Hello, readers! Hope you’re having a good week, and if not, at least it’s half over! I’m doing something a little different today and I’m really excited about it! My friend Lucas over at All the Players approached me about reviewing George Orwell’s classic 1984 as a featured post on my blog. I, of course, said yes, because I’ve never had anyone want to guest post on my blog before! I’m taking it as a compliment.
Lucas and I attended the same university and both majored in English. He started his blog as part of a class project, and now that he’s graduated, I’ve been bugging him to start posting book reviews. I guess this is a good start!
I, personally, have not yet read 1984. It’s been on my TBR for too long. My girlfriend recently read it earlier this year and really raved about it. In fact, it’s how I persuaded her to read Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, which heavily influenced Orwell’s novel. I am a huge dystopian nerd and I definitely think I’ll be reading it soon. Especially after reading Lucas’s glowing review!
1984 — George Orwell
Powerful, terrifying, important—three words that I would use to describe 1984, George Orwell’s classic novel about an extreme totalitarian society.
This isn’t my first go-around with 1984; I read the novel when I was a sophomore in high school, and I thought it was stupid and scary. Though I will admit that I still find this book to be a bit scary, I no longer think it is stupid. In fact, I love it so much now, a complete turnaround from my original opinion. Perhaps I was too young to fully grasp its writing and significance, but this classic is brilliant.
1984 will lend itself to be my very first book review. Let’s go!
Winston Smith is a member of the Outer Party—the Party being the governing body of the fictional super state of Oceania. Under the supposed leadership of Big Brother, the Party monitors all inner and outer party members at all times. In this world, the party members have no will but to perpetuate the greatness of Big Brother. The Party controls everything: speech, logic, history, propaganda, media, language, emotion, will, marriage, and even thought.
Winston finds himself very unhappy with his life. He despises the Party. He wants to defy them. His life is bleak. He wants a life besides this. He wants to be rebellious and show the Party that he cannot be controlled. He wants to change something. But he knows that, alone, he will fail. So, he tries to seek an opportunity, any way to destroy the Party, all being given the constant reminder that Big Brother is watching.
And, certainly, Big Brother is watching….at every second.
I really do enjoy the plot of this story, even if it is completely chilling and hard to read at some points. Though the novel can be a bit slow at some parts, the narrative is otherwise remarkable. It caused me to think, to question, to speculate. The reading was nearly completely gripping.
There are not that many pivotal characters in this book. In fact, I would say that there are only three primary characters in 1984. The others either have a minor role or are only mentioned in passing.
There is a part of me that wishes that there were more characters in this book, but because this book follows Winston, it really only shows his interactions with the few people in his life that he encounters. Ultimately, I think the cast is suitable for this novel.
I do like our protagonist. Winston is a complex man with a wide array of thoughts, and he is certainly not a static character, which I believe allows him to have many layers.
The other characters are well-written and worth an interesting analysis, but for the sake of spoilers, I will simply leave it at that. I will say that Winston is probably my favorite character, and I would say that we definitely learn the most about him.
Winston and the Party live in the super state of Oceania. When I say “super state,” I mean that this country in Orwell’s world is massive. It is written to consist of North America, South America, the British Isles, Southern Africa (below the Congo River), Australia, New Zealand, and Polynesia. Oh! And Iceland. My goodness!
It is hard to imagine a country that is so large, but that is told to be the case in this novel. However, the main action of this novel takes place in what would be the United Kingdom.
The Party members (Inner and Outer) are constantly under surveillance, either by telescreens (monitors that act as media propaganda and a camera) or by other members of their own party who may turn them into the Thought Police for committing a thoughtcrime, a thought that the Party has deemed illegal. If a member of the Party looks even ever so slightly out of the ordinary, the Thought Police will be notified.
It is hard to imagine living in such a world.
As for the time period, it is (shockingly) set in the year 1984! Or, the year as George Orwell imagined it back in 1949.
1984 was originally published in 1949, but it has stood the test of time. People still read the book today, and it is with good reason. Was it meant to be a cautionary tale of what may happen when a political leader (or leaders) with a cult following develops an insatiable lust for power? Is it meant to showcase inherent dangers of government? Is it meant to reflect any society today?
I do not believe that this completely reflects American society (or British, Canadian, most Western societies) today. But I will say that there are too many themes in 1984 that have come out to play recently. It is up to an individual to determine if our society is similar to this even now.
I will say this: countries like North Korea and the People’s Republic of China seem to scream 1984 in many ways, particularly with the cult of personality that surrounds the Kim family of N. Korea. In fact, I imagine that life in N. Korea (from what we know) is the closest image to life in Orwell’s haunting novel.
But, again, once you read the book, you will likely have your own opinions.
There are many themes and phrases that originally appeared in 1984 that have been used in our world, such as thoughtcrime, doublethink, English Socialism, 2 +2 = 5, Newspeak, and (of course) Big Brother is watching you. This final statement is certainly used in the name of a successful reality series with several versions, Big Brother.
There have been a few adaptations of this novel in various forms of popular culture, including film, television, and theatre. Honestly, though, I have only ever seen/heard of the 1984 film adaptation of the same name with John Hurt and Richard Burton. But I have read that another adaptation is in the works for 2019. I do hope that this is true because I feel that this novel needs a new adaptation.
This book is legendary. Please read it. But please be advised that it is a bit difficult to read in some parts. The notions at play in this story are incredibly fascinating and somewhat frightening. But I would still have to recommend this book for its plot, scenario, themes, description, and relevance. Although there are a few slow bits, it is otherwise great to read.
If I were to rate this on a scale out of five, I would give it a four.
–Lucas, All the Players
If you ask me, Lucas should probably start writing book reviews on the reg and posting them on his own blog. Please join me in encouraging him!
And if anyone else ever wants to do a guest post, please don’t hesitate to reach out! I quite enjoyed this whole experience.