This review is long overdue, and I’m sorry it took so long coming out. I could give you an excuse but I won’t; now on to the book. 1984 is a book by George Orwell set in a future where the government controls everything, all the time. Apparently, there’s rarely any second the government isn’t monitoring you. There’s no privacy and everything is done by government schedule.
I’ve heard of this book before, though it never occurred to me that I should look for the book and read; perhaps it’s because of how I heard of it. The first time I can remember hearing about the book was on this popular TV show called Big Brother. In it, a bunch of people are put in a house filled with cameras and microphones, and their every move is captured and broadcast to the world. Every time a new season was beginning, they’d mention that the show is kind of based off George Orwell’s book. It made me think that the book was about how people react when forced to live with each other under constant surveillance.
The book is divided into 3 parts. Part 1 deals with how our main character, Winston Smith, begins to question the government. Not in any overt manner, but rather on a personal level. He buys a dairy and begins to pen down some of his thoughts and feelings. Part one also serves to show us exactly just how totalitarian the government is, how they change the truth by rewriting history, which is part of Winston Smith’s job, and how people regularly disappear for seemingly arbitrary reasons.
Winston works in the Ministry of Truth, shortened to Minitrue in Newspeak, which is the official language of the ‘country’ he stays in. The Ministry of Truth’s job paradoxically is to correct any written records to reflect the government’s current word. For example, if today it was announced that the farms produced 10,000 tonnes of cotton, then every record that came before as prediction of output is corrected to show that the government was right. There are 3 other ministries: Ministry of Peace, Minipax in newspeak, which dealt with war; Ministry of Love, Miniluv, which dealt with hate i.e. ensure people are having the right thoughts toward life and the government or what you could call maintenance of law and order and Ministry of Plenty, miniplenty, which handled economic affairs.
There’s a lot wrong with the society described in this book. The bond between husband and wife has been reduced to the point where it seems you’re only together to form a family and little else. There’s no love or devotion. Children are brought up in the party doctrine of Ingsoc, which you could say is an extreme version of socialism, it makes them violent and single minded, their only devotion to the Party.
The Party has 3 slogans:
War is Peace
Freedom is Slavery
Ignorance is Strength
The Party is said to be headed by a mystical figure called Big Brother and all orders from the party are done in his name. Posters of him are everywhere with the words ‘BOG BROTHER IS WATCHING’.
Newspeak is the language, in its forth version in book, that is being developed to replace British English or Oldspeak. The language is mostly a striped down version of English, in which words are removed from the language so as to reduce ambiguity and repetition. For example the words splendid and wonderful don’t exist in Newspeak. It is also so that words that can be used to express political opinion no longer exist. It is another means by which the government hopes to control thought.
The second part of the book is where Winston meets someone a girl called Julia who, like him, questions the party and they start a covert relationship meeting in secret to have sex and talk freely. Most of part 2 is about this relationship and also about how they want the Brotherhood, a group that’s supposed fighting the Party. Towards the end of this part they meet someone who gets them in to the Brotherhood, a Mr Charrington. They also get arrested while at one of their love trysts.
The last part of the book is the saddest and most disturbing, in which we go through Winston’s torture and other things which I won’t mention because I don’t want to ruin the whole book for you.
This is one of the most disturbing and scary books I’ve ever read or will probably ever read. It’s not disturbing in the conventional way that you can say that’s disgusting or scary. It’s just that the world it describes is just disheartening in the extreme. More than that by the time you finish the book you realize that not only is such a world possible, it is happening today to various degrees. In fact, it’s only in now that we actually have the processing power and tech to implement such a world and that is scary.
This is the type of book that makes you feel like building a super-secret underground bunker, filling it with food, books and stuff in preparation for the time when something like this happens. In fact, I could go as far as saying that this book could serve as a guide to any dictator on how to control, manage and maintain his power forever, without any dissidence. And that’s what frightens me; that there could be no dissidence, that there could be even no way to express dissidence.
All in all it’s a great book that’s worth reading so that the next time the government says something is for your own safety you know what it could lead to. I gave the book 7.5 stars out of 10. Something else I came to conclusion of at the end of this book, George Orwell is a very depressing writer at least from the 2 books I’ve read from him, this one and Animal Farm. He had very harsh view on human nature and power believing, I think, in the saying Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Now let me leave you with two quotes that really stuck with me in reading the book:
A lunatic is a minority of one.
Who controls the past controls the future, who controls the present controls the past.