1984 ~ George Orwell
Yes, I am indeed alive after those months of inactivity. Fear not for I have not spent those months in vain! I have read quite a few good books which may be on the 20th century side, but are quite the classics which give you a lot to think about. The first one I’ll explore is George Orwell’s eerie world of 1984. Although the actual year of 1984 was far from it (as much as my 1980s history knowledge goes), let us jump back in time…or in a way the future as this was written in…1948 or 49…I’m sure it was written in 1948 and published in 1949 since Orwell originally planned to name the book 1948 then just swapped the last two numbers…Anyway! On with the review!
The Story – 5/5 stars:
There are 3 parts to the book – the introduction, the rendezvous and the finale. Despite there not happening much (literally), the story still keeps you glued to the book.
The introduction is just that – the part where Orwell entraps you in the world he envisioned and explains it. Albeit the confusing beginning, once you keep reading in for a few pages you begin to understand the gears of this chaotic dystopia. Orwell’s slight obsession with communism (well more of him hating it, not in a good fanatical way) shines through here with the totalitarian setting. As we go along with the thought-rebellious (or ‘thought-crime’, perhaps? See what I did there? …yeah, you’re laughing…) Winston Smith, we discover an earth quite different from ours (or is it? *dun dun DUUN…I should get more serious, seriously..). But this is not just any world – this is a world which will, as they say, ‘give you the chills’. There is no independence allowed and you are always watched (literally. Cameras everywhere! Did Orwell by any chance give creators of CCTV any ideas, I wonder…?). Either way, there is a lot of irony and a lot of hypocrisy (the Ministry of Peace dealing with the war? Classic..). It was a twisted world which was always at war with something, at least that is what all the citizens of Oceania are made to believe. It is but a world full of lies and terror as we find Winston Smith’s job – falsifying the past. There are many more points I would like to make on world building, but that will come later.
The rendezvous. It all begins with a love note and then we have a rebellious couple of Winston and Julia. Julia is quite the wicked wench and her impurity is just what draws Winston towards her. Most of this middle section is pretty much the development of their relationship, albeit quite a weak one based mostly on lust. But it does not end there. The so called Brotherhood, of whose existence no one is sure, apparently reveals themselves to Winston. This was a strong yet predictable move on Orwell’s side. It is strong as we see a build up of resentment and rebelliousness within Winston towards the climax of the story. This very build up however is also what made it a predictable move. Not everything turns out as planned however and there comes one of the biggest plot twists I have seen, a disappointing one in terms of morals though.
And so in the finale the loose ends are tied. The story is wrapped up nicely (not literally). The finale section is most likely one of the most dreadful couple of pages I have ever read. As strange as it sounds – good dreadful. The whole concept and situation was very frightening, despite you knowing you are perfectly safe within your own house/library/park/wherever you are reading. The entire time you are reading until the end and thinking ‘It couldn’t possibly become more horrifying’, you then find out that Orwell has a nasty surprise up his sleeve for you. You could never be quite sure what was going to happen yet you still had hope. Orwell brilliantly ripped out that hope and trampled on it, leaving you with a heavy heart once you finish the story.
If I were to summarise the plot twists in a gif, this would be it:
The Characters – 3.5/5 stars:
Winston: An interesting little fella who just happened to be the oddball in the most dangerous place to be an oddball – Orwell’s 1984 universe. His hatred of the party is actually understandable and his intellect shines through to the reader. He has an open mind and knows when he is being fooled (mostly. If he knew all along, the ending wouldn’t have been so tragic). Being the outer party member (in human language, we would refer to it as ‘middle class’), he knows the ins and outs of the ministries (at least his own); he knows how he should behave and what to avoid. Keeping in mind what kind of a world he lives in, that is pretty amazing.
Julia: A shallow little tart who hates the party as much, if not more, as Winston. Her shallowness was rather annoying what with her falling asleep on important philosophical lectures and discussions with Winston. Perhaps it is my memory which has been killed by time or was she not really introduced with a background story and why she hated the party? Oh there are plenty of reasons to hate it, but what was Julia’s?
Big Brother (although not really appearing): With all the given hints, it seems that this is just a fictitious figure of the party. It seems to me like Stalin left quite a mark on this character.
O’Brien: Oh, holly macarena. Now this was a twisted character in more ways than one. I cannot honestly claim that I foresaw the plot twist on his sake, it was quite a shock for me as to who O’Brien was and his real purpose. As they say – it’s always the quiet ones.
Goldstein: Was this but another fictitious character with whom the party could diagnose traitors and offenders while also giving a common enemy? Orwell have left that a mystery, yet his style of gnashing your hope gives me the impression that Goldstein most likely was another fake enemy.
The Others: Well these were just the minor characters. They were important in a way, and they were not. Mostly because a lot of them became ‘unpersons’…
Writer’s Technique – 5/5 stars:
Orwell’s style is bleak and blunt (why am I thinking of knives now…?) so it goes without saying that this story’s tone was perfect. The style created a depressing and hopeless atmosphere, perfectly reflecting Orwell’s 1984 universe.
Let us get to the world building then. The idea of falsifying the past is quite a scary one yet a realistic one. This was influenced of course with communist USSR under Stalin’s tyranny. The way Orwell presented it however and the background stories he created almost made it his own creation. Many of Orwell’s inspirations came from the same place such as the delusional and bizarre idea that 2+2=5. The way this view however was forced was indeed very scary. Orwell played his cards well in contrasting the calm demeanour of the torturer and the agonising prisoner who had to accept those views as one can take a certain amount of torture before actually wanting and beginning to see what his tormentor tried to make him see, even if it was complete baloney.
A certain phrase however really shocked me to the core – “You. Are. The. Dead.“. I was amazed again and again at Orwell’s masterful skill in creating shocking and smiting remarks which once in a while just hit you right in the…feels, I guess. I’m not sure how else to describe that.
Overall – 5/5 stars:
This is a very dark dystopia which gives you a lot to think about. It is a favourite type of book of mine – one that stimulates the brain and one that engraves deeply emotionally. Every time I think about this story, I still get the ‘chills’. It was far from a ‘pleasant read’, but more of a very interesting read.
This is definitely not a book for children or those who love a good light-hearted novel with a good romance. I think I would even go as far as to categorise this in a way in the horror genre (as the last part of the book definitely qualifies for that). As I have mentioned before – this is a stimulating read so if you like these sorts of books, go ahead! Personally I have enjoyed it (but I am a very weird person).
And so that is all~! Thank you so much for reading!
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