David Lentz's Reviews > 1984

1984 by George Orwell
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Jun 20, 11


came to 1984 after reading a series of novels by Russian authors about life in Stalingrad during the onslaught by Hitler and then after the cruelty of Stalin. It's easy to see how Orwell extended the grim realities of the concentration camps of Germany and the labor camps of Russia into this dark prophecy. Of course, in many instances his vision has become realized. Big Brother seeks to invade our privacy at every turn via electronic media. Governments pose rhetoric immersed in "doublespeak". The Thought Police exist to bully our free expression. Power is exercised by imposing real human suffering upon multitudes. "The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labour. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent." Oil comes to mind here. And munitions. And diverse other commodities. In 1984 the war is endless. "Everywhere there is the same pyramidical structure, the same worship of a semi-divine leader, the same economy existing by and for continuous war." Sound familiar? The High, or the "priests of power" only fall when assaulted by the Middle and usually assisted by the Low classes. Then the Middle becomes the High and oppresses the Low for which change only means a new master. The protagonist, Winston, a "minority of one" questions his own sanity but ultimately defends the "spirit of man" as a force which cannot be overpowered. In the closing pages we see Orwell's true convictions about the infallible power of Big Brother and the triumph of the human spirit. This dark view has real overtones of Nietzsche and Machiavelli, who wrote with the view of realism based upon the inhumanity they witnessed in their heydays by "princes" with the "will to power". But the "spirit of man" is truly formidable and cannot be overcome, except temporarily, by totalitarian figures and corrupt democracies. The next US national election will be telling about down which road America will travel. 1984 is a cautionary, post-World War II tale but to say it's unrealistically dark and couldn't happen here and now is to overlook eons of history. And to be unconscious of the powers of orthodoxy infringing greedily and corporately upon the spirit of man in our time.
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