So, I recently finished “1984”, by George Orwell. It went right on my “favs” shelf and I would glue it there if I wasn’t against book abuse. I didn’t know much about the plot, I just knew that both my parents have read it, that it ‘s a classic and that it’s considered one of the most prophetic books ever written. So, I knew I had to read it. I mean, every book that manages to remain a top book among bookworms (and not just them) for almost 60 years is worth giving a try, right? Let me say something from the start though. If you don’t have the slightest interest in politics, history and society evolution, this is not the book for you. But for that matter, if that’s the case, I think you will find Orwell boring altogether.
The book was written in 1948 and describes the life of a London citizen in 1984, when the political and social rules have changed radically. It’s very important to keep in mind that, at the time written, the book talked about a world that would exist 36 years ahead. I ‘ve read reviews of people who described the book as stupid and inaccurate because the year 1984 was not as described in the book. I’m amazed that those people even finished the book, but I’ll let it pass, even if I can hear Mr. Orwell crying from his grave.
OK, back to the book. The world described in the book is the world we live in. It’s just divided in three great nations, the superstates: Oceania, Eastasia and Eurasia, which are in constant war with each other. London is a city of Oceania. There lives his average, ordinary life, Winston Smith. Describing his everyday life, Orwell paints a picture of a society were people are brainwashed 24/7, controlled by the “Big Brother” through their telescreens and the Thought Police. Where information and history are constantly being changed by the Party, so as to keep control of the people. Where everyone eats the same food, wears the same clothes, drinks gin on a daily basis and has a certain amount of chocolate, as recommended b the Party. Where kids tell on their parents and are proud to be members of the Thought Police.
!!!SPOILER ALERT!!!And then, there is a light of hope, when Winston starts thinking that maybe there is another way of living. A way where you can love and have dreams and fears and hopes. And he finds a haven and a companion in this realization. And he can actually feel the change, he can actually feel the happiness building inside of him. And the reader thinks that maybe there will always be someone trying to fight the evil in the world, there will always be hope and there will always be a change for the best. But Orwell has predicted that too. And no. Just when you think that maybe there’s a hopeful ending, with an entire secret organization trying to defeat Big Brother, Orwell reveals that it’s all just a lie. It’s not possible to destroy Big Brother and there never was hope. It was all part of the plan to “reset” Winston. And with Winston’s hope, dies yours too. SOILER ENDS HERE
What really struck me was that I recognized many situations as (very) advanced variations of situations nowadays. Reading the book, one can almost see the path we are walking on leads somewhere near the world described by Orwell. Controlled press and media (“…and then, the chosen lie would pas into the permanent records and become truth”), manipulation of the masses, bringing the common mind in a stagnant state, more interested in football and lottery than political changes, hunger, diseases, wars (“Heavy physical work, the care of home and children, petty quarrels with neighbors, films, football, beer, and above all, gambling, filled up the horizon…”). It struck me from the first pages, so much that I stopped reading it for a few months. It’s not a light read and someone has to be in the mood for reading it. It’s not a beach book, it’s not a lift-me-up book, it’s not a “let-me forget-about-reality” book. It’s a book that will torment you for days and months. It’s a book that will make you question the way the world works. It’s a book that will make you wonder if your opinion is really yours. If you get it, it gets you. Enjoy!
Some other quotes I noted:
“They could be made to accept the most fragrant violations of reality, because they never fully grasped the enormity of what was demanded of them, and were not sufficiently interested in public events to notice what was happening. By lack of understanding, they remained sane. They simply swallowed everything, and what they swallowed did them no harm, because it left no residue behind, just as a grain of corn will pass undigested through the body of a bird.”
“In the long run, a hierarchical society was only possible on a basis of poverty and ignorance.”
“There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad.”
“Sanity is not statistical.”