Author: George Orwell
Genre: Dystopian fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy borrowed from a friend
Number of pages: 323
First line: It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
Amazon description: Hidden away in the Record Department of the sprawling Ministry of Truth, Winston Smith skilfully rewrites the past to suit the needs of the Party. Yet he inwardly rebels against the totalitarian world he lives in, which demands absolute obedience and controls him through the all-seeing telescreens and the watchful eye of Big Brother, symbolic head of the Party. In his longing for truth and liberty, Smith begins a secret love affair with a fellow-worker Julia, but soon discovers the true price of freedom is betrayal.
1984 is one of the scariest books I’ve read this year. It has so many levels of horror, not because it is particularly graphic, but because the philosophies espoused in the book, and the level of control of The Party and Big Brother, are all-too plausible.
While Winston is the hero of the book, he isn’t a particularly likeable character or a moral person. He is mentally fighting against Big Brother and his political doctrines, but he doesn’t realize how much of that worldview he has already absorbed. He is determined to stand, and yet is willing to do completely inhumane things in his fight, without ever knowing if the efforts of the Resistance have any effect.
The only thing that begins to humanize Winston is his relationship with Julia, yet again, she is not a very sympathetic character. They love each other, and are determined to fight The Party together, but their motives and methods aren’t noble. They have an idea that Big Brother’s control is bad, but don’t have any notion of a better system that should take its place. Winston seems to search for a higher power or ideal, but it eludes him.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the world of 1984 is Doublespeak, the official language of The Party. Limiting the language available to people is a very effective way to keep them under control; people can’t have dangerous ideas if they don’t have the words for them, right? The Appendix at the end, which explains the philosophy behind Doublespeak, is a terrifying and engrossing read.
If you read 1984, either this month or in the past, I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you’ve ever reviewed it, please leave a link below: