End Date: January 28th
Author: George Orwell
Genre: Science Fiction (Dystopian)
Pages: 328 (paperback)
Selected By: Elle Tea
“Winston Smith lives in a world of perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance, and public manipulation. As a resident of Airstrip One, formerly known as Great Britain, his life is controlled by a political system run by a privileged elite, itself presided over by a tyrannical, and possibly nonexistent, entity known simply as Big Brother.
“Written in 1948, Nineteen Eighty-Four is a classic novel whose terms and concepts – such as Big Brother, doublethink, thoughtcrime, Newspeak, telescreen, 2 + 2 = 5, and memory hole have entered into common use since its publication. This novel popularized the adjective Orwellian, which describes official deception, secret surveillance, and manipulation of recorded history by a totalitarian or authoritarian state.”
We opted to begin 2017 with each of us picking a classic, either one we had read previously and thought was worth sharing with others or one which we had never read but had always meant to. Originally, I had been leaning towards a favorite classic fantasy of mine – The Silmarillion – but then, what will all that happened at the end of 2016, the choice became obvious: I wanted to share 1984 with the Ladies.
Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimeters inside your skull.
This novel is not entertaining or fun; it is a stark grey warning, full of characters you never quite truly know and to whom your attachment is based purely on pity. Our protagonist, Winston Smith, is no hero; he is a civil servant whose view of the world has been warped by the society in which he lives and whose every waking moment for almost forty years has been governed by fear. He remembers the world before and dreams of rebellion, he fantasizes about an uprising of the proletariat, but he never envisions himself as part of that rebellion – the proles of the slums will simply awaken one day to rise up and save the Party from itself. But he is growing tired of the farce of being a “good” Party member. He is a kettle, simmering, waiting for someone to raise the heat just enough to set him boiling.
“Who controls the past,” ran the Party slogan, “controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.”
Enter twenty-six year old Julia, stage right. Julia has only known the world of the Party, and on the surface she is the ideal female Party member: sexless, joyless, and contained. Where Winston’s rebellion is personal and forward-thinking, beginning small with the keeping of a journal and constant day-dreaming of the sort of world that will remain for future generations and the proletariat, Julia’s very being drips rebellion, from her truly open sexual nature to her willfulness. But unlike Winston, she is a realist who lives from moment-to-moment. She has no illusions about the power of the Party or the will of the proles, and so she relies on no one else and grabs what freedoms she can for herself.
Day by day and almost minute by minute the past was brought up to date. In this way every prediction made by the Party could be shown by documentary evidence to have been correct; nor was any item of news, or any expression of opinion, which conflicted with the needs of the moment, ever allowed to remain on record. All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and re-inscribed exactly as often as was necessary.
And yet, just for a moment, what almost frightening power had sounded in that cry from only a few hundred throats! Why was it that they could never shout like that about anything that mattered? He wrote: Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.
To understand the nature of the present war – for in spite of the re-grouping which occurs every few years, it is always the same war – one must realize in the first place that it is impossible for it to be decisive.
And at the same time the consciousness of being at war, and therefore in danger, makes the handing-over of all power to a small caste seem the natural, unavoidable condition of survival.
The most disturbing thing to me is that we find late in the story that the Party has been watching Winston for years, and yet they did not act when he took the journal, hid from the telescreens, or began making trips to the shop in the proletariat district. They did not act even when he and Julia initially began meeting in secret. They waited. They bided their time. It was only when love and real affection became a factor, only when the hope that that love planted began to grow, that Big Brother stepped in. Because, in the end, hope is the best weapon against tyranny; hope for a better tomorrow, for a better future, can bring the Party to its knees and, therefore, must be quashed thoroughly.
If he were allowed contact with foreigners he would discover that they are creatures similar to himself and that most of what he has been told about them is lies. The sealed world in which he lives would be broken, and the fear, hatred, and self-righteousness on which his morale depends might evaporate.
I read 1984 when I was sixteen and thought it was a disturbing and depressing novel. I’m glad I read it again now, in my thirties, because I can say, yes, it is still a disturbing and depressing novel – more so even than Animal Farm or Brave New World – but it is one that sadly becomes more and more relevant with each passing day. In the past week, I’ve heard two different news outlets use the phrase: “We are at war with Eurasia, we have always been at war with Eurasia,” and without reading 1984, the context and true terror of this statement is lost on most.
If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.
I would strongly urge anyone in America or Britain to read this novel, especially given the political climates of the world today. It won’t tell us what to do… but it can give us a hint of what we definitely don’t want to become.
Elle Tea’s Favorite Character(s): Winston Smith.
Elle read the Amazon Kindle version of this book.
This was a good a book. It isn’t a book that I would have picked myself and may have never had read it just on my own but I’m glad I did. I’m not saying everyone is this way but Orwell was able to capture the herd mentality that tends to occur in large groups of people. As I read the beginning of this book all of the workers for the party that were like Winston reminded me of sheep. These individuals were so brainwashed that you could tell them anything and that was the truth and the way it must have always been. Now I know where 2+2=5 comes from. I’ve heard it but never knew where it came from.
