“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him.”
And so began one of the greatest political satire novels of all time!
1984 was George Orwell’s last ever novel. Published in June 1949, the author passed away only six months later. It’s a dystopian book based on the consequences of dictatorship and repression within a society. An imagined future, the world presented is full of war, surveillance and propaganda.
It caused a lot of controversy at that time and still does today. It’s challenged all over the world for its language, violence, and both anti- and pro-communist views. As a result, it’s one of the top 100 most influential novels.
It follows Winston Smith, an average everyday worker for the Ministry of Truth. Great Britain is now the heart of a totalitarian state and the Thought Police kidnap and brainwash all those who think differently. Everyone is under constant surveillance and nobody can remember a time when things were different. Smith secretly begins to loathe the Party and all that they’ve done, despite knowing how futile it is. He begins to meet others like him; an elderly man who owns an antique shop, a beautiful young woman he suspects is a spy, even a higher-up Party official who appears to be apart of the resistance. Smith decides if he’s going to be caught, then he might as well make it worth it. Together they begin to plan a rebellion. What he’s forgotten, of course, is that Big Brother is always watching.
1984 is Orwell’s most popular novel for a number of reasons. From it’s thought-provoking setting to its unique yet bland characters, school’s have added it to required reading lists since it’s first release.
- It’s hellish, it’s terrifying, it’s eye-opening. This book forces you to consider your future and shocks you into acting on it. It makes you resist before the resistance becomes necessary. The story itself is a warning; this is what can happen if you let it. So don’t let it.
- It’s brilliantly well written. The book jumps straight into this dystopian hell with the very first line. The plot is simple yet detailed and entirely plausible. New leaders and ministries are invented, as well as new words such as ‘doublethink’ and ‘thoughtcrime’. Each of these only contributes to the startling reality of the novel.
- As well as ominously foretelling our future, 1984 even more alarming is relevant to our present. In the era of ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’, it’s easy to imagine how the Ministry of Truth operates. While some might be drawn into these lies and propaganda, readers of this novel know better.
- The characters are somewhat two-dimensional. As a direct result of the society in this novel, the characters are very similar. They dress the same, act the same, and even think the same. It makes them quite flat and dull, as no one has a definite past or dreams of their own.
- In the very middle of the novel is a very lengthy section dedicated to Goldstein’s treatise. Page after page of boring, monotonous rules will tire any reader, and most of these paragraphs aren’t even central to the story.
- The novel is incredibly misogynistic. Throughout the entire book, Winston Smith complains about and disparages every single woman he comes across. He comments on their appearance, their supposed ‘promiscuity’, and even threatens to assault a young girl.
Overall, I’d give George Orwell’s 1984 a three out of five. It deals with nationalism and identity, as well as censorship and the future of surveillance. It forces you to think about our current governments, and just how easy it’d be for them to make Orwell’s nightmarish dystopian come true.
I’d recommend this novel for absolutely everyone. It’s disturbing and distressing and definitely not an ideal bedtime story, but it opens up your eyes to the world around you. This haunting novel will stay with you forever.
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