Lyndsey's Reviews > 1984

1984 by George Orwell
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YOU. ARE. THE. DEAD. Oh my God. I got the chills so many times toward the end of this book. It completely blew my mind. It managed to surpass my high expectations AND be nothing at all like I expected. Or in Newspeak "Double Plus Good."

Let me preface this with an apology. If I sound stunningly inarticulate at times in this review, I can't help it. My mind is completely fried.

This book is like the dystopian Lord of the Rings, with its richly developed culture and economics, not to mention a fully developed language called Newspeak, or rather more of the anti-language, whose purpose is to limit speech and understanding instead of to enhance and expand it. The world-building is so fully fleshed out and spine-tinglingly terrifying that it's almost as if George travelled to such a place, escaped from it, and then just wrote it all down.

I read Fahrenheit 451 over ten years ago in my early teens. At the time, I remember really wanting to read 1984, although I never managed to get my hands on it. I'm almost glad I didn't. Though I would not have admitted it at the time, it would have gone over my head. Or at the very least, I wouldn't have been able to appreciate it fully.

From the start, the author manages to articulate so many of the things I have thought about but have never been able to find a way to put into words. Even in the first few chapters I found myself having to stop just to quietly consider the words of Mr Orwell.

For instance, he talks about how the act of writing itself is a type of time travel. It is communicating with the future. I write these words now, but others may not discover them for hours, weeks, or even years. For me, it is one time. For you the reader, it is an entirely different one.

Just the thought that reading and writing could one day be outlawed just shivers my timbers. I related to Winston so much in that way. I would have found a way to read or write.

The politics and psychology of this novel run deep. The society in the book has no written laws, but many acts are punishable by death. The slogan of the Party (War is Peace...) is entirely convoluted. Individuality is frowned upon and could lead to being labeled a traitor to the Party.

I also remember always wondering why the title was 1984. I was familiar with the concept of Big Brother and wondered why that wasn't the name of the book. In the story, they don't actually know what year it is because so much of the past has been erased by the Ministry of Truth. It could very easily have been 1981. I think that makes the title more powerful. Something as simple as the year or date is unknown to these people. They have to believe it is whatever day that they are told it is. They don't have the right to keep track. Knowledge is powerful. Knowledge is necessary. But according to Big Brother. Ignorance is strength.

1984 is written in past tense and has long paragraphs of exposition, recounting events, and explaining the society. These are usually things that distance me from a book and from the characters, but Orwell managed to keep me fully enthralled. He frequently talks in circles and ideas are often repeated but it is still intriguing, none the less. I must admit that I zoned out a bit while Winston was reading from The Book, but I was very fascinated by the culture.

Sometimes it seems as though the only way to really experience a characters emotions is through first person. This is not the case with this book, as it is written in third person; yet, I never failed to be encompassed in Winston's feelings. George manages to ensure that the reader never feels disconnected from the events that are unfolding around them, with the exception of the beginning when Winston is just starting to become awakened. I developed a strong attachment to Winston and thrived on living inside his mind. I became a member of the Thought Police, hearing everything, feeling everything and last but not least, (what the Thought Police are not allowed to do) questioning everything.

I wasn't expecting a love story in this book, but the relationship between Julia and Winston was truly profound. I enjoyed it even more than I would have expected and thought the moments between them were beautiful. I wasn't sure whether he was going to eventually betray Julia to the Party or not, but I certainly teared up often when it came to their relationship.

George has an uncanny ability to get to the base of the human psyche, at times suggesting that we need to be at war for many different reasons, whether it's at war with ourselves or with others. That is one thing I have never understood: why humans feel the need to destroy and control each other.

It seems that the main and recurring message in this book is about censorship and brainwashing. One, censorship, is limited and little exposure to ideas of the world; the other, brainwashing, is forced and too much exposure to a certain ideas. Both can be extremely dangerous.

Inside the ministry of Truth, he demonstrates the dangers of censorship by showing how the Party has completely rewritten the past by forging and abolishing documents and physical evidence. We also spend quite a bit of time with Winston in the Ministry of Love, where the brainwashing takes place. Those who commit thoughtcrime are tortured until they grow to love and obey Big Brother and serve only the interests of the Party.

A common theme occurred to me throughout the book, although it wasn't necessarily referenced consistently. The good of the many is more important than the good of the one. There are so many variables when it comes to this statement and for the most part it seems natural to say, "Of course, the many is more important than the one", but when inside Winston's head, all that I began to care about was his well-being and not if he was able to help disband or conquer the Party and Big Brother. I just wanted him to be at peace.

Whether or not the good of all is more important than that of the one, I can't answer. I think most people feel their own happiness is more important than the rest of the world's, and maybe that's part of the problem but it's also human nature. I only wish we could all accept one other regardless of belief and culture and not try to force ways of life onto other people. Maybe I'm naive for thinking that way, but so be it.

