1984_signet_classicFew authors have ever constructed such an iconic world as George Orwell did in his masterpiece, 1984. This is the dystopia, a bleak world without humanity where hate and fear not only thrive but also permeate all of existence. The scenes from the book strike like a vision from a dream. It is a dire warning. Of course, George Orwell is not an unbiased observer. He is a “true believer.”

I also cringe whenever I hear the claim that our government is becoming Big Brother or that our world is turning into 1984. At the same time they bandy about words like “freedom” and “tyranny” failing to realize that sort of hysteria is endemic to the Party.

A scorpion tail does not a chimera imply. Neither do video cameras necessarily imply Big Brother. Is the scorpion still venomous and deadly? Of course it is, but it’s not the chimera of myth. In the real world, governments are painfully human and fallible. Even North Korea. They are born. They change. They die. Still we wonder, “What would an immortal government be like?”

Speculative fiction communicates messages. The setting and characters are the vehicles of this communication. I’m not always a fan of the genre because the message often overpowers the story; but when the story embraces subtlety and forgoes the didactic lectures, I find myself enthralled. 1984 teeters on that edge.

In some sections, the message is overbearing. As the philosophizing grows thick, the book grows tedious. In one scene, Winston reads aloud from Goldstein’s book and his lover falls asleep listening to him. I felt like doing the same. 

On the other hand, some passages are devastatingly poignant. Winston’s memories, of his mother and sister with expressions frozen in a mysterious, mournful gaze evoke the deepest human emotion. The contrast is profound next to the descriptions of the current 1984 world. One set of descriptions is full of life and meaning, the other feels empty and unsettling.

I am left wondering. I’m not sure if the message is the true strength of the book. It is the images that remain engraved in our thoughts: the enigmatic poster always watching, the telescreen always blaring, the microphones always listening, and the people always concealing their true selves. And far-off in a long forgotten past a mother clutches her child. These images are the ones we hold in our memories.  

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Book Analysis

Part One

Part Two

Part Three