Recently, I finished reading George Orwell’s, 328 paged classic, 1984. George Orwell (a pseudonym of Eric Blair) served with the Indian Imperial Police in Burma before returning to Europe to bestow upon us many of his great works, essays and novels alike. This particular novel, originally called Nineteen Eighty-Four, was published on June 8, 1949. The book was a great success, but after falling into the late stages of tuberculosis, Orwell had limited time to experience the limelight, dying on January 21, 1950. But his works have left a lasting remark on the world, for now and years to come. I read this novel as a book club book for our dystopian unit. At first I was a bit hesitant to try it because it’s usually offered to be read during highschool, and I didn’t want to spoil the surprise. But with some convincing (involving the character Big Brother and a particular Doctor Who episode my friend connected the beginning of the book to) I jumped right on board to reading it. I have to warn you though, this book is not a light read, infact its probably the heaviest read you can get from a book that only has 328. There were many times I had to stop reading for sake of keeping my mind from blowing. Nonetheless, it’s a good book and its views of the future (now past) are exhilarating. While it’s definitely not my favorite it still had me intrigued.
In the novel 1984, Winston, a grown man living in 1984, wants to overthrow Big Brother and the Party, both of which he believes are responsible for the state of the society he lives in. But such a crime would prove to be immensely hard seeing that “Big Brother is watching” always, through telescreens, cameras and hidden microphones. Not to mention the fact that you can be arrested for “thoughtcrime” alone, which would lead to vaporization. Alas Winston rebels anyways alongside his illegal lover, by joining The Brotherhood, a secret organization set on bringing the downfall of Big Brother.
I don’t get why the author felt like the book needed to start off at a crawl and then keep it at that pace for half of the book. It was a bit frustrating at first but once you reach the climax there’s no stopping, you won’t want to put it down. The main character frustrated me a bit, Winston and I have very different mindsets, as I’m sure you’ll find as well, which sometimes led him to doing the EXACT OPPOSITE OF WHAT HE SHOULD BE DOING WHY ARE YOU SO AGGRAVATING WINSTON?!? The resolution of the main character’s problem was irking, and I couldn’t stand it. For the sake of staying spoiler free, I will just say the last four words are like a punch to the gut. (If you’re anything like me you’ll probably try and guess what those words are now, good luck with that.)
Lastly, I found this paragraph interesting, but what’s even more interesting is watching my book club and I perform it as a Reader’s Theater! Check it out here! This is the scene where Winston and his lover, Julia are offering their services to the Brotherhood. O’Brien, one of the rebel leaders is asking of them many dark tasks to test their commitment.
“O’Brien had turned himself a little in his chair so that he was facing Winston. He almost ignored Julia, seeming to take it for granted that Winston could speak for her. For a moment the lids flittered down over his eyes. He began asking questions in a low, expressionless voice, as though this was a routine, a sort of catechism, most of whose answers were known to him already.
“You are prepared to give your lives”
“You are prepared to commit murder?”
“To commit acts of sabotage which may cause the death of hundreds of innocent people?”
“To betray your country to foreign power?”
“You are prepared to cheat, to forge, to blackmail, to corrupt the minds of children, to distribute habit-forming drugs, to encourage prostitution, to disseminate venereal diseases- to do anything which is likely to cause demoralization and weaken the power of the Party?”
“If, for example, it would somehow serve our interests to throw sulphuric acid in a child’s face- are you prepared to do that?”
“You are prepared to lose your identity and live out the rest of your life as a waiter or a dock worker?”
“You are prepared to commit suicide, if and when we order you to do so?”
“You are prepared, the two of you, to separate and never see one another again?”
“No!” broke in Julia
It appeared to Winston that a long time passed before he answered. For a moment he seemed even to have been deprived of the power of speech. His tongue worked soundlessly, forming the opening syllables first of one word, the of the other, over and over again. Until he had said it, he did not know which word he was going to say.
“No.” he said finally.” (pages 172-173)
I liked how George Orwell proposed all of the severities of the situation that Julia and Winston were in by making it like an initiation. It took a lot less time than making them perform all the tasks or recall stories of it, but still brought forth the same seriousness. Overall I would rate this book a 5/10, it wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, but I persevered through with some effort. I’ll say it one more time before closing! This book has some hard language and mature themes (as well as a boatload of philosophic wisdom) and isn’t for everyone, but if you’re up for a challenge, give it a shot! It’s a classic you won’t easily forget!