George Orwell saw the oppression of colonialism when he lived in India, and the horror of the Spanish Civil War. Then he...more "BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU"
George Orwell saw the oppression of colonialism when he lived in India, and the horror of the Spanish Civil War. Then he witnessed the totalitarian regimes of Hitler and Stalin. This inspired him to write Nineteen Eighty-Four about a totalitarian state that uses surveillance, mind control, perpetual war, rationing, persecution of independent thinking, and changes in the records of the past to control the people under its power.
Written in 1948, Orwell's vision of the future in 1984 is an Oceanic police state called Ingsoc which is ruled by Big Brother and the Inner Party. The Outer Party carries out tasks involving propaganda, revising history, creating the language of Newspeak which removes words associated with rebellion and the past, organizing Hate Week, and constant surveillance. The proles are the lowest class who are kept undernourished, uneducated, and do the menial jobs.
Winston Smith, an Outer Party member, works in the Ministry of Truth where his job is to revise history. If the past looks like a time of misery and trouble, then the present time under the Party's control looks like an improvement. When Winston rewrites the past to make the Party always look good, he also totally eliminates troublesome people from the records as if they had never been born (unpersons). If the Party tells the people the revised past over and over again through propaganda, it eventually seems like the truth. A party slogan is, "Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."
A forbidden love relationship develops between Winston and Julia. Julia rebels against the Party for sexual pleasure. Winston is an intellectual, and believes in the freedom of the individual. His thoughts give the reader insight into how the Party establishes control over society. But their rebellions against the Party come with a high personal cost when they are captured by the Thought Police.
Orwell created a disturbing vision of the future, and many of his ideas have been seen in governments both before and after the book was published. He was also concerned about how technology would be used in surveillance of individuals. Orwell was brilliant in analyzing the many ways that the state can manipulate individuals and take away their freedoms. ___________________________________________
I visited the Peabody-Essex Museum in Massachusetts a few years ago. They have a Chinese house from the Mao regime in China. There was a loudspeaker at the house which blared propaganda all day long, and the villagers were not allowed to turn it off. It reminded me of the constant propaganda coming from the telescreens in this book.
This morality tale, set in an English abbey, is about the abuse of power. Muriel Sparks wrote this in 1973 to satire American politics during the Wate...moreThis morality tale, set in an English abbey, is about the abuse of power. Muriel Sparks wrote this in 1973 to satire American politics during the Watergate scandal. Events in the abbey include electronic surveillance, the fight for power in the abbey, trying to control the press after a burglery, and manipulation of other people. Machiavelli is quoted several times as Sister Alexandra discusses strategy, hoping to win the election of abbess. Sister Alexandra has a cool, entitled sense of superiority which contrasts with the unawareness of the less powerful nuns. Sister Gertrude, in her Kissinger role, is promoting peaceful solutions for problems around the globe while the Abbey is a hotbed of scandal and trouble. It was interesting to reach back around forty years to the Nixon administration, and draw parallels between the literary characters in the abbey and the politicians in Washington.(less)
Anna Wulf, the author of one successful novel, lives in London with her daughter. Anna keeps four separate notebooks. In her black notebook, she write...moreAnna Wulf, the author of one successful novel, lives in London with her daughter. Anna keeps four separate notebooks. In her black notebook, she writes about her African experiences during the days of colonial rule. In a red notebook, she writes about her involvement and later disillusionment with communism, and her concern about world politics. She has a yellow notebook where she writes her ideas for new stories, and where she also writes a fictionalized account of her own life. Her blue notebook is more of a diary, and contains the account of her many problems with men. The four notebooks are all framed by a novel called "Free Women." Anna seems to be viewing herself in different ways to get an integrated look at herself. At the end, in a final golden notebook, she is showing how pressures, guilt, and self-loathing brought her to an emotional and mental breakdown.
The novel was bleak and repetitive in places. It also was thought-provoking with its ideas about Africa, global politics, psychoanalysis, and the relationships between men and women. At its publication time of 1962, it probably was a bit unusual with Anna often writing frankly about sex and sexual problems, mostly with married men. After years in psychoanalysis, Anna is able to describe the encounters and the men in psychoanalytic terms, and she repeatedly sets herself up for disappointment. Perhaps, it's also the influence of analysis that makes Anna compartmentalize her life into the four notebooks, and then integrate her life into one golden notebook as she breaks down. Although the book was depressing in some parts, it did have its memorable moments and it was interesting to read a book with such an unusual structure.(less)
The ineqality of women in some parts of the world is just staggering. Young girls are sold or kidnapped, and brought to brothels as sex slaves, often...moreThe ineqality of women in some parts of the world is just staggering. Young girls are sold or kidnapped, and brought to brothels as sex slaves, often exposing them to AIDS. Maternal health care is lacking in many areas resulting in internal injuries such as fistulas, and often death. There is little or no education for girls in some countries. Women are raped--and then they are beaten or killed for dishonoring their family.
