Joe Valdez's Reviews > 1984

1984 by George Orwell
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it was amazing
bookshelves: sci-fi-general

My preparedness for the regime change taking place in the United States--with elements of the Electoral College, the Kremlin and the FBI helping to install a failed business promoter who the majority of American voters did not support in the election--begins with 1984 by George Orwell. Like many, this 1949 novel was assigned reading for me in high school. What stood out to me then was that I needed to finish it because there would be a test. Studying how civics is supposed to work in 3rd period government did not prepare me in 7th period English for this harrowing and precise depiction of fear and hatred run amok.

1990 Joe

We're in the future! At least, what George Orwell thought postwar England might be like in in the future. Great Britain is now governed by Oceania and resembles a Warsaw Pact nation--the Party controls every action and thought of its miserable population through propaganda, surveillance and torture--but what's happened is that an atomic war in the 1950s left survivors in the United States and Western Europe desperate for law and order. Party members who pledge absolute loyalty to a figure known as Big Brother have their essential needs provided for, while the lower caste are known as Proles and regarded as rubbish. It sucks here!

2016 Joe

Winston Smith is a contemplative thirty-nine year old Outer Party member who works at the Ministry of Truth in London. Like many great literary characters, he does not feel well. Winston is employed in the Records Department, altering (or as it's officially known, rectifying) articles for The Times which no longer adhere to the reality of The Party. Winston suffers from an ulcer on his leg and like many, subsists on Victory Gin. He leaves work on his lunch break to return his flat in Victory Gardens, hiding in a nook where he believes the telescreen installed in his home cannot see him. He begins a handwritten diary in an old book, with paper, that he found in a junk shop.

For a moment he was seized by a kind of hysteria. He began writing in a hurried untidy scrawl:

theyll shoot me i don’t care theyll shoot me in the back of the neck i dont care down with big brother they always shoot you in the back of the neck i dont care down with big brother--

He sat back in his chair, slightly ashamed of himself, and laid down the pen. The next moment he started violently. There was a knocking at the door.

1990 Joe

Whoa so there's some heavy stuff in this book, like, telescreens that scream at you to do calisthenics in the morning, shout propaganda at you in the afternoon and listen to you talking in your sleep at night. There are periodic shortages of essential goods like razor blades and a perpetual war with Oceania's foe, Eurasia. At least the Party says so. No one trusts anyone else. In addition to hidden microphones, there are informers and spies everywhere prepared to turn you in to the Thought Police for thought crimes. Children most of all revel in ratting out their Outer Party moms and dads.

It was always at night — the arrests invariably happened at night. The sudden jerk out of sleep, the rough hand shaking your shoulder, the lights glaring in your eyes, the ring of hard faces round the bed. In the vast majority of cases there was no trial, no report of the arrest. People simply disappeared, always during the night. Your name was removed from the registers, every record of everything you had ever done was wiped out, your one-time existence was denied and then forgotten. You were abolished, annihilated: VAPORIZED was the usual word.

2016 Joe

The Party has so eradicated records of the past and traumatized its Outer Party members into obedience that its slogans are: WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. But Winston's mind is his own. He's old enough to keep a mental inventory of the inconsistencies of the Party--like the one that says they invented aeroplanes--and contemplate that the glance of a co-worker named O'Brien reveals a fellow rebel. Believing that the only hope to overthrow Big Brother lies with the proles, Winston ventures into the slums. He buys an old man a pint and grills him for information on the past. Everyone seems blind, except, to Winston's terror, a dark-haired woman he works with at the Ministry of Truth. She sees Winston in the slums.

1990 Joe

This book is hard to enjoy. Just when things start to slow, there is a love story introduced between Winston and his co-worker, Julia. She works at the Fiction Department, operating the press (that's kinda hot) that cranks out the only books that are allowed in Oceania. Winston initially suspects her of being a typical frigid Party femmebot, but Julia slips him a love note and arranges a series meetings with the aplomb of a spy. Separated in age by about fifteen years, I never understood what Julia's attraction to Winston was or why the couple didn't band together to escape or to take down Big Brother. If I was Winston, I'd stab Inner Party members all day without a lunch break.

2016 Joe

George Orwell's writing is so precise, so penetrative, that I felt like he was broadcasting truths into my mind with a laser. I could appreciate that Winston and Julia were doing what they had to survive, that staying alive another day, even under tyranny, had become paramount to all other concerns. As an adult, I can now appreciate how fear and hatred warp democracy and how people who feel they have nothing left to lose surrender their once cherished freedoms and throw their lot in with a Big Brother who promises to take care of them. And did I mention the writing?

