Review: 1984, George Orwell

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September 26, 2017 by Cláudia

1984 is without a doubt the most compelling book I have ever read – it kept me engaged right until the end and there was not a dull moment in it. Its vivid descriptions transported me right into the plot and the scenarios were easy to imagine. The characters are in a way picturesque, almost all of them are associated with an unappealing or grotesque feature and a bland interchangeability but despite that, Winston, the main character, is at times endearing and always fascinating.

George Orwell managed to write the ultimate dystopia: what society in 1984 attempts is to eliminate Humanity. This society has become so acritical that the Party’s slogan is Was is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. and everyone seems to accept it as legitimate. Children denounce their own parents and crimethought, the most severe transgression, could be something as simple as desiring the opposite sex. Intelligence and critical thinking are battled as major evils to the Party’s purpose. Thinking by itself is crimethought. Caring about another human being is a crime as well and so is caring for yourself. You can only care for the Party. Everything is the Party and there is no one and nothing outside the Party. It is what totalitarianisms in History have aspired to but failed.

The desire of power has overthrown every other human instinct and emotion – there is no familial bond between parents and children nor between husband and wife. Sex is regulated to the point that it is no longer pleasurable nor desirable but a mere “duty to the Party”, facial expressions are monitored and analysed and language is modified so that each year there are fewer and fewer words as a means to limit the range of thoughts a mind can formulate.

There seems to be no overthrowing the Party: it is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent, especially as a new generation who is completely brainwashed to the Party’s ideals replaces an older one who knew life before the Revolution, and even they can only access fragmentary and unreliable memories. There is no knowledge outside the Party’s interests and the truth is manipulated accordingly by the ironically named Ministry of Truth. Oceania (the name of 1984‘s society) is not merely a dictatorship in the sense that people are being controlled by fear and repression. While this is also true, Oceania manages to actually control what people think and feel so that most people don’t want to have negative feelings towards the Party, don’t know that there could be a different reality and can’t actually think enough to realize that they are living in misery. Through fallacious and plainly incorrect information, a strong propaganda and an aversion to anything that can be pleasurable, emotional or intellectually stimulating, they manage to build a society in which no one is independent enough to want to rebel.

And yet, Winston offers a ray of hope in this grim scenario. Him, and what he represents could be the key to a more humane future, more driven by natural impulses and by connections between human beings. He has fragmentary memories of contradictory information and starts putting the pieces together and realizing that the Party is tampering with the information it releases to the public. Realizing the manipulation, he rebels against the status quo through seemingly inconsequential yet highly symbolically powerful actions, such as writing a diary and buying useless objects linked to the past. His rebellion is, nevertheless, fully internal, at least at this point. He has to keep his façade going if he wants to remain alive, and even so, he (and us) doubt he will continue to live a double life undetected indefinitely.

Everyone is monitored constantly – there are telescreens and microphones everywhere and even at home or in the bathroom one is being watched. He is leading a revolution but it is happening solely inside his mind. Even if other people feel the same way, he could never tell, except for small ambiguous signs. However, he mostly realizes that people are compliant.

We believe in Winston, and in others that will come after him, to make a Revolution because it is unbearable to think of Humanity reduced to this dehumanizing fate. It is too frightening that after so many centuries of evolution, progress and development in our thinking, we will end up forever in a loop of non-thought and all the population will believe that 2+2=5 if the Government says so. It is too frightening to conceive a society in which there are no human ties, individuality, creativity, debate, pleasure or ultimately happiness and no hope at none of them. Just a feverish servitude to the Party and no other emotion whatsoever. People being a mere means to an end and completely replaceable and interchangeable – all their heads are formatted with the same (few) ideas.

While reading it, I rejected the possibility of Humanity ending up in a world like that, but if it was actually impossible I wouldn’t likely have become so anxious while reading it. Truthfully, I believe that a strong manipulative power can convince uninformed masses to repeat the same ideas like parrots, no matter what those ideas are. There have always been counter-movements, dissidents, change in power, revolutions, however the level of control and manipulation of 1984 has never been experimented. It is so coherent and meticulous that I’d risk saying it would achieve similar results than those that Orwell has imagined. 

I guess what I meant to say was that I don’t want Humanity to come to this conclusion – because a future like 1984 would truly be the end of Humanity. I believe in our potential as a species and for this reason, I want to invite every single person in the world to read this book – because I believe we can grow to be the exact opposite of what it describes. 1984 is truly frightening but it is perhaps fulcral that we are frightened to see where we may end up if we want to change and avoid that future. It should make us think that the answer to our problems does not lie on more dehumanization, intolerance, control, greed or power but in the relationship with one another and with ourselves, in intelligent and stimulated minds, in creativity and in working together.



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