Author: George Orwell
Genre: Science Fiction, Classic Literature
Release Date: 1949
Format Read: Paperback
“Back of Book” Summary:
Written in 1948, 1984 was George Orwell’s chilling prophecy about the future. And while the year 1984 has come and gone, Orwell’s narrative is timelier than ever. 1984 presents a startling and haunting vision of the world, so powerful that it is completely convincing from start to finish. No one can deny the power of this novel, its hold on the imaginations of multiple generations of readers, or the resiliency of its admonitions. A legacy that seems only to grow with the passage of time.
Reality control: who controls the present, controls the past.
1984 was a book I could barely put down. It really was a quick read even with all the vernacular of ‘Newspeak’. Unlike, The Catcher in the Rye, I can definitely see why this book is a literary favorite. The book left me with several unanswered questions, such as: what happened to Julia while in the Ministry of Love, and why did O’Brien, who knew of their forbidden thoughts and love affair, string them along for so long before arresting them? Quite possibly the answer to the later question is that once Winston reach complete rehabilitation from his mental illness (that is of not embracing the party) that he no longer cared, and thus the narrator felt it of no importance to answer those lingering questions.
The world of Oceania was absolutely terrifying. A totalitarian dictatorship that could never die. To control history is to control everything. Even today the media and sometimes politicians try to alter history for their own agendas or to give legitimacy to their authority. The sad reality is that many people accept this new truth and don’t check facts. “Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious” (p. 70). Objectivity is a virtue.
It was thought that the proletarians were kept on the brink of poverty and hunger and therefore would be too busy working and trying to survive to rebel. It was the party members, who of anyone in society, might awake to the party’s dishonesty and manipulation. It was after all they that were actually doing the manipulating (i.e. Winston Smith’s job was to alter old newspapers to make sure nothing the party said or predicted was ever wrong).
This section of Goldstein’s book was rather chilling:
In the crucial years, the fact that the Party was not a hereditary body did a great deal to neutralize opposition. The older kind of Socialist, who had been trained to fight against something called ‘class privilege’ assumed that what is not hereditary cannot be permanent. He did not see that the continuity of an oligarchy need not be physical, nor did he pause to reflect that hereditary aristocracies have always been shortlived, whereas adoptive organizations such as the Catholic Church have sometimes lasted for hundreds or thousands of years. The essence of oligarchical rule is not father-to-son inheritance, but the persistence of a certain world-view and a certain way of life, imposed by the dead upon the living. A ruling group is a ruling group so long as it can nominate its successors. The Party is not concerned with perpetuating its blood but with perpetuating itself. Who wields power is not important, provided that the hierarchical structure remains always the same.
All the beliefs, habits, tastes, emotions, mental attitudes that characterize our time are really designed to sustain the mystique of the Party and prevent the true nature of present-day society from being perceived. Physical rebellion, or any preliminary move towards rebellion, is at present not possible. From the proletarians nothing is to be feared. Left to themselves, they will continue from generation to generation and from century to century, working, breeding, and dying, not only without any impulse to rebel, but without the power of grasping that the world could be other than it is. They could only become dangerous if the advance of industrial technique made it necessary to educate them more highly; but, since military and commercial rivalry are no longer important, the level of popular education is actually declining. What opinions the masses hold, or do not hold, is looked on as a matter of indifference. They can be granted intellectual liberty because they have no intellect. In a Party member, on the other hand, not even the smallest deviation of opinion on the most unimportant subject can be tolerated.
A Party member lives from birth to death under the eye of the Thought Police. Even when he is alone he can never be sure that he is alone. Wherever he may be, asleep or awake, working or resting, in his bath or in bed, he can be inspected without warning and without knowing that he is being inspected (p 209-210).
A lengthy quote, but frightening. Orwell thoroughly explains the ruling party’s political ideology. Don’t modern times/governments have some eerily similar practices/policies? This is why 1984 will never fade.
Will we ever be charged with thought crimes in this country for thinking an unpopular thought?
The narrator leads us to believe that once thought criminals have been healed of their mental illnesses that they will subsequently be exterminated. At the end of the book, Winston Smith is released from prison. However, once he truly loves Big Brother, it is uncertain if he was actually killed or let live and that death was only a threat. During confinement Winston believed he would never betray himself. “But if the object was not to stay alive but to stay human, what difference did it ultimately make? They could not alter your feelings; for that matter you could not alter them yourself, even if you wanted to. They could lay bare in the utmost detail everything that you had done or said or thought; but the inner heart, whose workings were mysterious even to yourself, remained impregnable” (p. 167). And even though at the end of the book Winston admits to loving Big Brother, at the same moment he almost hoped Oceania would lose the war and be invaded, leading to the destruction of the party. Winston’s heart had not changed, but upon hearing of victory it was clear that nothing would ever change. The party would always prevail and that the rules of war would never change. There would be no political shifts and to spend time thinking otherwise would just lead to despair. O’Brien admitted to have written the “brotherhood’s” book under the pen name Goldstein called The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism. At first I was confused as to why he would have written it and let Smith read it. I think it was to convince Winston that the government was so complex, yet sturdy, and rebellion was almost impossible. The obvious objective was to dissuade him from continuing his anti-party thought-crimes. I think this was all a part of the rehabilitation. Although Winston never completely lost the rebellious feelings in his heart, he was still utterly defeated by O’Brien and gave into party manipulation to appease his pain- and not only physical pain but more importantly his mental anguish.
How much would our society agree to for peace of mind? The answer is probably scarier than anyone wants to admit
1984 is a science fiction classic. This is a must read. I guarantee this book will leave you with many things to consider and think about long after it’s finished. I leave you with the Ministry of Truth’s iconic slogan: