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Orwell's "1984" has had a recent upswing in sales, owing to the revelations as to the extent of the NSA surveillance programmes last summer, and when you get into the book it makes you wonder if it's been used as the blueprint! An essential read, Orwell's world where every person is watched, thoughts are monitored, and anyone out of line is summarily tortured may seem extreme, but the eerie depictions of Big Brother surveillance ring true in the modern world. The plot is tense and gripping, really drawing you into the world of the book, and your heart will be pounding as the story twists and turns. Even after putting the book down, it makes you think about its themes, and after closing the cover you start to look at CCTV cameras differently! It's no wonder this book is assigned so frequently in schools and universities - it's both a classic piece of literature, and a very real commentary on the world we live in.
I have always felt this should be compulsory reading in schools. A fantastic novel from the point of a party member as opposed to the Proles, it details out a wonderfully described dystopian world with an enormous depth. Orwell is true to his word, a socialist conducting a damaging report on the ideals of Communism, this is political story telling at its finest.
The book is one full of tensions with the outcome brilliantly mundane. It is not over frivolous nor lends any extra helping to the protagonist of the story. If you are looking for a book with a set villain and hero, this is not one of them. This is a world where everyone can be the villain and nobody can trust someone to be a hero.
You know that a piece of work is successful when it inspires so many things around us today, not least the notion of Big Brother.
Nineteen Eighty-Four is one of those books that I can read time and time again and get something totally different out of it every single time. Not only that, but I can convince myself that Orwell himself was getting at something new on each reading!
Nineteen Eighty-Four was written very shortly after the end of World War II, when atomic war was at the forefront of people's minds and different social and political models were being explored, all of which is conveyed powerfully through the book. We are introduced to the concept of "Big Brother" (pre-Channel 4!), "newspeak," "doublespeak" and "thoughtcrime," all of which have clear parallels both in post-war Britain but even more so today.
Set in Airstrip One (a futuristic United Kingdom) is technically a science-fiction novel with a fast moving plot that kept me gripped from start to end, but it also really challenged me to think- to think about what I accept as normal, what I accept as being good, and also what it is I want to achieve in my everyday life.
The dystopian tale of Winston Smith's struggle with the government stands the test of time. Since its publication in 1948, 1984 has inspired the imaginations of many as it provides a haunting image of the world in the future.
This is the book that we all studied at school, to chagrin or joy, and reading it again now a while after having to write essays on it, I found that I still enjoyed it. It's suspenseful and thrilling, but also thought-provoking and touching.
The main strength of the novel is the world-building. An incredibly detailed and descriptive view of the future is created, and the vividness with which it is presented allows the reader to fully visualise themselves in it.
There are twists and turns throughout with a surprise ending that stays with you for a long time. The atmosphere is intense and claustrophobic and as Winston struggles to discover the realities of his world our own political beliefs are struck down and challenged.
When prediction the future, there is a general theory that when predicting the near future we over estimate, and when predicting the far future we over exaggerate. 1984 is perhaps the exception. Big Brother permeates the society that Winston lives in, an omniscient and anonymous entity that follows his every move. Today we have the eponymous TV show, CCTV cameras on every corner, identity cards and strict identity rules. What makes Orwell's novel timeless is the fear incited in the reader as they discover that the world described is not too far from the world we inhabit.
Room 101 is a terrifying concept and the phrase now has taken on a whole new meaning of fear in our society.
The only thing I found frustrating about this novel is Winston's occasional apathy. His claims of rebellion often weren't backed up and when they were he committed terrible acts that detracted from sympathy for his character.
Some people will consider 1984 dated. After all Orwell's bleak view of the 80's bears virtually no resemblance to the way most of remember the eighties. There is no Michael Jackson or Boy George, no Nintendo games, emerging Internet and most certainly no mention of "the me generation". Orwell's darkly twisted dystopian world never came into being - at least not completely, North Korea today has several similarities. But the year doesn't really matter, it is the philosophy that counts, and while 1984 is obviously an extreme, it gives the modern reader quite a lot to think about.
