Nineteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell

By Frank Ruijg

Nineteen Eighty-Four was written by George Orwell in 1948 and published a year later, in 1949. George Orwell, a pseudonym for Eric Arthur Blair, is often called one of the most succesfull English writers in the 20th century. He has written two masterpieces: Animal Farm (1945) and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1948).

During the period of time in which he lived he witnessed a lot of political changes which were opposite to his political ideas.  Since he was a journalist he had the opportunity to criticise these changes and above all warn people. In the satirical novel Animal Farm he critices Stalinism, the ideas and the theories of Joseph Stalin. In this novel he writes about the events leading up to and after the revolution in the Soviet Union. The (intelligent) animals who live on the farm (which are the headcharacters in the novel) and their conflicts about authority and power are clearly metaphors for the people in the Soviet Union during the revolution.

In the novel Animal Farm he principally critices the ideas and actions of Stalin, which is based on facts and actually happened. In 1984 he wrote about a very obscure future, which he obviously wanted to prevent. It is clear that he didn’t believe in a bright future or at least, was aware of a possible new dictatorship. This possible future is described in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. In this novel he critices Joseph Stalin as well but above all gives a warning to the people of England and the rest of the world of how the world becomes when ‘we’ would lose control.  

The novel Nineteen Eighty-Four deals with a form of totalitarianism. Eric Arthur Blair was afraid of a political system which would control everything her inhibitants do and think, namely Big Brother. An example of control is a new language: Newspeak. In this new language all the words which could be used to speak in a negative form about Big Brother were deleted. A famous sentence used in the book is Big Brother is watching you. This sentence shows the way people would live in the future, everything they do would be seen by the government.

Some aspects of the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four are in fact of value in contemporary discussions. An example is the political discussion about the privacy of people in England. The government recently placed many observationcamera’s in the streets of London to increase the safety of her inhibitants. As well as in London in many countries these kind of measures are taken to guarentee the safety of her residents. Another example is the OV-kaart in the Netherlands, the government is able to see when, where to and how people travel: the privacy of the people decreases.

 A question which could be asked after reading these examples, is: ‘When should these kind of measures end in order to maintain the rights of privacy?’

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