‘You are very young,’ he said. ‘You are ten or fifteen years younger than I am. What could you see to attract you in a man like me?’

‘It was something in your face. I thought I’d take a chance. I’m good at spotting people who don’t belong. As soon as I saw you I knew you were against THEM.’

THEM, it appeared, meant the Party, and above all the Inner Party, about whom she talked with an open jeering hatred which made Winston feel uneasy, although he knew that they were safe here if they could be safe anywhere. A thing that astonished him about her was the coarseness of her language. Party members were supposed not to swear, and Winston himself very seldom did swear, aloud, at any rate. Julia, however, seemed unable to mention the Party, and especially the Inner Party, without using the kind of words that you saw chalked up in dripping alley-ways. He did not dislike it. It was merely one symptom of her revolt against the Party and all its ways, and somehow it seemed natural and healthy, like the sneeze of a horse that smells bad hay.


The devil is in the details. What stands out to me in 1984 is precision with which Orwell depicts the joys of humanity thriving under inhumane rule as well as the terror of being exposed. Thinking men like Winston know that they'll be arrested, tortured and possibly vaporized for allowing themselves the indulgences that they do, but no amount of reason can prepare them for that moment of betrayal, arrest and interrogation. The third act of 1984 is terrifying. The Party's true methodology--to convert political prisoners to embrace Big Brother before disposing of them--is chilling, something whose force I wasn't prepared to appreciate in high school.
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Reading Progress

March 28, 2014 – Shelved
March 28, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
January 6, 2017 – Started Reading
January 6, 2017 –
page 1
0.3% "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him."
January 9, 2017 –
page 1
0.3% "It was a peculiarly beautiful book. Its smooth creamy paper, a little yellowed by age, was of a kind that had not been manufactured for at least forty years past. He could guess, however, that the book was much older than that. He had seen it lying in the window of a frowsy little junk-shop in a slummy quarter of the town and had been stricken immediately by an overwhelming desire to possess it."
January 9, 2017 –
page 1
0.3% "It was always at night — the arrests invariably happened at night. The sudden jerk out of sleep, the rough hand shaking your shoulder, the lights glaring in your eyes, the ring of hard faces round the bed. In the vast majority of cases there was no trial, no report of the arrest. People simply disappeared, always during the night."
January 10, 2017 –
page 1
0.3% "As he watched the eyeless face with the jaw moving rapidly up and down, Winston had a curious feeling that this was not a real human being but some kind of dummy. It was not the man’s brain that was speaking, it was his larynx. The stuff that was coming out of him consisted of words, but it was not speech in the true sense: it was a noise uttered in unconsciousness, like the quacking of a duck."
January 10, 2017 –
page 1
0.3% "The women of the Party were all alike. Chastity was as deep ingrained in them as Party loyalty. By careful early conditioning, by games and cold water, by the rubbish that was dinned into them at school and in the Spies and the Youth League, by lectures, parades, songs, slogans, the natural feeling had been driven out of them. His reason told him that there must be exceptions, but his heart did not believe it."
January 11, 2017 –
page 1
0.3% "In the old days, he thought, a man looked at a girl’s body and saw that it was desirable, and that was the end of the story. But you could not have pure love or pure lust nowadays. No emotion was pure, because everything was mixed up with fear and hatred. Their embrace had been a battle, the climax a victory. It was a blow struck against the Party. It was a political act."
January 11, 2017 –
page 1
0.3% "Both of them knew--in a way, it was never out of their minds that what was now happening could not last long. There were times when the fact of impending death seemed as palpable as the bed they lay on, and they would cling together with a sort of despairing sensuality, like a damned soul grasping at his last morsel of pleasure when the clock is within five minutes of striking."
January 12, 2017 –
page 1
0.3% "What can you do, thought Winston, against the lunatic who is more intelligent than yourself, who gives your arguments a fair hearing and then simply persists in his lunacy?"
January 12, 2017 – Finished Reading
January 13, 2017 – Shelved as: sci-fi-general

Comments Showing 1-50 of 64 (64 new)


message 1: by Steven (new) - added it

Steven Godin Great review Joe.


message 2: by Taryn (new)

Taryn I love this review, Joe! It's really interesting to see the differences between your reactions in 1990 and 2016. I reread 1984 around 2008, but I think it would feel a little more 'real' to me now.


