Wednesday, August 6, 2008

1984 by George Orwell

This is an epic novel published in 1949 by George Orwell (real name, Eric Arthur Blair). The book is seen as a landmark work, used extensively for teaching, and also as an example of a Government and society heading on the totalitarian path. The book has had a tremendous effect on the mass culture dealing with the rights of individuals versus the tyranny of a Government that believes in keeping an eye on all its citizens, governing their thoughts and actions. The novel led to the popularity of many terms such as 'Big Brother', and 'Orwellian'. It depicted the horror of a society where the Government controlled all aspects of life, and knew everything about every citizen. Soon after, a state came into being where this concept was very close to being achieved. It was in East Germany, a state that had an extensive network of internal spies, and for whom it was claimed that fully a third of the population informed on other people.

1984 by George Orwell

The year is 1984, the place is called "chief city of Airstrip One", a part of the large region known as 'Oceania' (the place where the protagonist works is actually London, but a London that has been wracked by civil war after World War 2 and was eventually made a part of Oceania). Oceania is one of the 3 totalitarian states, the other 2 being that which was formed by the USSR, and the third from East Asia. Oceania is a territory or a country that runs through terror and a deep desire to control every citizen. Photos of the leader called 'Big Brother' are everwhere with the caption 'BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU'. Every place has a two-way television (the telescreen) in order to make suer that nothing is secret, and there can be no voices raised against the state (people believed to be working against the state are first re-educated so that they start to love the Big Brother, and then they are executed). In addition, society is divided into 3 separate classes: (i) the Inner Party, (ii) the Outer Party, and (iii) the Proles (upper, middle and lower classes, respectively).
The members of the Inner Party and Outer Party were subjected to a thorough control (with the Proles being deemed to be the worker class, with not much worry being given to whether they needed to be indoctrinated). In the midst of all this, you had the protagonist, Winston Smith. Winston works in the aptly named Ministry of Truth where his job is to modify all records such that the Government is always shown to be true (and this includes removing people from photos once a person is deemed to be a unperson). Winston had lost his parents in the civil war, and the English Socialism Movement ("Ingsoc") had raised him up. However, he was beginning to have his doubts about the system (even while knowing that if these thoughts ever got out, he would be re-educated and then executed).
He meets Julie, a mechanic in the Ministry of Truth. He feels in her a partner in his feelings, and they start having a secret affair (hopefully away from the watchings of the Ministry, which would have believed this affair to be a betrayal and akin to treason). However, they are soon caught, and sent off to re-education in the dreaded Ministry of Love. There, Winston is subject to monologues from O'Brien, a functionary of the Ministry. There you come face to face with the true horror - the Party has only one aim; it has to keep itself in power, and the only way it can do that is by breaking the traditional friend and family bonds a person has. The person can only have a bond with the party and with Big Brother.
In the despairing end, both Winston and Julia are re-educated. You get to feel the absolute sense of despair when you read about when they meet again, with no feelings for each other (not even anger at each other's betrayal). They are well and truly successful citizens of Oceania now.

1 comment:

Josette said...

Hi, I finished this book last night and I didn't like the ending! This was really quite a depressing book but a good one. Can you tell me what is Ingsoc? I don't understand what it is.

Here's my review of the book! :)