The protagonist is this story is Winston Smith, a very plain ordinary civil servant. Winston is never alone, he never has a moments privacy. Nearly every moment of his life is under the gaze of the two- way tele-screen or hidden cameras and mikes. Even the toilet is not a place a privacy. Every conversation, every movement, even intimate relations between married couples is watched and monitored for any deviation from the party line. There is no crime, there is no opportunity to commit crime. There is only thought crime, and to even think anything other than what the party has told the citizen to think is a crime which warrants complete annihilation, not just of the body, but of the soul itself. The individual no longer exists, members of the party exist only to serve the party, like ants in a giant hive controlled by some unseen swarm intelligence.
The paradox to this constant state of observation and lack of any privacy whatsoever, is deep and horrible sense of isolation. Party members are part of the collective, but they are also completely alone. The family has been broken down, and the party intends to degrade family relationships further, envisioning a time when children would be taken at birth and raised by the state. The bond between husband and wife is destroyed with any intimacy carefully monitored to ensure that no closeness or joy is found in the relationship, only the fulfilment of one's duty to create more party members.
The civilisation Winston lives in is called Oceania. It consists of three social classes. The elite members of the inner party hold all the power. Winston is a member of the outer party, an intellectual. His job is to rewrite any past media release article or event to make sure the party looks good. The party changes history daily, altering the past to suit their own agenda. They say that "He who controls the past controls the future" and the party controls past present and future in 1984. The Proles represent the lowest classes, kept in abject poverty and ignorance, they exist only as workers, but amongst this slave class, there is more happiness than in the middle class. They are not as closely monitored, and may still have some family life, although even in this class one wrong word can lead to disappearance or a life in the forced labour camps.
Winston's life is irrevocably altered when he comes across a document proving that three famous criminals , executed for crimes against the state were innocent. He destroys this, as he is meant to, but it plays on his mind for years to come, eventually leading him into rebellion. He is encouraged by a forbidden relationship with another party member, Julia, but I found this character flat and vapid. Julia, as Winston says is a only "a rebel from the waist down". She has no interest in philosophy or revolution, only in forbidden sex. There are a couple of others characters, but I found them all insignificant. This book concerns Winston's struggles with his own thoughts, his since of truth or lie, of right and wrong, of who he is, and what the party is.
I can't say that I particularly enjoyed this book. This is not a story of the triumph of the human spirit, but of its destruction. It is a story of despair and darkness and the complete extinction of hope. It is thankfully a story of a future that never came to pass, although one must bear in mind that many aspects of this book are obviously taken from real political movements of the time. Big Brother seems to bear a certain resemblance to Stalin, concentration camps and forced labour camps were common enough in Orwell's lifetime. The Party's ideal of blond haired blue eyed athletic individuals certainly takes something from the Nazi era as well. Rations would still have been a fact of life when Orwell wrote this, as would the fear of war. Propaganda must have existed in some for from the first civilisations, but the advent of the printing press, radio and television brought propaganda to the forefront. The pen truly is mightier than the sword and propaganda today raises and destroys political movements.
I don't believe this book is truly prophetic. It is a story, a parable, told in the extreme to get one's attention. But I do see many aspects of this as relevant today. One character talks of the gradual conversion to party ideals, rather like boiling a lobster in a pot. Humans would not give up their history, their culture , their freedoms and beliefs all at once. Instead Big Brother has little by little eroded all human rights including the most basic of rights such as freedom of conscience, the right to a family, and form relationships. We believe ourselves a democratic society, and yet we are willing to suspend democracy when it suits, such as the freedom of protest. We may not have cameras in our homes, but the second I step outside my door- I am in the sights of one camera as I move around the corner, another takes over. In all honesty, I'd have been happy enough for these cameras if they were used as they should be, to identify crimes, but they are not. So why are they there?
The most terrible aspect of 1984 to me though was the erosion of the family. Just today I listened to a report on the governments desire to create more state funded boarding schools, and to fund poorer children to be boarded full time. The report was lovely and cheery, with children who no longer miss home, and in fact openly stated they do like their parents. How delightful. The school is now the family. I found the prospect terrifying. I've also read quite a bit on the current regime's plans for education, including a desire for school hours to be extended and government intervention is childcare to begin earlier to break the influence of the lower classes on their children. If you don't believe me, look for a book called "The Tail" endorsed by Gove.
There is an old saying, those who are ignorant of history being doomed to repeat it. I could only wish those in charge would read about the fall of Rome after the disintegration of the family. Strong families built this nation. A lack of them will destroy it.
