Jonathan's Reviews > Nineteen Eighty-Four

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
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Apr 18, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: 1001-books-to-read-before-you-die, classic-literature, personal-favourites, science-fiction, popularity-contest, dystopian, books-with-films
Read from April 18 to 26, 2012

"It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen."

It is with these words that the reader is introduced to the ludicrousness of this astounding novel. A highly visionary novel in which Eric Blaire, otherwise known by the pseudonym George Orwell, creates a disturbing picture of the future. Although one cannot approach this novel by perceiving that this is the world Orwell believed would pass. Rather his dystopian masterpiece serves to provide a warning to the generation of his time about truth, the lessons of history and current political movements like Russian Communism.

The premise of the novel is simple: by the year 1984, which may or may not literally be 1984, the world has been divided up into three major nations. There is Eurasia, Eastasia and Oceania. Oceania is where the novel spends the whole of its time. For in Oceania the one Party rules and Big Brother reigns. However under the idyllic peaceful life most people live one man in particular knows something is wrong. Because Big Brother watches everything and controls everything.

Orwell is not a subtle writer on the whole. He utilises a much rawer technique to convey his overall points. And the end result is both challenging, in some ways poetic and harrowing and bleak. Yet what is the difference between the dark interior of this novel and say: The Road? Beyond of course my preference for the style and tone adopted by Orwell.

I shall explain to you why I hold this work in high regard. I may not agree with all the philosophies inside the novel. But then I hold it as a practice to never fully accept any philosophy in any novel and to wholeheartedly disagree with many of them. But what makes this work a classic is the cultural and historical relevance it held and still holds today.

Many are more familiar with Animal Farm, a work which is in essence a watered down version of what Orwell attempted to convey through his work in 1984. You may be interested to hear that Orwell politically believed in socialism and yet he disagreed with the rising force of Russian Communism. He disliked Communism to the extent that he crafted several novels showing his dislike for those ideologies. Because Communism in thought and practice exist at two opposite ends of the spectrum. And it is this fact that Orwell explores in his novel here.

The figurative Party appears meant to reveal in many ways that Orwell believed Communism taken to its most extreme would create a police state. A world in which the original promises of equal rights and freedoms in a classless society is again reversed so that an endless war keeps the population in check. For the world of 1984 is a police state full of video screens watching all actions, manipulation of historical data to brainwash the masses, hate speeches to incite the anger of the masses against Party enemies and total elimination of anyone who commits the hated Thought Crime.

It is a cold and chilling vision and one which people can be forgiven for hating. After all how can you enjoy a novel full of such darkness? By learning the message which Orwell tries to tell us. An his message in this novel is in my opinion divided up into four parts.

1. The corruptive temptation of power: what appeared in Orwell's time as a good idea with Communism was in practice a Russian attempt to seize the world for itself. However in today's climate we can read this novel and try and think for ourselves in what way do our governments possess too much power. Should they have the right to decide the final verdict on contentious issues such as abortion, euthanasia, marriage and religion? After all all those who gain power are afraid to lose it and sadly much political manoeuvring is simply to keep politicians in their seats rather than for the good of the people.

2. The truth of history and what is truth: In the novel Smith, the protagonist, works at the Ministry of Truth reworking old documents to say what the Party wants history to say. In this way Orwell suggests that the Party controls the present by controlling the future. (view spoiler) A concept introduced in the novel is the idea of doublethink - the ability of one mind to hold two contradictory ideas and accept both. Orwell asks humanity to think about the ways in which we hold to contradictory sets of beliefs and accept both.

3. Control: The idea of the novel focuses a lot on how many freedoms we take for granted have been removed, how Thoughtcrime exists and how a new universal language - Newspeak - has been introduced. Orwell challenges the ideas of how we are controlled in life and how we control others around us. Does controlling truth enable us to control other people? Do we deliberately withhold truths to control others around us?

