 13. Almost positively the author was simply referring to 1:00 in the afternoon, military time. If he wasn’t, though, it would have made a brilliant opening statement.
All in all, this is a very dark look at specific aspects of society, but I do not believe that it is a realistic one. People, as a collective, are passive, true; we saw that in Feed as well. But there are always those who will be active, and those are the ones on whom progress relies. Be active. Drag the world along behind you. Shove 1984 a little bit farther away.