Thankfully I do not ever see Britain descending into the state of affairs in this novel. But I do think people need to be aware of that with every freedom we relinquish, we fall further down a very slippery slope. Most of all, I think we need to seriously examine the use of doublethink and newspeak in todays politics and be aware of the power of propaganda. I also think we need to ask ourselves - do we teach our children to memorise the facts as they are given - or to think for themselves? Finally there is quite a lot about history being used as weapon. Do we teach our children to see all sides - or only our own? Is history taught so that we can learn from it, or so that we can keep on making the same mistakes? This book is not dated because it has failed to be prophetic. Instead this is perhaps more relevant today than it was in 1949.
My only complaint with this book is that it does not give any answers . It leaves with a lot of questions, but no solutions. But perhaps that is the point. Perhaps we are meant to find our own.
Edgar Cayce was a great 'prophet'; he made of 15,000 predictions about the future which he claimed to have got from a 'higher' universal source of knowledge whilst in a 'trance like' state. He was great, no doubt, and many of his prediction DID come true. He did not, however, predict the rise of the Democratic Peoples Republic of ..., like Orwell did this book; a nation now threatening the west with nuclear war!
The importance of this book, as a work of literature to be enjoyed, and to be learned from cannot be overstated. It is set in 1984 i.e the future (at the time Orwell was writing) in a communistic like totalitarian state. All those inside must worship the almighty 'Big Brother', a figure often compared to Stalin, and they have they thoughts monitored by 'thought police'. Unable to 'move', individuals inside become disenchanted, including the main character, Winston Smith. The book tells of his fight back against the regime, and the various obstacles he encounters along the way.
The book is a fantastically enlightening read, and is suitable for almost all ages (even those to young to understand the nebulous political messages will love the book for its story) Just read the book!
Big Brother is watching you, George Orwell's amazing futuristic view of the world eerily close to reality, you walk a fine line between acceptance to outrage of this world, I've read it pre 9/11/2001 and post somehow post 9/11 it seems an even finer book.
George Orwell's 1984 is, at best, a mediocre read. While many trumpet it as the definitive dystopian novel it is in fact a rather soulless copy of "We" the 1921 classic by Yevgeny Zamyatin. That Orwell wrote his work after reading the Russian's effort is uncontroversial; so too is the fact that Orwell used "We" as the model for this own work 1984, he admits this much himself. How much Orwell owes Zamyatin in terms of ideas, plot structure, and so on is up for debate. I have made my position clear; I believe there are enough similarities in 1984 to consider it a copy of "We" (rather than a significantly original work) and will review it as such.
Any critique of 1984 must be a critique of something that is a copy of something else. I will mention that Orwell is not alone in using Zamyatin's work. Aldous Huxley has been accused of basing his "Brave New World" on "We" however he claims to have been inspired by H. G. Wells; the writer Zamyatin claims inspired him. Ayn Rand's "Anthem" has similarities with "We" but contains significant differences. Let me be clear, I have nothing against writers seeking and finding inspiration from others, this is to be expected. What I don't like is when the extent of the similarities between one book and another piece of work is so great that one book becomes a copy of the other. What we have with 1984 and "We" are two very similar books, with very similar main characters, and very similar events (Winston Smith meets Julia, D-503 meets I-330, their relationship is forbidden but they find a way, Smith's life is directed by the telescreen, D-503's by the table, 1984 has Big Brother, "We" has the Benefactor, and I could go on but I don't want to spoil the plot of either book).
Is, for all my claims of it being merely a copy, 1984 a book worth reading? Given what I've just written it may surprise you to read that I'm going to say yes. Firstly, 1984 is a culturally significant book and should be read as such. There are so many cultural references to the work and its author that ideas have entered the language (phrases like, 'Big Brother is watching you' and references to an 'Orwellian nightmare'). Secondly, 1984 is more accessible than "We" particularly for younger readers. Orwell's dystopia is easier to understand and visualize than Zamyatin's.
I could rehash the usual shpeel about Orwell's 1984: it paints a grim perspective of the future, it is chilling in its foresight, we should watch for propaganda, etc, etc. However, I think that this would be a great disservice to a great novel. After all, there are others who wrote about dystopias before Orwell, and many have written dystopias since Orwell. Why, then, is 1984 different?
