Book Review: 1984

1984 | George Orwell
First published 06.08.1949 | Signet Classics
Rating: 5/5 stars

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The current year is 1984, or at least that’s what the newspapers indicate. Winston Smith is living in Oceania, one of the three ever-warring superstates that the world has been divided in to, in a small one-room flat and belongs to the Outer Party, or middle class. He is issued rations for meals, saccharine tablets, and gin. Telescreens watch your every move, often accompanied by hidden microphones and cameras, to allow the Thought Police to identify and imprison anyone they believe might be harboring thoughts contradictory to Party leader, Big Brother’s ideologies.

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WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

History has become a series of re-writes, to be altered by the Ministry of Truth under the direction of Big Brother. Smith is employed at the Ministry of Truth and charged with editing and altering records and photographs. Daily he receives slips of paper indicating individuals deemed thoughtcriminals, who have gone against Big Brother and have since become “unpersons”, meaning they need to be removed from any trace of history. Smith than drops these slips of paper down a receptacle known as the “memory hole” where they are incinerated. Once history is altered, the population erases from their minds the changes and willingly accepts the new truth they have been provided.

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The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time.

As the days pass by, Winston becomes ever troubled by his job and the world that he lives in, but is forced to conceal any hint of these thoughts from his actions, mannerisms, and even his facial expressions. Surrounded by people who have become brainwashed into believing Big Brother, Winston knows there must be others like him. How do you know who to trust? How do you hide how you really feel when everything you do is being watched? Can anyone really escape Big Brother?

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He took a twenty-five cent piece out of his pocket. There, too, in time clear lettering, the same slogans were inscribed, and on the other face of the coin the head of Big Brother. Even from the coin the eyes pursued you. On coins, on stamps, on the covers of books, on banners, on posters, and on the wrapping of a cigarette packet – everywhere. Always the eyes watching you and the voice enveloping you. Asleep or awake, working or eating, indoors or out of doors, in the bath or in bed – no escape. Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimeters inside your skull.

George Orwell originally penned 1984 in the year 1949, when many of his concepts and technological creations were seen as farfetched. As the years ticked on, many began embracing the possibilities and truth associated with this dystopian novel. While I was reading this novel I was struck by the way our current world can at times closely mirror these horrific notions. Despite being written so long ago, the heart of the book is a world in which any reader can pick out similarities to their current life. Orwell may not use the most elaborate writing style or craft the most graceful sentences or give the reader an ending they think they deserve. It is his blunt, matter-of-fact writing that echoes the reality of life and what makes the book such a classic.

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