The children were really scary. They would tell on their parents for being spies and I feel pretty sure that most of them were lying. When they did this for the most part they were sentencing their parents to death. They remind me of the children growing up today (and sometimes when I say children I may be addressing some that are in their late teens and early to mid twenties). I have seen children who have only heard part truths, bits of stories, or only one side of an argument and they will stand behind what they hear and cannot be told anything else. You can hear them talking and know that someone has planted that in their head and there is no changing it. They also don’t know the facts to back up the statements that they are repeating. I’m not saying that everyone should agree on one thing and that they can’t have an opinion but being able to listen to all the facts and make an educated decision in something that is important, at least to me.
I wanted to like a character in this book that I had high hopes for but I was wrong, very, very wrong.
The slogan, “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength” is absolutely awful. If I had grown up in this world I don’t know what would have become of me. Would I have been a good little sheep who let the shepherd tell me where to go and what to do or would I have been one to go against the grain and ended up in the Ministry of Love? If I had ended up in the Ministry of Love I don’t know that I would have made it.
To die hating them, that was freedom.
Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.
The only thing is if I was a prole would I want to try to retaliate or fly under the radar until my life met it’s end. Who would have followed me to overthrow the Party? If I had tried would I have been the only one just to be turned into the Ministry of Love? It’s such a sad fate in almost any choice that could have been made.
Power is not a means, it is an end.
The above quote makes me wonder if everyone in power feels this way. Is there anyone thinking for the whole or is it just for themselves? Such sad and lonely points could be pulled from this book and yet there was power there. It really makes you think and I really like that about this book. I think Winston said it best:
“I understand HOW: I do not understand WHY.”
He later found out at least from a crazy person’s point of view as to the WHY and it goes back to having power and not doing things for the greater good.
The Party made you think you were crazy if you thought outside the herd. Our Winston thought a lot on sanity and I did mark the following quotes about this subject:
But the thought of being a lunatic did not greatly trouble him: the horror was that he might also be wrong.
Sanity is not statistical.
Where there is equality there can be sanity.
To me it seemed he did not want to be insane, he wanted sanity. He wanted the world he could remember even though it was harsh. Even in those harsh times he had some good memories. This new world was run by a group where one big purpose was to make sure that there is no happiness. Oh my goodness! This is where the dementors must have come from! J.K. Rowling got them out of the Party of 1984. They sucked all the happiness out of the people.
I was a little disappointed in Winston when he confessed and the girl he claimed to love he didn’t even think about once they were caught even though she could have been dead. It was hard for me to grasp because if someone I loved was taken in front of me I would mainly think of them over myself. I did feel proud for him for a minute when he held out from the pain and continued to say that four fingers was indeed four fingers.
But it seems that in the end the Party always wins.
BillMo’s Favorite Character(s): Winston.
BillMo read the Amazon Kindle version of this book.
Caveat: I do not share my political views with strangers. I will say that with the most recent American election I do feel we had piss poor options on either end, especially for those of us who are more moderate. That is it, that is all, I’ll try not to express any further political thoughts during this review.
Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.
I must say this novel is completely disturbing. It feels like an extreme example of fascism and maybe the next level of fascism in this world. In fact, it’s so disturbing, I am almost scared of what our future holds. Enough of that as I do not want this to be a political whiner. My biggest question is whether Mr. Orwell took the Nazi experience and multiplied it by one hundred or is somehow prescient. Of course, I could think of two movies that were bastardized versions of this novel.
In thinking of Winston, my first thought throughout much of the first part of the book was, “is this guy extremely paranoid or is there something to his thoughts”? Mr. Orwell takes a bit of time to build the story, the world in which Winston lives in to provide you with sufficient despair, distaste and possibly distrust of leadership. It’s meandering but with a purpose, and in my opinion, it serves the purpose of drawing you in to want delve into what is really going on in this society. It is evident that the government has created drones in its inhabitants, figuratively and literally. Each person plods along in their day to day in what appears to me to be barely subsisting but even worse are so conditioned that they adopt the drone mentality or even the mob mentality during the daily two-minute hate. I must say the skill at which this life is described both fascinated me and made me fear the direction of our world. However, this fear was not of the government, but the fear of people and their behavior.
It struck him that in moments of crisis one is never fighting against an external enemy, but always against one’s own body.
Even though this story is told in the third person, we are stuck to Winston’s side and seeing the world through his eyes. What I saw was bone chilling as it brought to light the ability of people to be fed any tidbit of information, for it to be taken as gospel no matter how contrary it is to what they know that they know, but still to be swallowed, bait, hook, line and sinker. I look clearly at our “entertainment” of reality television and the mass hysteria to follow the lives and drama of the “elite” which represents what I would consider trash, minus the poor part. It feels that a clear majority of our society could be caught in the trap of what happens in this novel. History is constantly changing in this novel and fabricated to no end to spin the agenda of the Party or Big Brother. What is even more astonishing is the general acceptance of the masses to take anything fed to them. But wait, there is fact and truth in this, look at the most recent American election. Whether a person was on one end of the vote or the other, quite a few people accepted what they were fed as good medicine and whole truths. Which is mistake whether in the fictitious world of Oceana or in our real life.