First of all, it has remarkably interesting things to say on the subject of language. How much of our thought is dictated by what we know how to say? To what extent is a government capable of "erasing" our capacity for language? Although Orwell's conclusion - that the very thoughts of people are easily manipulated by diluting their language - has perhaps been refuted by studies of languages and grammar, his questions are nonetheless pertinent, and he makes his arguments sharply and effectively throughout the novel.
Second of all, 1984 is beautifully written. Orwell is a master of writing tautly, so that the reader can't help but be drawn in. This is a book that is, believe it or not, a GOOD read, and not in a high-brow literature way. The reader feels completely immersed in the world of 1984, and the twists and turns the novel takes are gripping.
So read it. You won't regret it. In fact, your life will probably be much better for doing so.
Winston Smith lives in a world filled with media lies, wicked propaganda and omnipresent CCTV. How could Orwell have known that this nightmare vision would come true? In this dystopian vision of a nightmare future, written in the 1949, there are many parallels to modern life.
Many opinions are illegal today despite the notion of free speech. PC commissars litigate against thinking the wrong thing. In 1984, just as in real life now, the Thought Police are always ready to arrest the person who says or thinks the wrong thing.
In many ways, Orwell was portraying life as it might be under a Soviet-style totalitarian regime and the world depicted in the novel looks a lot like Eastern Europe did before the wall came down. Orwell predicted the future. Although the nagging greyness of the Orwellian vision may not be quite so bad, there are certainly some worrying parallels.
Political double-speak is rife. Smith, one of the main protagonists, works as a professional liar, revising the news to say whatever the government wants it to say. The people live in fearful compliance as this government manipulates them and brainwashes them into total subservience. This is quite like real life today.
There are two images in the novel with which most people will be familiar: one is the poster of a patriarchal face with the famous caption 'Big Brother is watching you!' and the other is the telescreen.
This is one of those uncannily fictional predictions that makes the flesh crawl for it looks like a flat-screen television. Why is that so spooky? Well, there were televisions in 1949 although programming was largely abandoned during the war years. They were box-shaped. How could Orwell have known what a plasma TV would look like?
More than that: the really creepy thing about the telescreen is that it can be used to look back at the viewer. Again, this is a prediction of web-cam technology made more than 60 years ago! Orwell was tremendously clever or a remarkably good guesser.
There is a central section outlining some complex political views and there is no doubt that 1984 is not a light, fun-packed romantic comedy. It is more likely to appeal to someone cynical and suspicious of disingenuous politicians and perhaps to anyone inclined toward conspiracy theories.
1984, then, is a stark warning about an imaginary future set in a bleak, soulless wasteland where a totalitarian government holds the individual in a vice-like grip.
Although Orwell missed out the Human Rights laws that act mostly on behalf of criminals today, this novel has interesting parallels with the present.
A constant state of conflict exists but only as a pretext to justify the government running things how it wants, for example. The 'dodgy dossier' used to sell the Iraq war could almost have been written by Winston Smith in his cubicle.
Another iconic thing that comes from this book is 'Room 101' but, in 1984, this is nothing to do with celebrities joking about things they want dumped off a chute by Paul Merton.
Read the novel to find out just how far a government might be prepared to go to control the individual. It may even be that these fictional, nightmarish visions of a society dismal and bereft of hope will make modern day, real-life seem a lot better by comparison.
I can guarantee that after reading this book you will have a found a new favourite for your bookshelf. My own copy is rather worn as it is the kind of book you get more out of after a second reading. Winston Smith, a worker in the totalitarian future Orwell has created, begins to question the world that has aged and numbed him, and finds that there may be others who share his doubts. The smallest of independent actions can result in the worst punishment, and Winston is in the terrifying position of a man knowing he must doubt the government he works for but also knowing he may disappear from society simply for doing so.
Some compare this book to Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, indeed you may have written a comparison of the two if you read this while at school. (However, Orwell's Animal Farm is far more likely to be taught at school perhaps because it is a little simpler.) In my opinion Brave New World is a lot less unnerving and will not stay with you as long as this book will.
This book has made a great impact on the British culture. Room 101 and Big Brother both have their origins in its pages. However, they are a lot more frightening than later references suggest.) If you decide to read this book, I very much doubt it will be just the once.