I almost don't know what to think about this book. I'm not even sure my brain still works, or if it ever worked right at all. This book has a way of making you think you know exactly what you believe about everything and then turning you completely upside down and making you question whether or not you believe anything at all about anything. It's the strangest thing. Hmmm. Doublethink? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

Everything about this book is captivating. It's groundbreaking yet at the same time, purely classic. Ahead of its time, yet timeless. From Big Brother to the Thought Police, I was hooked and wanted to know more about it all.

Basically, I think everyone should read 1984 at some point. You really have to be in the mood to work at reading it, though. But it's all worth it in the end. It's absolutely incredible and I loved it. I don't re-read many books but this will definitely be one of them. It is a hard read, but more importantly, it is a MUST read.
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Quotes Lyndsey Liked

George Orwell
“He wondered vaguely whether in the abolished past it had been a normal experience to lie in bed like this, in the cool of a summer evening, a man and a woman with no clothes on, making love when they chose, talking of what they chose, not feeling any compulsion to get up, simply lying there and listening to peaceful sounds outside. Surely there could never have been a time when that seemed ordinary?”
George Orwell, 1984

Reading Progress

January 6, 2011 – Started Reading
January 6, 2011 – Shelved
January 6, 2011 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-40 of 40 (40 new)

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message 1: by Flannery (new) - added it

Flannery For me, it is one time. For you the reader, it is an entirely different one.

I just lost five minutes of my life reading this review. Juuuust kidding. Seriously awesome review,Lyndsey. This is one of those classics that I am always meaning to read (have had it collecting dust for years now) and just never do it.I can't keep up with all of the recs from people! You'll be happy to know that I got Genesis from the library today. Hopefully I'll finish it soon:-) I mean it, though, your review is lovely.

Lyndsey Thank you! I had been meaning to read this FOREVER. I had it on such a high pedestal and was afraid it could never live up to my expectations. I'm glad I waited until I was ready, though. It was a lot of work.

Ahhhhhhh! Genesis! It's crazy! Can't wait to see what you think. That book made me want to bang my head against the wall. But in a good way!

Heather I just re-read my own review, and saw that I liked the first half more than the second - but I don't remember them! - Does that make sense to you? Were the two halves distinct in some way?

Lyndsey Yeah definitely. The last half contained the Book, which was basically a purely political and exlanational tool, and also the appendix, both of which I skimmed over. It could have been edited a bit in that regard, but I think it almost gave it more depth and made it more realistic as well.

Heather Wow, I really do not remember that!! Ha. Glad you liked it so much, though!

Lyndsey Yeah but I'm a sucker for ANYTHING dystopia and this is like the end-all-be-all original dystopia. Where do I go from here?!?! Ahhhhhhhh. (why is it that when I type "ahhhhhhhh" my autocorrect thinks I'm trying to type "shunning"? Is it just me or are those two words nothing alike?)

Heather HA. Shunning doesn't even have two Hs and H and N are not too near each other on the keyboard!

Yeah, that is definitely the biggie. And you're done w/Hunger Games, too, which I feel like could be its modern rival. Hey, I think there's a Dystopia list on Listmania! - Maybe you can get some ideas there.

message 8: by Justin (new)

Justin Nice review. 1984 is one of my all-time favorites. Since dystopias are in, now (especially in YA lit), I routinely recommend it as required reading along with two other favorites of mine: Fahrenheit 451 by Bradbury, and Brave New World by Huxley. That's the holy trinity of awesome, blow-your-mind dystopian fiction.

message 9: by Lyndsey (last edited Jan 11, 2011 06:33PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lyndsey I love Bradbury. He's has an amazing knack for combining literary and science fiction elements. Brave New World is another I've been looking forward to reading.

message 10: by Jessica (new) - added it

Jessica If I had any doubt in my mind to read this book, it has completely vanished!

Lyndsey Thank you Jessica! EVERYONE should read this at some point. It can definitely be a chore at times but it is very much worth it.

message 12: by Kim (new)

Kim I have a love/hate thing going on with this book. I think I tried reading this at least 8 times already. I read a few chapters and then suddenly 6 weeks have passed.

Lyndsey Yeah, it was difficult to get into at first. I actually listened to the audio book for the first few chapters and then once I was invested I picked up the book. That made it easier for me. I do that with long-winded books. It's helps to get things moving and then once I'm addicted, I read like a maniac.

