Saturday, September 19, 2009

1984 – George Orwell


This intellectual and visionary book by George Orwell is about the dictatorial regime of Big Brother in Britain, set during the year 1984. It is never revealed in the novel if Big Brother is an actual person or a fictitious character. The repressing of dissent and of free thought forms the main theme of Big Brother’s totalitarian regime.

In the novel, the structure of the world had changed to something like this: the world has seen all countries merge into one of the three Superstates namely Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia. Britain belongs to Oceania where Big Brother reigns supreme; he controls everything from government policy to the people’s thoughts.

About 15 percent of the population is members of the Party, and the rest are common citizens called the Proletarians, or Proles. The Proles believe what Big Brother makes them believe and think what Big Brother makes them think through his continuous propaganda in print and electronic media. They merely exist as entities devoid of any free and independent thought. Every home had telescreens though which every citizen would be under complete surveillance. Any action or thought on behalf of an individual giving rise to suspicion led to investigation and torture.

The book is divided into three parts. The first part talks about the world the way protagonist Winston Smith sees it. Smith’s job involves proofreading old documents and falsifying them to suit the Party’s propaganda. In the second part, he has an illicit affair with a woman called Julia and he is in a state of intellectual rebellion against the party. He joins a brotherhood who are opponents of the party. The brotherhood exposes the truth behind the Party’s slogan:

WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

In the final part, he is captured, imprisoned, tortured and finally brainwashed into believing the Party’s ideology. Orwell coined many words to describe the philosophy of Big Brother’s regime; some of these are:

Doublethink: The power of holding two contradicting thoughts in one’s mind and simultaneously believing in both of them.
Newspeak: A greatly simplified version of English devoid of any words indicating the concepts of freedom, rebellion, etc.
Thoughtcrime: The crime of thinking about ideas prohibited by the Party’s constitution.

Considered George Orwell’s magnum opus, the novel is visionary and tends to get philosophical. It is classic fiction with a fairly basic plot, but the ideology that the author presents is complex, and takes some contemplation and re-read of several passages in order to fully comprehend Orwell’s theories. If you like food for thought, this one is for you. Even though written in 1949, the book surprisingly relates strikingly well to the present times.

‘Big Brother is watching you’ is a term which people are always being reminded of in the novel. This term became popular in general usage as well.


7 comments:

Santanu Sinha Chaudhuri said...

To put it simply, this is a brilliant review.

George Orwell had been a communist once. He had fought in the Spanish Civil War alongside Russian communists and seen first hand the hypocrisy, chicanery, and ruthless destruction of even their own comrades when it was necessary.

I read "1984" when I was in college. Now, after living in a state that has been ruled by communists for over 30 years, I realize how prophetic Orwell had been. True, West Bengal today is not half as bad as Orwell's 1984, (there is no Ministry of Truth, for example,) but the attitude of the ruling party is absolutely the same.

I would request you to review "The Animal Farm" also.

Santanu Sinha Chaudhuri said...

If you are interested, please read the posts titled "Voting for West Bengal" and "Welcoming chaos" on my blog.

Rahul Anand said...

Thank you Mr. Santanu. Interesting to know those facts about George Orwell.

I do not know much about the administration in West Bengal, but will definitely check out the posts you mentioned on your blog.

And as by coincidence, I also checked out 'The Animal Farm' with this book. Will definitely review it, but I am reading 'The Catcher in the Rye' for now. Thanks!

P said...

sounds intriguing. i normally do not read books that revolve around politics teetering to very specific tastes. looks like this one is very unconventional and will try and add it to my list.

on question, at the end of the book, is Smith successful in overthrowing big brother or does the book end leaving the Oceania in the hands of their ruthless diabolical leader?

Rahul Anand said...

@Poorva, at the end the Govt. brainwashed Smith into believing the falsehood they preach. The novel is such that the more you read the more you find yourself thinking about the ideology that Orwell presents , rather than the story.

After reading the book if one compares the ideas to modern day politics, one gets to realize what a genius Orwell was. He was close in his predictions, or rather was along the right lines.

Thanks for reading, TC :)

Smita said...

As usual a very well written review :)

Have seen & picked this book so many times but only to put it back because I feel it isn't my kind and your review proves it further!!!

Rahul Anand said...
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