REVIEW 1984: George Orwell


I first read 1984 in Class 9, and I admit, I was not exactly at my perceptive best. I missed many of the allusions, didn't really get the bleak ending. But in the aftermath of 9/11, with the U.S. government using its sweeping powers and world sympathy to "protect the country from the evil forces of terrorism", I identified a watered-down version of the novel. Since then, I have read bits and pieces of this book over the years, but it was only a few days back that I actually sat down and read it from cover to cover, and decided that it would make a perfect post for my blog's one-month anniversary. Many of the elements of this novel, written in 1949, are visible around us today, though not to the extent portrayed in the book ( and I hope it'll never reach that state). This novel presents a searing description of a revolution gone wrong, a totalitarian regime which permeates every living moment of the citizens.

Winston Smith is an insignificant Party member working in the Ministry of Truth, erasing and editing records to fit the Party's version of events. The year is 1984 (or so he thinks), and the Party's control rests on three main pillars: Newspeak (reducing human vocabulary so that people can't think rebellious thoughts); thoughtcrime and doublethink (accepting two mutually contradictory beliefs). There are four departments: Ministry of Truth which concerns itself with news and entertainment, Ministry of Peace concerned with war, Ministry of Love which maintains law and order, and Ministry of Plenty responsible for economic affairs. Winston secretly rebels against the Party's doctrine, and finds a soulmate in Julia, another Party worker. In a world where romance is an offence, their love is destined to be shortlived.

1984 has many thematic similarities to Animal Farm, namely a failed revolution, individuality crushed under collective power, and mind control. Though based on Stalin's rule, many concepts are similar to what we see after 9/11 and have come to accept today: censorship, intrusive surveillance and government encroachment on individual rights. The Party slogans are chillingly familiar: War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery and Ignorance is Strength; slogans which are the cornerstone of many dictatorships. If you haven't read this book, go buy a copy. You'll find something new in every reading.

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