Book Review of “1984” by George Orwell
One can say that dystopias, particularly the ones in the political vein, have never been more topical in this day and age. A good part of the things that some writers fantasized in their books have come dangerously close to becoming a reality and the society we live in is steadily turning in the arch-enemy it was portrayed to be in these works.
Obviously, there is no shortage of dystopian novels. However, it is difficult – if not next to impossible – to top the one that mastered the genre and made us all muse, even for a fleeting moment, at the possibility of such atrocities becoming everyday life: 1984 by George Orwell.
What’s It About?
With the risk of waxing poetical, we daresay that Orwell’s 1984 is at once about the present, past and future. The reader won’t help but draw immediate parallels between the prison-like reality enclosed between the pages of the book and his/her own.
In 1984, the war-torn world has been restructured into 3 mega-states and Britain, where the story takes place, was renamed Airstrip One and became a part of Oceania, one of the said mega-states.
The world is ruled with an iron fist and individualism is destroyed instantaneously. The people are watched constantly (Big Brother – sounds familiar?), history is constantly rewritten in order to be in line with the desires of those who rule over society and even creativity, individual thoughts and sex are against the law.
Winston Smith, a clerk that works at the Ministry of Truth (which is anything but the truth, of course), starts having adverse thoughts and fantasizes about rebellion. He writes his dreams of overthrowing Big Brother in a diary he buys from a Mr. Charrington. Soon enough, he falls in love with a colleague, Julia, even though they both face destruction should Big Brother get wind of their affair, on account of the fact that in this world, sex is used solely for procreation.
The two of them are introduced and sworn into the Brotherhood, an underground movement of resistance; O’Brien, Smith’s superior is apparently a member of this movement. Things, as you might expect, go south really, really quickly, in the sense that both O’Brien and the innocuous-looking Charrington are masquerading as rebellious when they are, in fact, extremely loyal to the party.
Both Winston and Julia are tortured and turned against each other and the torture is meant to “cure” them of all the rebellious thoughts they had. At first, Winston is reluctant to betray his lover, but O’Brien makes him face his own fears in the proverbial Room 101: O’Brien fits a cage with rats on his head. Terrified by the prospect of being devoured alive and on the brink of madness, Winston betrays Julia.
When Julia and Winston are released into society, they realize that their love for each other has faded away and was replaced by a tremendous love for the Party and Big Brother. Even though O’Brien hints that Winston will be executed after a short while after being released, the novel ends with the latter sitting in a café and loving Big Brother.
Is It Worth Reading?
Few books manage to get so deep under one’s skin as George Orwell’s 1984. It’s fiction, yes, but it has this quality about it that makes you think instantaneously that we are all on the brink of living in a world that resembles the one in the novel at every single level possible.
If you haven’t read it yet, 1984 is an amazing read and truly one of those books that everyone should read at least once in their lives.