Winston represents what I feel would be myself, I question and think for myself vice allowing myself to be fed any number of things. Hollywood can’t sell me on an actor’s talents or looks, either I’m impressed or I’m not. Politicians cannot sell me on their veracity or having my best interests at heart. Winston understands that he may be alone in his feelings of distrust. In fact, his very job is to perpetuate whatever lie Big Brother/the Party wants to spin for the people by revising any news article that may have been previously reported in the contrary or quite frankly is a fantasy or fabrication with the sole intent of keeping the members of the party subservient and in the dark as to what is going on in the world.
Talking to her, he realized how easy it was to present an appearance of orthodoxy while having no grasp whatever of what orthodoxy meant. In a way, the world-view of the Party imposed itself most successfully on people incapable of understanding it. They could be made to accept the most flagrant violations of reality, because they never fully grasped the enormity of what was demanded of them, and were not sufficiently interested in public events to notice what was happening. By lack of understanding they remained sane. They simply swallowed everything, and what they swallowed did them no harm, because it left no residue behind, just as a grain of corn will pass undigested through the body of a bird.
As if it were not enough, that the masses are being fed fodder multiple times a day. There is also the striping away of the individuality. Everyone wears the same clothing. Everyone is given the same slop to eat and drink and quite frankly their residences are in disrepair as well. However, the government’s propaganda is that “things are the best they have ever been,” “people are happy and well looked after”. The constant onslaught of the machine’s messages of victory, productions quotas being met or shortfalls, forced “entertainment” and calisthenics, and finally, the being spied on through the very apparatus that this meant to inform them in the telescreen. On the face of it, this resembles Communism. However, if you look closely enough you can see this as any government that takes too active a role in the “well-being” of its citizens’ lives. The regimented lives with the constant oversight of the government is a barely concealed slavery that most inhabitants accept at the very least grudgingly and at the most with foolhardy abandon. What is possibly the worse, is the fact that the children are so programmed to spy and betray all those around them, including family and friends. However, in the world created by Orwell, familial and friendly bonds mean nothing, as being a member of the Party is stronger than anything one should hold dear.
Winston is not a blind follower. He catches glimpses of his previous life. Memories of being a difficult child, a loving but sad mother and even a baby sister whom he treated poorly reminds him that in his youth, he had a measure of freedom to be a jerk and inconsiderate. While it was not perfect, there was a measure of freedom he had in his youth that ebbed away with the change of the government’s influence over it’s minions, I mean population. Winton’s smallest rebellion comes when he purchases a journal and begins to write what he thinks, committing Thought Crime. He commits further crimes by becoming entangled with Julia, a fellow Comrade who feels she is a rebel for the sake of calling herself a rebel. Winston’s desire to rebel clouds his judgement and inherent distrust of Julia and O’Brien and ends up causing himself more harm than good. Even in the face of being betrayed and set upon by the Ministry of Love, Winston takes his torture as well as can be expected and still holds true to his beliefs and breaks as only one could break in the face of such daunting odds.
I had an immediate dislike and distrust for Julia. Hiding in plain sight she “rebelled” against the fundamental beliefs of the party by basically being a whore. She admitted to have numerous escapades to express herself sexually to throw her “middle fingers in the air” (a la Missio) at Big Brother. However, her apparent exploits were nothing more than a ploy. When presented with the opportunity to join the Brotherhood, and reading it’s required reading, she seems disinterested in a more cerebral rebellion, encouraging Winston to read to her while she promptly fell asleep. Obtaining makeup, being “attractive” and promiscuous are her methods of thumbing her nose at the power that be.
It might be that literally every word in the history books, even the things that one accepted without question, are pure fantasy.
I could go on and on, but the final point I’d like to make is that ultimately, for me, in the world carved out by Mr. Orwell, the lesson to be learned is trust no one. Not your closest confidant, not your lover, not the children, not the acquaintances that encourage your “bad behavior”, and not your government. I have a hard time being force fed anything, even from my family. I may not actively argue with you, but something more obstinate is sparked within me that causes me to shut down a bit and let the noise flow over me vice through me. In a world that Orwell creates, I don’t think I would fare well as a cog in the machine. I personally believe that we, as citizens, don’t need to know everything that happens in the broad scheme of things that keeps of safe (example, the call to find out identities of the members of SEAL Team Six when Osama Bin Laden was apprehended/killed). I also do not believe that the government should have a say in everything that has to do with my personal well being. There is a litany of things that I could list, but what it boils down to, is people wake up. Educate yourselves, don’t let yourself be caught up in a world where you allow your freedoms to be stripped because you are too lazy or too stupid to think beyond the fodder you are being fed.
Lady Esbe’s Favorite Character(s): Winston.
Esbe read the Amazon Kindle version of this book.