Tuesday, October 2, 2012

"1984" by George Orwell

The year is 1984 and the world is divided into three superstates - Oceania, Eastasia, and Eurasia.  The states are always at war, with loyalties and enemies changing frequently.  In the city of London, posters of Party leader Big Brother bear the caption "Big Brother is watching you" and telescreens monitor both the public and private lives of the population.  Society is made up of three classes - the Inner Party which is the elite ruling minority; the Outer Party which is the middle class; and the Proles who are the uneducated working class and make up 85% of the population.  

Winston Smith is a member of the Outer Party and works in the Ministry of Truth, which deals with propaganda.  Winston is an editor who changes historical records to reflect the constantly changing Party dictates.  One of his responsibilities is to remove all past mentions of "unpersons," people who have been killed by the state and whose entire existence is fully denied.

While Winston works hard at his job, he begins to secretly question the Party and their propaganda.   One day something arrives on his desk at work that makes him want to rebel. He's heard that there is a Brotherhood, a secret organization that is working to destroy the Party, but since no one is allowed to question the Party, he can't show his interest or else he would be labelled a "thoughtcriminal."  One day, he meets Julia at work and begins a secret love affair with her.  Julia is also rebelling and hates the Party as much as Winston.

But Winston and Julia's dreams of working against the Party are about to come true.  At work, Winston is approached by Inner Party member O'Brien, who is working as an agent of the Brotherhood.  O'Brien welcomes them into the organization, giving Winston The Book, a tome written by the leader of the Brotherhood which explains the history of the world and the Party, everything people aren't supposed to know.  

But O'Brien isn't what he seems and soon Winston and Julia find themselves captured by the Thought Police and under interrogation.  Winston is taken to the Ministry of Love where it is believed that people can be cured of their hatred of the Party.  Here, Winston learns the true nature of the Party and their motives as tries to survive their attempts to reintegrate him back into their control.

1984 by George Orwell is a classic novel about a totalitarian future and a tyrannical regime that is just as scary today as it was when it was written in 1949 when held up against current political climates.  It addresses themes of censorship, sexual repression, nationalism, tyranny and more.  It's a cautionary tale that has, and will continue to, stand the test of time.  The concept of Big Brother is a testament of this as it remains a major part of our vocabulary today.

I first read this book back in high school and was greatly touched and influenced by it.  It was one of the first books I read that made me aware of the political climate and the importance of paying attention to it.  I have now read it for a second time and I'm amazed at how much it has touched me again, how different the reading was and yet how it left me with the same conclusions.  This is one book that can definitely be read again and again and should be read that way.  

I read 1984 for Banned Books Week.  It is one of the American Library Association's most commonly challenged classics and is 9th on the ALA's list of banned classics.  It was banned in the USSR shortly after being translated into Russian.  It is frequently challenged in US schools under the argument of it being "pro-communist" however it also challenged for being "anti-government."  Go figure.

1 comment:

  1. Great review! I still haven't read this one, but it's on my list!! -Sarah

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