‘Big Brother is watching you’ – Nineteen eighty-four by George Orwell

Imagine a place where your thoughts and actions are monitored and where you’re constantly controlled, this is what Eric Arthur Blair -known by his pen name George Orwell- describes in this book. A very intriguing story showing what could have happened after WO II, if the communists had taken over and divided the world among themselves after the global war. A certain pessimistic moral seemed to take over the image due to the Cold War, when a sustained state of political and military tension between several great powers arose.

ImageGeorge Orwell has often shown opposition to totalitarianism and commitment to democratic socialism in his books for example Animal Farm and of course 1984, in this book it is clear that this opposition is against the Soviet-Union. He sketches a dystopia, a horrible or degraded society with an irreversible oblivion and the exact opposite of an utopia. He draws an empty and over-politicized world which leaves you thinking for a long time after you have finished the book.

Although Orwell wrote the book in 1948 his view is timeless and could easily be applied to the 21th century, this is the reason why this book is still read so much and why Time magazine included Nineteen Eighty-Four in its list of the one hundred best English-language novels since 1923.

The story follows Winston Smith, a middle aged man who lives in Oceania -a future state situated where Great Britain used to be- where the authoritarian political party watches and controls everything. Newspeak is the official language spoken in Oceania, and unlike all other languages, the amount of words shrinks instead of expands. The purpose of Newspeak is to create a world in which people would have no words left to express unorthodox thoughts -impure thoughts in the eyes of the party- and therefore can’t express those thoughts or even acknowledge them to begin with. In this society everyone is categorized in three groups: the inner party, the outer party and the proles. Winston is a lower member of the outer party and works in the Ministry of Truth where he changes historical information to portray the government in a better light. This is also the place where he meets Julia they start a secret affair because the party is set on individualism, which means that all party members have to live by themselves and should have as little interaction with others as possible. In part three Winston an Julia find out that even a place that felt safe and private they are watched by Big brother. Because Big Brother is always watching and there is no way to avoid this.ImagePrivacy ought to be a right instead of a privilege. The interesting thing about ‘1984’ is the way it captures the exact same feeling a lot of us have these days. It predicted a future society, terribly accurate to the society we live in right now. Orwell describes a government, that uses fear to create a ‘perfect’ society. He describes certain types of technology, thinking everyone would own these in the future. ‘ 1984 states that journalists deform news, they project a false image into the world. Right, right and right. Some say the accuracy hurts.

Interesting to see how a lot of made-up words have become certified English words. It is yet another sign that this book belongs to the classic English novels for a reason; it has contributed so much to the English language!

The book is divided in three parts, with the first part being way too long-winded. The second part was about love and who doesn’t like a good love story? The third part was by far the best part. It consisted of action, torture and great happenings. For the tough readers out there, this is a hard nut to crack. Though the English is not too hard, the futuristic aspects and the long-winded descriptions of certain thoughts could be a snare. But the plot-twist makes up for all of it. I cannot tell you how surprised I was when the hero did not conquer the bad guys. Even more when the ‘The Brotherhood’ had deceived our hero into thinking he was serving a good cause. Little did the poor man know, he was walking straight into the awaiting arms of the government.

‘He gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark moustache. O, cruel needless misunderstanding! O, stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was alright, everything was alright. The struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.’ (page 342, PART III)

 

Maybe that is what makes this book so great, apart from the use of language and the accuracy: the great plot-twist. We are used to hero’s vanquishing the bad guys, the hero surviving, the hero getting (back) together with his great love.

It is a strange and terrifying thing to be living in a society, lacking of privacy and the freedom of having an own mind. We are constantly being influenced by e.g. the media, leading to the verge of destruction. Is it too late to choose another path or are we doomed? We all know what Orwell would have answered…

 

 

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