Marty's Reviews > 1984
by George Orwell, Erich Fromm
by George Orwell, Erich Fromm
This is one of those books that I had always meant to read, but never got around to. Finally, one of my college classes required it, so I was happy to pick it up, though not without some reserved skepticism beforehand. I knew it was one of those books that is constantly referred to by people who are paranoid about government and distrust everything the government does, which wouldn't really describe me, in general. But, I have to admit that Orwell's writing is masterful. Right from the start, the world he presents is mesmerizing. I think I am safe in saying that in the first third of the book, almost nothing happens. Yet, I can also say that the first third of the book was just as interesting as any of the action that comes later. Every detail, every description, every movement is analyzed in the most fascinating way. Orwell is no idiot. He has that very rare ability of few great authors to show the workings of the inner mind of man in such a true and believable way that you very well believe that he could look at you and know what you are thinking. After the first third of the book, when the story actually progresses, it gets exciting almost in the way that a thriller does. You keep on wondering what move will be next and how the character is going to strategize the demise of the enemy. Then the last third of the book is a devastating, but still masterful analysis of the human mind, free will, and reality. At almost every stage, Orwell presents his ideas with a written clarity that is a language all in its own. In spite of this whole experience and my recognition at how skillful the writing and analysis was, I cannot say that I liked the book, or even if I would recommend it. The main reason for this is that I believe Orwell cheated at the end. The protagonist was putting up a fight against the machine, and in spite of its all-powerful, seemingly omnipotent status, he held off. Now, Orwell had two options. The protagonist either would capitulate under the increasingly intelligent pressure put on by the oppressor, or he would outlast and maintain his own free will to the end. I think that the ending Orwell chose was contrived, and what he did to get the protagonist there was unbelievable. Maybe it's my own principles or feelings, but I suspect that if Orwell had done it well enough, I would have at least respected his approach. But as it is now, I had to shake my head and say to myself: No. That's not true to human nature. I don't buy that. And what's worse, I felt that Orwell must have known that himself. His writing was too brilliant before, too logical, too well-reasoned. The person who wrote all of that can't possibly believe in this moment either. So, I suspect, that in order to get the ending that he wanted, he contrived the tipping point and then returned to his brilliant form to bring the story to its conclusion. One misstep is a harsh way to judge a truly exemplar book, but I believe that it was a key moment and it unravels all the true elements Orwell had so carefully set up before. Overall, however, it would be difficult to say to not read the book, because this type of writing and insight is difficult to come by. So if you are looking for a meaty intellectual treat, read it. But don't let him cheat you in the end.
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