Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell – Review by Jon and Carlyn
Jon Bear and I wrote this review last year and it was meant to go with a giveaway. However we just never got around to posting it. So here it is:
1984 is a novel written by George Orwell in 1949 about Winston Smith, a character who could likely be described as your average middle aged male, living in England (known as the Oceania) under the rule of an extreme Socialist government known by the moniker "Big Brother". "Big Brother" is a bit of a misnomer as the government acts less like a protective older sibling, who looks out for his younger siblings, and more like a domineering bully who uses intimidation and fear to control every aspect of the daily lives of its people. Oceania is in a constant state of war with either East Asia or Eurasia, as part of a conflict where alliances fluctuate every 3-5 years. Upon the fluctuation of this conflict, the government refuses to acknowledge the prior conflict, insisting that they were always at war with whomever is the current enemy.
Winston Smith works for the government as a member of its outer circle, a group of people whom are charged with the responsibility of censoring every documented historical artifact according to the whims of the government. The main goal of this censorship is to create a kind of collective brainwashing, and erasure of history and memory. Winston works on editing newspapers and books towards this purpose.
Winston is a little conflicted about his role in the government, but he is mostly resentful of the control "Big Brother" has over his everyday life. There is no privacy in the lives of party members who are under 24 hour surveillance from "Big Brother" through television screens in every building, including their homes. Everything from their actions to even the expressions of party members is closely scrutinized by the "Thought Police" whose goal it is to ensure total commitment and dedication to "Big Brother" not only in action but also in thought. Even the children are taught in schools to rat out their own parents or any adults whom they suspect are not faithful to the government.
The story of 1984 follows Winston through his efforts to rebel against "Big Brother". At the heart of the book is a biting political statement against Socialism and governments who assume too much control over people. Orwell, has another novel called Animal Farm where the story line might be considered an allegory of Soviet Russia. Orwell's fascination with the post-World War Two Soviet Union also obviously has a heavy influence on 1984.
Jon Bear's thoughts
The book is a rather intense read, because of the omnipresent figure of "Big Brother". After all, how do you rebel against a government who is able to track your every movement? So from a pure entertainment perspective the book is outstanding and keeps you on the edge of your chair. What I really like about Winston is that he isn't some kind of glorious perfect hero. Orwell makes Winston very real, and while he is not what I would classify as a likable or sexy character for readers, he is an extremely sympathetic figure, someone who most any reader might be able to relate to. I had a deep respect for his bravery and appreciation for his faults and his mistakes at the same time.
If you are looking for a bright or cheerful or easy read, then 1984 is not for you, but if you interested in issues of government and censorship and the difficult decisions that people whom are isolated by an overbearing and controlling presence must make, then 1984 will hold a lot of appeal. It's an intensely thought provoking book, and I think it is entertaining enough to be interesting to those who are not necessarily political history buffs. That said, it's a tough book to just read and leave. After you read it you want to find out more about Orwell himself, and more about post world war two Russia and even consider how many of the things Orwell discusses effect our lives today, both with regards to our own governments and those of other 21st century countries and their governments.
It's easy to see how and why 1984 has become a classic.
I really enjoyed reading 1984. I was worried that it would contain a lot of difficult terms or move tediously slow. However, I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to read. If you can read a classic or any book about a dystopian society, you can read 1984. The book may be about tyranny and socialism but that is the undertone of the book. Jon forgot to mention that there is a love story in the book as well. The main character Winston lives a dreary and lonely life until he receives a secret message from a woman. The message reads: I love you. Finally, Winston has someone to talk to about how he really feels but his love interest is not as interested in politics. Her main purpose to being with Winston is to have a little bit of fun.
Winston was too downtrodden for my taste. I prefer my protagonists to be more spirited. However, I agree with what Jon Bear said that in a closely scrutinised world you don’t want to stand out. The people of Oceania even have to control their facial expressions lest the thought police see their true feelings.
What I did admire about Winston was his ability to think critically. While many others readily accepted Big Brother, Winston was suspicious of everything. I think working in the records department sent him mad. Winston knew he didn’t know what the truth was and it was something that he struggled with. Winston struggles between imagination and memory which frustrated him because nothing could be verified as everything was tampered with.
I found the ending to be realistic. Poor Winston. I’m so use to reading dystopian young adult books where the endings are much more positive and hopeful. However, I wasn’t disappointed with the ending of the book and I wasn’t downcast from it either.