My first book from the Classics Club challenge has been finished! I decided to start with 1984 by George Orwell as it has been something I’ve wanted to read for a very very long time. Classic science-fiction and dystopian novel, Orwell’s 1984 has become a sort of a cult political manifesto with a lot of up-to-date information about the past and, surprisingly, modern world. I am very happy I have started my challenge with this book, and very happy that I can share my views with you!
It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.George Orwell, 1984
The quote above is one of the most famous opening lines in the history of literature. It sets the mood, creates the first vision of the 1984 world, and then helps introducing the character, Winston Smith. Winston is a humble, ordinary man working for the Ministry of Truth, one of the ministries of the Party. Through his eyes we see the lives of people in totalitarian Oceania and we get to know his thoughts about the goverment’s strategy of propaganda, censorship, constant surveillance and war.
My first thought is that the book is insanely accurate. Not only does it relate to the past cases of totalitarianism in the history of the world, but it also shows how our lives might look like in the future if we allow for such power to overwhelm us. In times of hidden cameras and microphones everywhere, when all of your friends can easily be spying against you, when the states have been at war against each other for as long as one can remember, when the posters of Big Brother are lurking at you from very corner, and when freedom of speech, expression and even thought is basically non-existent, it can be pretty difficult to navigate the life and to distinguish what is real and what is not, and who’s in power and who is not.
I found it particularly interesting how Orwell presented the freedom of expression. Newspeak, fictional language created in order to replace English, uses a reduced amount of words and phrases, just to limit the ability of expression. The limited grammar and vocabulary are supposed to fight thoughtcrime, one’s ability to have personal thoughts and ideas. This is also one of the Party’s strategies to control and eventually stop the freedom of thought, so that the citizens are unable to think on their own, and hence, unable to rebel. I think the creation of this fictional language is a really interesting concept, and I, as a big fan of language and linguistics myself, can totally agree that language controls the mind! So big kudos from me to George Orwell for such an intriguing idea.
Characters are not the best-developed characters; they are rather there to present different views and show how the world operates. They are quite blunt when it comes to a deeper understanding, but that nevertheless works for the novel that doesn’t focus on character description. Winston is the main character thorugh whom we learn in-depth characterstics of the Oceania, Julia is represented as the rebelious young woman who doesn’t adhere to the rules set by the Party, Syme is the “too intelligent” guy working for the Party, and Parsons is, on the other hand, a completely loyal guy working for the Party.
Orthodoxy means not thinking – not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.George Orwell, 1984
There was just on thing that I wasn’t really fond of. Because I see 1984 as more of a political manifesto (in a form of a novel), I guess I found it a bit boring at times. The long passages of the Goldstein’s book really took some time to read and you had to focus greatly on what you are actually reading. Not that I have short attention span, but you get me! The book is a fantastic dystopian description of the future, but in moments of such serious political talk, I usually found myself drifting away.
Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.George Orwell, 1984
1984 gave me the creeps a lot. This feeling of uneasiness accompanies you throughtout the whole book and I couldn’t stop thinking about the living standards in such reality. I loved the world created by Orwell (if I can use the word “love” here…) and I found it incredibly interesting to explore the themes in the book. It is indeed one of the greatest dystopian novels of all times, even if it makes you put it away for a while and take a deep breath after the political monologue!