1984 is a classic that I somehow got through school without ever having to read, so I finally made up for it by reading it now.
I read Animal Farm (also by George Orwell) in December and noticed a lot of similar themes between the two. The books were written four years apart, which means 1984 was actually originally published in 1949 (after Animal Farm). I wonder if he really thought the world would become like the one he described in a mere 35 years? It reminds me of how as a kid I figured by the time I got married we’d be able to live on Mars. Ha! Not quite 🙂
For those who haven’t read either of Orwell’s books, they both describe dystopian societies, one with animals and one with humans. In 1984, we follow Winston Smith, who has more or less grown up with Big Brother, the Party, Newspeak, and doublethink as largely acceptable ideas. The world is constantly at war with itself among the three major powers – Oceania, Eastasia, and Eurasia. History is constantly rewritten to amend for anything that does not turn out as Big Brother predicted it would. All citizens are constantly monitored through telescreens where they receive instructions and noise throughout the day. Perhaps Mr. Orwell had a hatred for televisions, eh? It made me wonder. Either way – the telescreens are the main means through which the Party/Big Brother keeps control over Winston and the other denizens.
Of course, Winston decides to think for himself even though he knows the dangers of it. After all, this is an age where “Thought Police” is a literal group of soldier-like guards who go after those who commit “thoughtcrime”. If you haven’t figured it out yet, the book offers its own lexicon, and in doing so, it really does seem to transport you to a different, distant world entirely different from the one we know today. Winston ends up conspiring with Julia, who plays a relatively strong female lead considering the general misogyny with which Winston views women throughout the book.
It is a disturbing, thought-provoking, terrifying, and fascinating book. I am glad I read it when I did, and I appreciate Orwell’s imagination and style more than ever. Between his two novels, I would recommend 1984, but I definitely enjoyed reading them in the order I did. Animal Farm makes a great precursor to this novel, which dives even deeper into dystopia and takes you there too.
Rating: 3/5 stars
Stats: 322 pages
Recommended for: Those who favor post-apocalyptic/dystopian society novels.
Up Next: Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury