Goodreads rating: 4.05 (795,000+ ratings)
My rating: 8/10
First published: June 8th, 1948 by Secker and Warburg
Genre: Dystopian, Political Fiction
1984 was written in 1948, and was Orwell’s idea of what the future would be like in 1984. I’m not very knowledgable of politics or governments, so I probably won’t describe this book perfectly.
1984 is set in Oceania, where society is ruled and governed by ‘The Party’. ‘The Party’ controls everything, edits history, governs thought, and there is constant government surveillance and mind control of the people. Big Brother is the party leader, who may not even exist.
The book focuses on Winston Smith, who works for the Ministry of Truth and his job is to re-write past articles in the newspapers to reflect and support the current party stance. Winston secretly hates and wants to revolt against the party however the fact that all actions and conversations are constantly monitored, he doesn’t know if anyone else feels the same way.
Eventually, after a few interactions, he meets Julia, who feels the same way as him in regards to the party. They start meeting in secret, and fall in love. From here, they meet someone who they think is running a revolution, however, you can never be sure what’s true in Oceania.
I loved this book. There were some dry parts that were a lot of text and read more like an essay, however the overall story was awesome. The thought of living in this world sounds terrible, however after I recently read Stasiland by Anna Funder, I realised that life in the German Democratic Republic from the 1960s – 1989 was a diluted form of the way of life in 1984.
I highly recommend this book, and it’s not overly long so despite some of the lengthier chapters, it’s a pretty quick read. It’s become a bit of a cult book, and a lot of the ideas and words have been often referenced since its publication.
‘From where Winston stood it was just possible to read, picked out on its white face in elegant lettering, the three slogans of the Party:
WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH’
‘People simply disappeared, always during the night. Your name was removed from the registers, every record of everything you had ever done was wiped out, and your one-time existence was denied and then forgotten. You were abolished, annihilated: vaporized was the usual word.’
‘Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.’
In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality was tacitly denied by their philosophy.
“If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.”
“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”
Chastity was as deep ingrained in them as Party loyalty. By careful early conditioning, by games and cold water, by the rubbish that was dinned into them at school and in the Spies and the Youth League, by lectures, parades, songs, slogans, and martial music, the natural feeling had been driven out of them.
“Big Brother is Watching You.”