Corvinus Maximilus I am the "1984 scourge" weeks after I read this book I forced it on all of my friends...on hard copy and soft copy. Absolutely brilliant book.

message 15: by Jon (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jon "At the time, I remember really wanting to read 1984, although I never managed to get my hands on it. I'm almost glad I didn't. Though I would not have admitted it at the time, it would have gone over my head. Or at the very least, I wouldn't have been able to appreciate it fully." -- absolutely. if anyone's read it at any age under 22, they should look into it again.

message 16: by Michelle (new) - added it

Michelle Fantastic review! I can't wait to read this :)

message 17: by Fede (new) - rated it 5 stars

Fede I Love your review of 1984. It's ARCI PIu' BUONA (the italian equivalent of double plus good (: ). I'm following you and this is why I asked for your friendship. Feel free not to accept it. However it would be great for me to receive tips and suggestions from you,and I'm also looking forward for a english-speaking pen friend. Have a nice week end...bye :) Hugs from Italy

John Walters One of those extremely rare books that has left a profound and indelible (I hope!) impression on how I understand and evaluate the workings of the society around me. It has helped me to have a greater sense of the sheer potential that humanity has for political madness and collective folly. Definitely a book that I not only greatly enjoyed reading, despite it's weighty and depressing subject matter (or perhaps partly because of it?), but one which I am highly grateful to have to have established a meaningful and coherent 'inner dialogue' with. That may sound pretentious but that is just how I feel about this book.
Unfortunately, as I'm sure all you other posters realise only too well, so many of Orwell's concerns and themes explored in 1984 are becoming increasingly prescient to the economic and political direction our world overwhelmingly appears to be heading in. Sorry to ramble, this is my first post and I just love this book!

Cathi great review. this book was riveting! I wish winston had not succumbed to big brother at the end of his life, but the horrific pain & pressure broke his beautiful spirit...and the lovely julia's.

message 20: by Steven (new)

Steven Gabaldon "YOU. ARE. THE. DEAD." Left me with chills too....

Don Incognito What is the richly developed culture and economics of Middle-earth like? I don't remember seeing that when I read Lord of the Rings.

message 22: by Nga (last edited Jun 19, 2014 06:13PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nga Dao Quynh Thanks a lot Lyndsey! Your review clarified a lot to me as I was not able to find words to write down. I read 1984 at 19 years old and I'm certain that I will re-read it : D

message 23: by Ultimate (new)

Ultimate YA If you liked this book you may enjoy other Dystopian novels! Ultimate YA did a dystopian themed issue in april! Here's a link to the issue if you're interested! Subscribe for more!

L.d.berry Try 'The Handmaid's Tale' by Margaret Atwood. Equally good and scary.

message 25: by John (new) - rated it 5 stars

John Hennessy That line you quote 'You are the dead' is probably the scariest line in the book. Along with 'You do not exist.' Holy crap.

Saumitra Vaidya spoiler alerts *****

Thurston i just finished this MUST read. It should be mandatory reading prior to voting : )
completely awestruck by this book ...great review!

Alyssa I had to reread the phrase "you are the dead" a few times before it sank in. I think my heart dropped.

Shine Sebastian Fantastic review for a great masterpiece!

message 30: by Lynn (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lynn Great review! I just finished re-reading this. I first read it in HS- too many years ago. I have a whole new perspective on it.
Regarding why 1984, my husband thinks that since it was written in 1948, Orwell just reversed the last two numbers of the year. His guess is as good as any.

message 31: by Renee (new)

Renee Fuller Yes he did reverse the year to name it.

Avery H. ‘He loved big brother’ might be the scariest line

Nowroze Farhan I found the last part ( part 3) of the book most thrilling, fast paced and haunting.
The first 2 parts were somewhat slow and things seemed not happening. But the part! Oh my!

Robert Cruthirds I first read this as a teenager, and have read it at least 2 times since. It may be the greatest English language novel of the 20th century. Along with Huxley's "Brave New World," Orwell foresaw so many of the political and cultural difficulties in a post-industrial, information society. I also read "The Handmaid's Tale" 2 months ago in Jan 2019, but while an interesting read, is no masterpiece like 1984.

Unagna You totally say it: it's a book in third person and it seems written in first person. And that's very Big-brotherly, to know what someone else is thinking.

Ciaran Macdonald For me, it is the love story and closing act (so frightening and powerfully delivered) components of this breathtaking novel that resonate with me still, many years later. The downside to reading great novels like this is that they raise the bar too high for other novels and I find myself seeking great stories and being disappointed time and time again 🙄

Anjum "That is one thing I have never understood: why humans feel the need to destroy and control each other."

I think this is one of many thoughts that enraged me and at the same time brought tears to my eyes.

"I only wish we could all accept one other regardless of belief and culture and not try to force ways of life onto other people."

I completely agree. Having just finished it, I feel the need to give a big hug to all my loved ones.. after I pick up the pieces of my brain off the floor. Great review!

Maria Soares The title is 1984 because Orwell wrote the book in 1948, he switched the last two digits.

Rashida Fazal It’s a thorough review and quite relatable to my thoughts while I’m reading it

message 40: by Greg (new)

Greg I've read 1984 twice, mandatory reading in high school, and a couple decades down the road. 1984 squeezes all the oxygen and light out of me each time. Gothic dark with hopelessness. A+

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