Trigger Warning: This novel and it’s review contain descriptions of and mention the following topics: war crimes, prejudice, depression, starvation, illness, death.
Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars
Year Published: 1949
Yet again I’m using an old piece of writing that’s a more technical piece rather than a book review. But I’ve been watching the news a lot lately, and I don’t want to get too political, but I thought this book would be worth looking at again in this day and age. While this book is a classic staple of Literature Arts classrooms everywhere, it’s one that has the power to suck you into the prose and make you compare what you are reading to what you are witnessing in real life. As I said, I don’t want to get too political, but for those in the USA, the current presidential candidates are coming to a head and soon we will know who will be on the ballot for general election. Every time we decide to choose the voice of our nation, it is best to do your research, to read between the lines of the media propaganda, and to exercise the right to vote for who you think will best represent the nations needs.
Now, I’ll step off my soap box and say that Orwell composed this piece long before the current day and age (in 1949) and set it in the future, 1984, but his piece still seems relevant to this day, which is why I’m sure many have read it in a classroom by assigned chapters. I encourage you to take a second look on your own and reread 1984, then mull over Orwell’s message and apply it to your reality.
(Photo Credit: Google Images)
In the futuristic novel 1984 by George Orwell, a man named Winston lives in oppression because of the Party, the system of government that controls every aspect of life, including things that cannot be controlled, like science and thought. The Party had such control over society’s mind that if they said something that defied reality, a person would believe the Party and ignore reality. This power leads to the deterioration of individuality, education, and humanity in society. Using symbolism, satire, and characterization, Orwell shows that the complete control and power and the resulting conformity could spell the downfall of society as we know it.
In Oceania, one out of three continents on earth and home of Winston, personal identity had become almost non-existent. Everyone goes around calling others “Comrade” no matter the gender. Everyone wears the same blase colors and uniforms of the Party. When Winston happens upon a small shop that sells things from the past, he is intrigued by a small lump of glass–coral. What appealed to him about it was not so much it’s beauty as the air it seemed to possess of belonging to an age quite different from the present one…It was a queer thing, even a compromising thing, for a Party member to have in his possession. Anything old, and for that matter anything beautiful, was always suspect. (96) Individuality was against the Party. And though the Party had no laws, there were certain things that were avoided to keep from committing crimes against the Party. Orwell used this little piece of coral to symbolize individuality and to illustrate the danger of conformity. With conformity, there is a loss of beauty, of uniqueness, and of personality. Because the coral was a personal item, something pretty and unique, it went against the conformity expectations of the Party, which would eventually put Winston in danger. He didn’t mind though because he personally felt that the coral was also a symbol of his rebellion and opposition of the Party, and he took pride in it.
One of the Party’s slogans, “Ignorance is Strength (4)” is disturbing to any intellectual. The Party would prefer to keep it’s members, willing or not, completely oblivious about what is actually going on within the Party. The less people that know about who’s in charge, the more control the leaders have. Because the leaders have gained so much power and nobody questions it, the leaders can change facts and other information, and the people would “doublethink” or re-learn the altered information as the truth and believe whole-heartedly in it’s credibility because of the Party. They don’t inquire about it because that goes against the Party, and that makes it a crime. This cycle allows even more control to the Party, and completely goes against today’s eager-to-educate society. Orwell uses satire to affirm his opinion that today in society we couldn’t imagine a world in which we didn’t question everything or accept information that defies science, math, and other proven facts. He also uses the satire to warn us that if we didn’t question authority or use our own minds, we would certainly end up as ignorant conformists.
Another point that Orwell makes is that because of the overpowering control held by the Party, humanity itself takes a turn for the worse. Using characterization, he introduces Winston as a man of 39, with a gray complexion and a varicose ulcer on his ankle. He moves slowly, in pain. Winston is a young man in an old man’s body. But he’s not the only one. Everyone is pre-aged in this society. Everyone is pale and dusty. Winston’s own neighbor actually has dust particles on the wrinkles of her face. The only ones who seem young are the children. And they act like adult soldiers. In this society, the children seep fear into their own parents because children are spies for the Party- they turn their own parents in as criminals for committing crimes against the Party, known as “thoughtcrimes”. Winston noted; Hardly a week passed in which the Times did not carry a paragraph describing how some eavesdropping little sneak– “child hero”…– had overheard some compromising remark and denounced his parents to the Thought Police. (24) A child, usually dependent on their parents, would turn their own parents in to the police for the Party. This goes against today’s society in which children have become more dependent on their parents for longer periods of time. The society during Orwell’s year of 1984 is showing complete lack of true humanity, in which our young are protected by their family, and where the children look up to their parents with affection and love.
What Makes it a Classic?
In conclusion, the futuristic 1984 by George Orwell warns about the consequences of total conformity and giving over power of our individual minds. When everyone gives up their own freedom of will and succumbs to authoritative abuse, we could lose our education, our individuality, and humanity. Using symbolism, satire, and characterization, Orwell shows that the complete control and power and the resulting conformity could spell the downfall of society as we know it.
TL/DR: 1984 by George Orwell is a futuristic dystopian classic novel about what could happen if the government took over everyone’s mind, set in the year 1984.
Read it? Yes.
Recommend it? Yes, but even though it’ll creep you out.
Buy it? Yes. It’s a relatively short read and copies are everywhere- you might as well own your own.