Once in an eon an author comes along whose books have such a significant impact on society that the concepts and particular turns of phrase assimilate into popular culture and psyche. Eventually they become such an intrinsic part of everyday conversation that the origin is forgotten. Shakespeare’s contributions to the English language are numerous, even people who have never read a book in their life can confidently quote a monologue or two (Albeit wrongly), if I were to say a novel was set in a “Dickensian” universe, images of a bleak and dismal neighborhood would flash through your head, with rampant squalor and poverty festering like a disease. A family of 10 huddled around a single candle, lamenting their abject state and the hunger that has gone unchecked for days, now.
The point of this long-winding intro was to build a big case for one of my favorite authors; George Orwell. Not that he needs a case built for him, If the last century has had an author as widely read and appreciated as Dickens or Shakespeare, Orwell would be it. Today the book I want to talk about is “1984”. If you are even remotely paranoid and suffer from the “impending doom” syndrome, this is the book for you. Sadly though, the Orwellian universe is much like the world we live in today. A lot about the dystopian future that Orwell predicted in 1949 has come to pass.
Big Brother is not only watching us; like a paranoid lover he has started keeping tabs on even our most intimate communications.
Our protagonist is Winston Smith, we follow him around as he goes about his day and realize with increasing horror how every aspect of his life is controlled by the interfering government. He never has cause to complain until he falls in love with Julia, aah young love! Sex is among the many things forbidden in this vile world so they meet in secret until they are caught. I don’t want to give the ending away except that it’s heart breaking and for a long time afterward you will feel like there’s a block of cement in your stomach.
!984 has become such a part of mainstream culture that everyone from the Apple computer’s iconic ‘1984’ ad to David Bowie’s wonderful song “1984” has used it.
Orwell was a student of psychology which came in quite handy during the writing of this book. For example, how Newspeak gave words like freedom and free thought negative connotations of ‘thought crime’, certain words that were detrimental to the designs of the powers that be, were phased out completely from the vocabulary. A people that have no words to form thoughts suffer a pretty huge handicap. Limit their vocabulary and you limit their capacity to think.
War is peace
Freedom is slavery
Ignorance is strength
We may scoff at these party slogans, but if we look around us at the world of today we’ll see some form of these slogans being used to subdue the masses in every country. What is war on terrorism if not waging war to create peace? What is the media promoting if not mass hysteria and mass ignorance?
My only issue with Orwell is that he is about as subtle as a sledge hammer. He drives his point home by hitting you with it like a ton of bricks. But, sometimes the masses need that kick in the rear to get their heads out of their asses.
If you enjoy this I recommend “Animal Farm” by the same author; a satirical critique of communism. If you are a Pink Floyd fan; their album ‘Animals’ was heavily influenced by this book. Also, “Brave new world” by Aldous Huxley, which has similar themes but a somewhat more hopeful ending, I like to think. 4.75 stars out of 5, which is really the highest ranking I’ve ever given.