1984 by George Orwell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The dystopian literature classic “1984” by George Orwell is known today by the general public through catchphrases and Super Bowl commercials, however the introduction of the “Orwellian nightmare” this novel presented in the late 1940s were eye-opening at the time.
The novel begins with Winston Smith making his way to his apartment and putting his crimethink into practice by starting a diary. We then follow Winston as continues his one-man rebellion against Big Brother and the Party. Soon Winston finds a comrade in Julia, a rebel from the waist down, and the two begin an affair. The affair and their rebellion ends when the Thought Police arrest them, led by Inner Party leader O’Brien, who Winston believed to be a rebel as well. Then Winston is tortured and brainwashed into becoming a loving member of the Party, happy to return Big Brother’s love and can not wait to announce his crimes.
The broken and oppressive world in which Winston lives is a stunning contrast to what the reader is accustomed to as well as the contradictory political language that the Party uses in its rule. These foundational constructions by Orwell using Winston’s internal thoughts help the reader understand the Oceania of 1984 as well as Winston’s acceptance of already being dead. The misunderstanding by Winston of who was his friend and who was his enemy is done expertly by Orwell, giving the novel breathe as well as some added character depth. Orwell’s unsettling writing of Winston’s imprisonment, torture, and brainwashing make the last third of the book the most powerful as we see the character we’ve gotten to know for almost 200 pages change in front of our eyes.
However, Orwell’s Party doesn’t seem that bright given what O’Brien states during Winston’s torture. The Thought Police had been following Winston for seven years, which meant they were allowing Winston to potentially infect other Party members with his crimethink. The fact that they were able to capture Julia, a rebel of her own, seems like an attempt by Orwell to save the Party’s face but it only makes it more glaring. For all their talk of power, they seemed pretty powerless to just let Winston keep walking around free for seven years. This one flaw leads to the reader noticing some others less egregious flaws in the overall work, but nothing that doesn’t effect the overall quality of the writing.
In the end, the themes and ideas that Orwell introduced continue to be debated even today with government surveillance and media manipulation. However what Orwell could never have imagined was the individual people could compete with the government and media in distorting the truth by way of Photoshop. “1984” is a warning about how man could be robbed of his human nature either through passive education or more extreme persuasion, the story of Winston Smith keeps reminding the reader that everyone needs to fight to keep their basic nature.
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