The authors tell the stories of actual people who have undergone these unfortunate events. The women's courage and resilience is inspiring. They also tell about organizations and individuals helping women with clinics, schools, rescues, cultural education, job training, and microfinance operations. Grassroots efforts against female genital mutilation is helping. Iodizing salt is helping to prevent mental retardation. Television is bringing new ideas into isolated villages showing that the modern way is for women to hold jobs, be able to come and go freely, and be treated better. Statistics are also given in the book--and the number of women subjected to horrible situations is shocking.
This is a well-researched book by two Pulitzer Prize winning journalists. It will open the eyes of the reader to the injustices done to women in developing countries.(less)
Eighteen Acres tells the story about three women in important positions in Washington D.C. that are trying to balance their demanding careers with the...moreEighteen Acres tells the story about three women in important positions in Washington D.C. that are trying to balance their demanding careers with their personal life. Charlotte Kramer is the first female president of the United States, but her marriage is falling apart. Melanie Kingston has served as the White House chief of staff for several presidents. Dale Smith is at the top of her game as a White House correspondant.
The author paints a very believable picture of the pressures inside the White House and the life of the reporters. Dale's career is damaged after news about an affair hits the headlines. Melanie becomes overwhelmed by the workload and dealing with the politics among the campaign staff. President Kramer has to deal with a wandering husband, an attempt on her life overseas, a questionable call from her Secretary of Defense, and choosing a feisty woman for the vice presidential candidate for the campaign. Some of Charlotte Kramer's decisions didn't seem like they would work in the real world.
Overall, this was an enjoyable book that kept my interest and I was happy to recieive it as a first read. (less)
When William Dodd was appointed ambassador to Germany in 1933, he brought his wife and two adult children with him to Berlin. The book centers around...moreWhen William Dodd was appointed ambassador to Germany in 1933, he brought his wife and two adult children with him to Berlin. The book centers around Dodd, a history professor, and his daughter, Martha. Martha is naive, and uses very poor judgment as she parties and has sexual liasons with various Nazis as well as a Communist Soviet diplomat. Dodd gets increasingly horrified as Hitler gets more violent, arms the country and trains soldiers. But the State Department seems more concerned with Germany repaying its debts than Nazi violence. It's both fascinating and terrifying to read in detail how Hitler gained total power over the country. Anyone who got in his way was eliminated, and the German people--especially the Jews--were left in a state of paranoia and terror. While painstakingly researched historically, Larson also includes interesting and colorful observations from Dodd's and Martha's personal diaries to make it a very readable book.(less)
Upton Sinclair's The Jungle shows the plight of poor immigrant workers and the problems of industrialization. Jurgis Rudkus, a strong young Lithuanian...moreUpton Sinclair's The Jungle shows the plight of poor immigrant workers and the problems of industrialization. Jurgis Rudkus, a strong young Lithuanian, and his extended family came to Chicago in the early 1900s expecting good wages and opportunity. Instead of the American Dream, they found poverty and terrible working conditions, causing many to die. The meatpacking plants and the factories were run by corrupt owners who underpaid the workers and exposed them to unhealthy conditions. After many tragic events, Jurgis hears a Socialist speaker and feels that Socialism will be a solution to their problems.
The author had worked undercover at a Chicago meatpacking plant in 1904. Although Sinclair had written the book to build support for the Socialist movement and show the harsh treatment of the workers, it was the depiction of the meatpacking plant that shocked the public. This led to the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, and established the Bureau of Chemistry which became the Food and Drug Administration in 1930. The details of the meatpacking process were so revolting that I would not eat sausage for years after reading this book the first time in high school. The book is still topical today as we read about E. coli in our beef, pink slime additives to our ground meat, and other things tainting our food supply.
This book was very effective because it portrayed a hardworking family that could barely stay alive. They were ground down both physically and emotionally, with some of them turning to unsavory ways to get enough money to buy food. Sinclair's graphic descriptions were important in alerting the public to the problems of industrialization.(less)