4. Who is the enemy? In Animal Farm the ending reveals who the true enemy is. As in Communism Orwell reveals how those who set out to defeat the previous enemy became the new enemy - the new tyrants themselves. His overall challenge is the same yet again in 1984. He prompts us to think about whether we will in the end become our own enemy if we continue down the paths we tread. If our methods of controlling life will eventually kill what makes life worth living.

George Orwell's work is not a pretty romantic one. It is gritty and dark and hopelessly realistic. That is when observed from the point of view that Orwell was observing that if humanity continued down its current trends it would enslave itself and accept that "WAR IS PEACE". And if this work is read while recalling that it was written at the end of 1949 in an age when Communism was a political threat to peace it makes sense as to why it was written. And further more therefore as an insightful piece of work 1984 stands above many other texts. For it is a true classic, a work relevant to both the historical post-war period and our future.
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Quotes Jonathan Liked

George Orwell
“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”
George Orwell, 1984

Reading Progress

04/19/2012 page 17
4.0% "I'm really enjoying the quality of the writing. George Orwell's a fine author."
04/20/2012 page 80
20.0% "I like what I see..."
05/26/2016 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-18 of 18) (18 new)

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The Pirate Ghost (Formerly known as the Curmudgeon) That's a very Erudite Review/look at things. Good Review!

message 2: by Jonathan (last edited Apr 26, 2012 07:36AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jonathan Mix my normally vibrant and energetic persona with the exercise of writing university essays. Then after a violent reaction or two you end up with this kind of review.

And thanks very much Hugh.

The Pirate Ghost (Formerly known as the Curmudgeon) Well, you've seen my review right? I blame it on the book. It was good, but, egad, I felt like winston smith when I was done reading it.

Jonathan That's the thing isn't it though. Orwell wants to shock you and leave you questioning. I'm finding the same thing with the graphic novel Watchmen. Only because it is a graphic novel it has a different impact in that way.

The Pirate Ghost (Formerly known as the Curmudgeon) Yes, and, I have come to believe that one of the themes that help understanding 1984 and the way it ended up is tied to Orwell's participation in the Spanish Revolution. Spain recently made available a lot of documents from that era. There are still very vocal arguments about what happened and who the bad guys were.

Jonathan I think too you must look at his other works. I mean as I noted (view spoiler) it really taps into the ideas of how we can become just like the very evil we were attempting to destroy which I find a fascinating idea in any literature.

midnightfaerie nice review. didn't know that about muse...will have to check that out after i read it again...i'll probably do it old review is only a memory of what i remember from high school. i have a feeling i'll feel much differently about the book now. thanks for the review.

Jonathan Well it is a book that deliberately aims to be depressing but there was something about the ideas and the message that Orwell had to convey that struck me...

Mike (the Paladin) Have you read Brave New World? I think if you haven't you also find it interesting.

☯Emily has Yuge protest on Saturday I'm currently reading Little Brother, which is a modern look at 1984. If you haven't yet read it, I suggest you get a copy and let me know what you think.

midnightfaerie thanks for the recommendation emily!

Jonathan Yeah I read Brave New World recently and loved it.
I'll have to look at Little Brother now then!

message 13: by Gail (new)

Gail O'carroll One of the most frightening books I have ever read. Loved it. Fabulous imagination.

MarrieAnne a really good review! :)

Jonathan Gail wrote: "One of the most frightening books I have ever read. Loved it. Fabulous imagination."

Isn't it just?

MarrieAnne wrote: "a really good review! :)"

Thank you MarrieAnne, I hope you liked/like the book!

message 16: by Henry (new) - added it

Henry Avila Terrific review Jonathan.So many things to think about.This novel should by read by everyone....

Jonathan Henry wrote: "Terrific review Jonathan.So many things to think about.This novel should by read by everyone...."

Definitely should be required reading!

Thurston great review....we are already in perpetual AL QUEDA or ISIS or ISIL or ERUASIA EASTASIA.....

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