Orwell wrote this book in 1948, an imagining of the dystopian nightmare that was 1984. As a lifelong socialist, Orwell was extremely concerned with the way that society was headed and it was in this novel that he explored his ideas. As in the satirical Animal Farm, 1984 takes a sidelong glance at the politics of the country. While Animal Farm was focused on one small group of animals, 1984 looks at the bigger picture and shows England in it's entirety.
The protaganist, Winston Smith, is a civil servant in the government. Everything the citizens of the country do is monitored, on cameras and by the "thought police". This may seem far fetched, but one only has to look at the Gestapo in Nazi Germany and the KGB in Soviet Russia to see that this is not too far from reality. I won't give away the plot, because the book has a great and interesting twist, but needless to say this is an absolute classic. Although the year 1984 was not as terrible as Orwell had imagined, you can draw parallels between his ideas and in aspects of the way our country is run now. It is an important reminder that we must not be complacent with politics and that we have the rights to our essential freedoms.
A chilling book, by one of my favouirte authors, George Orwell.
I use the word chilling in hindsight. I really enjoyed reading this book- once I started to read it, I could barely put it down. The themes and the way that it is written made drew me in, making me feel like I was part of this Uptopian society.
When George Orwell wrote this book in 1948, it was his own Utopian prediction of what life would be like in England in 1984. A TV which could see you!? A leader who has workers who lie and cheat to ensure that the Government look like they are doing the right thing at all times!? People are being watched constantly, not able to think their own thoughts, for fear of being caught by the Thought Police. As you read, you find yourself thinking, "I recognise this from my own life!"
Plot: Winston Smith works in Oceania, where the story is set. Big Brother is in control: an all seeing, all-knowing being. Smith is fed up of his oppressed life, and takes an opportunity from O'Brian, a work colleague, who claims to be a member of the Brotherhood; a group who seem to have the same thoughts and opinions as Smith himself. This, however is a trap and Smith and his girlfriend Julia are tortured in The Ministry of Love until them conform to the parties beliefs.
I really loved this book- I couldn't put it down...an excellent book, which makes you think time and time again- how did Orwell manage to create such a masterpiece? An excellent read!
This novel introduced new words into our vocabulary, most notably "Big Brother", but double speak, newspeak, though police as well. The book crystallizes the ideas of population control through thought control which is done through information control.
In this world, history, culture, prejudices are written and re-written at will. This is done very deliberately in an almost boring government desk clerk, burocracy kind of way. Its all so simple and easy.
There is no collective mind or memory. People really are like sheep.
The few deviations, like those of the main characters aren't even really against the system.
Of course there must be repression, and Room 101 is really the pinnacle of torture.
The totalitarianism of the book is a parallel to Stalinism and similar oppressive regimes, but only because everyone knows of the overt way in which big brother measures operated in those regimes. I seem like this could never happen nowadays, right? Well you are forgetting about North Korea...
Admittedly, even there no such extremes of control are possible, and it seems hard that such a thing could come to be. But if you think about it, if you think about slogan like WAR IS PEACE or FREEDOM IS SLAVERY and you see that so many times rallies and political discourse is also reduced to a single idea, a single cry. No thought of the origins or reasons behind many events in the news is already the practice and encouraged. It's a first step to the lack of knowledge and memory necessary for thought control to creep in.
The novel is full of impressive, thought provoking ideas, but its not the easiest to read and the characters have a weird involvement. I'd like to know of a different involvement between Winston and Julia, of a different attempt of Winston to relate to his fellow human being. But of course, it may be natural constraints from the environment that does not allow this.
This is one book that everyone should read though schools seem to concentrate on Animal Farm, 84 is far superior. It really strikes a chord because it is so real and remarkably prescient. The misinformation or 'double speak' which the protagonist encounters is how I would imagine living in North Korea would be like. The constant surveillance is not too far off the CCTV culture we live in today. The state interference in all respects of the lead character's life can be seen today in the ID Card debate and the ageing shadows of communism. A reflection of this is that the book has spawned a number of popular referrences that are familiar to many who have not read it, 'big brother' being the most famous example though for all the wrong reasons.
Throughout Orwell writes in an engaging lucid way. I have read and enjoyed many of his books, but here he seems most at home with his theme most in tune with his craft and most determined that his message should strike home.
I would recommend this book to anyone aged over about 14 and beyond 14 the younger the better. It offers a remarkable perspective on individual freedom that is as relevant now as it was in 1949.