Cheryl Maybe more so the ADVENT of a regime? ...

Who's better to review this book than you, Joe? I mean seriously, I had to remind myself that you really wasn't a character in the novel. I read and nodded my way through, smiling at your intertwine of wit and thoroughness. This is one book that is hard to enjoy, and yet one can't help but notice its cleverness that you've outlined.


message 4: by Rae (new)

Rae Meadows Awesome! I love this, Joe.


Leah Polcar 1990s Joe is hilarious.


Jenny Another great and inspiring review, Joe! You should read We by Yevgeny Zamyatan (I hope I spelled that right). It came out from Communist Russia and inspired 1984 and A Brave New World. It is more obtuse and less literary but is perfect for the word it describes. People see similarities between it and 1984 and assume it's just a copy, but it was actually one of the original dystopian novels. I'm so glad you enjoyed your reread of this novel and wrote such an excellent review for YOUR readers to enjoy :)


message 7: by Frances (new) - added it

Frances Enjoyed your review Joe, and with 5* I must add! Had my eye on this one for years!!


message 8: by Marita (new) - added it

Marita Fantastic review, Joe!


Bonnie This was one of the few required reads in school that I absolutely loved. Need to do a re-read one of these days. :)


message 10: by Hannah (new) - added it

Hannah Very creative review, Joe!


Norma * Traveling Sister Great review, Joe!


message 12: by Joe (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joe Valdez Steven wrote: "Great review Joe."

Thank you, Steven!


message 13: by Joe (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joe Valdez Taryn wrote: "I reread 1984 around 2008, but I think it would feel a little more 'real' to me now."

Thank you for commenting, Taryn. It amazes me how a book gathering dust on your shelf or at the library can "change" in just a couple of years. The scary thing is that Orwell wasn't predicting anything, he was just looking at how authoritarian regimes had come to power throughout history.


message 14: by Joe (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joe Valdez Cheryl wrote: "I mean seriously, I had to remind myself that you really wasn't a character in the novel. I read and nodded my way through, smiling at your intertwine of wit and thoroughness."

Cheryl, that has to be the most gracious comment you've left for me yet. Thank you so much. If I get to be any literary character, I choose Doc in Sweet Thursday.


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

Joe Valdez Rae wrote: "Awesome! I love this, Joe."

Your approbation carries its weight in gold with me, Rae. Thank you for commenting!


message 16: by Joe (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joe Valdez Leah wrote: "1990s Joe is hilarious."

Listening to all of that Public Enema and rap music. Don't encourage me, Leah.


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

Joe Valdez Jenny wrote: "I'm so glad you enjoyed your reread of this novel and wrote such an excellent review for YOUR readers to enjoy."

Jenny, your skills as a librarian and bibliophile never cease to impress me. I'm lucky that you read as many of my book reports as you do, and comment! Thank you.


message 18: by Joe (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joe Valdez Frances wrote: "Enjoyed your review Joe, and with 5* I must add! Had my eye on this one for years!!"

Thank you, Frances. I still haven't read The Great Gatsby if that makes you feel better.


message 19: by Joe (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joe Valdez Marita wrote: "Fantastic review, Joe!"

Marita, thank you!


message 20: by Joe (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joe Valdez Bonnie wrote: "This was one of the few required reads in school that I absolutely loved. Need to do a re-read one of these days. :)"

The times required it as far as I was concerned, Bonnie.


message 21: by Joe (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joe Valdez Hannah wrote: "Very creative review, Joe!"

Hannah, thank you so much!


message 22: by Joe (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joe Valdez Norma wrote: "Great review, Joe!"

Thank you, Norma!


message 23: by Erin (new)

Erin I love this review Joe!


message 24: by Frances (new) - added it

Frances Joe wrote: "Frances wrote: "Enjoyed your review Joe, and with 5* I must add! Had my eye on this one for years!!"

Thank you, Frances. I still haven't read The Great Gatsby if that makes you feel better."


lol ... I saw the movie which was ok. On the waiting list now at the library for 1984; at long last .....


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

Joe Valdez Erin wrote: "I love this review Joe!"

Thank you so much, Erin! I'm glad you enjoyed the book report!


Carmen If I was Winston, I'd stab Inner Party members all day without a lunch break.

