Q1 Benchmark- 1984 Book Review

Photo on 10-25-13 at 9.55 AM
Photo on 10-25-13 at 9.55 AM

Alex Held

Earth Stream

1984 Book Review

Power. It gives a person the potential to rule or to govern with a guiding hand for the prosperity of a country and it’s people. But more often, it has the propensity to corrupt and eradicate equality. It alters speech and changes behavior. It impregnates the susceptible mind with deceit and reaps it of its morals.

George Orwell, the author of 1984, was an English novelist, whose works are often highlighted for his articulate prose, commitment to democratic socialism, and his awareness of social justice. All of these qualities in addition to his extraordinary knowledge of totalitarianism aided him in creating one of the most spectacular and eloquently written novels of all time; one that not only displayed how thoroughly he grasped one of the most austere conflicts of the 20th century and the possible repercussions of a German victory in the Second World War or Stalin’s second Great Purge that never was, but also allowed him to strikingly do so in such an unsettling and dismaying manner. A manner that can never be reproduced. 1984 was the final book produced by Orwell in the year before he passed away. Other notable works written by him are Animal Farm, and Homage to Catalonia.

George Orwell’s gripping novel written in 1949 throws the reader into Oceania. No, not the Southern Pacific islands and Australia, but a worn-torn, totalitarian “Superstate,” whose decrepit slums serve as the home to almost all of the its population. The few percent of the population of Oceania who are rarely ever seen, just whispered of by the “proles” who live in perpetual fear of these very people, go by the name of the Inner Party. The two other Superstates’ (Eastasia: Obliteration of the Self), (Eurasia: Neo-Bolshevism) inhabitants reside in anything but harmony, just like those of Oceania.

All three Superstates are at a incessant war and live under the yoke of their own versions of The Party and it’s privileged elite. The Party dictates society through the euphemistically named English Socialism (Ingsoc) political system. They, however, both fully devote their lives to Big Brother, an apocryphal, quasi-divine figure who is the at the utter Zenith of the hierarchy on earth where “WAR IS PEACE”  and government surveillance is ubiquitous in the form of mind control telescreens. Any manifestation of individualism or thinking that may be deemed independent is looked on as a “thoughtcrime.” Those who are even accused of committing thoughtcrime are sent to a torture and reformation facility ironically named the Ministry of Love.

Orwell involuntarily connected the “watchful eye” perspective in 1984 of Big Brother and The Party to many things 60 years in the future. The United States has duplicated the idea of telescreens in an tenor manner with the NSA (National Security Agency), despite the fact that they would like to admit to it. It is no secret that the NSA listens in on every phone call, tracks internet history, and maintains close surveillance on everyone living in the country and even more so those out of it, living in countries that the United States is affiliated with, as allies or opponents. It is becoming increasingly palpable that the Orwellian themes in 1984 are unavoidable.

The protagonist of the book is a man named Winston Smith. Winston lives in Oceania and is a member of the outer party. His profession is in historical revisionism, where he alters history in favor of The Party, which, again shows how they censor any and everything from the people. Winston is depicted throughout the book by Orwell as an intelligent man, but one whose oppressed and thus, his intelligence is vastly hindered by both fear of thoughtcrime and just deprivation of knowledge concealed by the Party. Although he serves The Party, Winston secretly hopes that Big Brother is subjugated by some rebellion. “If there is hope, it lies in the proles,” is something that Winston keeps ensconced in his mind.

As the book progresses Winston meets a girl named Julia. As Orwell describes her, Julia is  a young girl who also works in the same field as he does, historical revisionism. Orwell’s language in the book suggest that Winston not only had mixed feelings about Julia (one time suspecting she was a member of the Thought Police), but also that he desires to feel love once more and that he can achieve that with her. Not love in the way he did for his wife some time ago when he initially met her, but a kind of dispassionate connection he now has with her. He desires that with Julia. She is his new beginning and his revitalization, but their relationship is far more bound than it ever was with his wife.

Orwell not only affects Julia and Winston’s relationship with the aspect of neverending surveillance of every move they make and every word they utter, but with just the environment alone that they, and everyone else around them are forced to live in. 1984 will leave you wondering if Winston can perpetuate his visits with Julia, with each tryst becoming more jeopardous than the last. Orwell creates a bleak scenario for a love affair that makes one question if there is even any love left to give. He offers a book-long question of whether or not there there is any promise that remains on earth, or has hope become completely effete.

1984 is a book that will really test you optimistic types out there. Can The Party be overthrown or will they do what no other ruling system has done before: watch everyone, crush every rebellion, and stay in perpetual control. Can the keep strengthening their plutocracy, which gives them the only wealth they’ll ever need, power and fear? George Orwell baits you with hope, but is there any that remains?

Title: 1984

Author: George Orwell

Publisher: Secker and Warburg

Date of Publication: 1949

Number of Pages: 328 Pages with afterword

Genre: Dystopian, Political Fiction, Social Science Fiction