This made me laugh out loud. :D


message 27: by Joe (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joe Valdez Carmen wrote: "This made me laugh out loud."

Orwell doesn't have to be an unhappy reading experience after all. I'm glad you enjoyed the book report, guapa.


Sharon Bravo, Joe. This was fan effing tastic.


message 29: by Joe (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joe Valdez Sharon wrote: "Bravo, Joe. This was fan effing tastic."

My work here is done. Thank you, Sharon.


Hannah Lovely review, Joe. I definitely have to reread this one soon.


Fatima This is one of my favorite reports you've written, Joe! I can't wait to give this book a reread soon.


Jennifer It is now time that I really should read this.


message 33: by Joe (last edited Jan 14, 2017 08:07PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joe Valdez Hannah wrote: "Lovely review, Joe. I definitely have to reread this one soon."

Thank you, Hannah. I'm curious to hear your perspective. Historically, until this month, I don't know if my country has had a true despot as a leader. I don't believe many Americans have any experience with this.


message 34: by Joe (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joe Valdez Fatima wrote: "This is one of my favorite reports you've written, Joe! I can't wait to give this book a reread soon."

Fatima, your comments encourage me to write longer and sillier book reports with the satisfaction that you will enjoy them. Thank you!


message 35: by Joe (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joe Valdez Jennifer wrote: "It is now time that I really should read this."

Or you can watch the evening news. I prefer to read the book.


Michelle Curie Aah, what a fun review!


Basia He loved Big Brother.
Joe!!! Brilliant review! Holy crap! You've outdone yourself, I'd say.


message 38: by Joe (last edited Jan 15, 2017 10:11AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joe Valdez Michelle wrote: "Aah, what a fun review!"

Thank you, Michelle! An exclamation point mark! That makes me happy!


message 39: by Joe (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joe Valdez Basia wrote: "He loved Big Brother. Joe!!! Brilliant review! Holy crap! You've outdone yourself, I'd say."

Quite an unexpected outcome of events for Winston. Thank you, Basia. As always, your enthusiasm is infectious!


message 40: by Kaya (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kaya This may sound pretentious, but I guess you have to be at certain stage of maturity to enjoy and fully understand this book. Too many important points are hidden between the lines.


message 41: by Joe (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joe Valdez Kaya wrote: "This may sound pretentious, but I guess you have to be at certain stage of maturity to enjoy and fully understand this book. Too many important points are hidden between the lines."

I can fit all the books I wasn't mature enough to appreciate as a teenager into the Grand Canyon. You didn't sound pretentious at all, Kaya.


Basia Joe, very funny! I'd say maybe a smaller canyon somewhere ... a lesser known one. :)

But agreed! And to think I thought I knew stuff back then! HA!!!


Basia Kaya: my favorite book ever. I fell in love with it when I was 16. We just see different parts of the books as standing out to us during different periods of our lives. I've read it again a few times, and it's always wonderful. We, another book, also.


message 44: by Kaya (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kaya Basia wrote: "Kaya: my favorite book ever. I fell in love with it when I was 16. We just see different parts of the books as standing out to us during different periods of our lives. I've read it again a few tim..."

You were lucky I suppose.
In my case, I've read The Picture of Dorian Gray in high school and hated it, then read it again two years ago and adored it.


Gabrielle Wonderful and very insightful review, Joe! I also let a few years go between readings of 1984, and my perspective on it shifts a little it every time.


message 46: by Joe (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joe Valdez Basia wrote: "Joe, very funny! I'd say maybe a smaller canyon somewhere ... a lesser known one. But agreed! And to think I thought I knew stuff back then! HA!!!"

You're so cute, Basia. You should visit the Grand Canyon with Ender and keep driving west until you hit water and then settle out here.


message 47: by Joe (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joe Valdez Gabrielle wrote: "Wonderful and very insightful review, Joe! I also let a few years go between readings of 1984, and my perspective on it shifts a little it every time."

Thank you so much, Gabrielle. We have this in common. I'm a slow adapter who rarely takes recommendations if there's not something about it that connects with me personally. 90% of books seem to fall under that heading, but Orwell seems more prescient than ever.


Nancy Wonderful review - I appreciated the chronology.


message 49: by Joe (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joe Valdez Nancy wrote: "Wonderful review - I appreciated the chronology."

Thank you, Nancy. I'm so glad you enjoyed the book report.


Ericka Clouther Time for me to reread this classic.


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