1984 is one of those modern classics that I had been meaning to read for years. I once borrowed a copy of this novel from the local library, probably about seven years ago now, but I only go a few chapters in and my cat ate it.... well, she ate half a page out of it anyway, so I didn't get to finish it. I did, however, learn not to leave books lying around because kittens like to eat good literature.
Recently, I was lucky enough to win a giveaway over at Roof Beam Reader, where I got to pick a novel from any of his banned literature posts! How awesome is that?! So, I picked 1984.
Genre: Fiction, Modern Classics, Dystopian
Publisher: Harcourt Brace
Winston Smith works for the Ministry of Truth in London, chief city of Airstrip One. Big Brother stares out from every poster, the Thought Police uncover every act of betrayal. When Winston finds love with Julia, he discovers that life does not have to be dull and deadening, and awakens to new possibilities. Despite the police helicopters that hover and circle overhead, Winston and Julia begin to question the Party; they are drawn towards conspiracy. Yet Big Brother will not tolerate dissent – even in the mind. For those with original thoughts they invented Room 101...
In this novel, Winston is a government employee living in Oceania. The world as we know it, and the division of countries, no longer exists. Due to war and political upheaval, the world is divided into three main states: Oceania, Eastasia and Eurasia.
Winston's job at the Ministry of Truth, involves editing historical documents to the benefit of the party. Winston must re-write history in order to make the government seem omniscient. He also alters photographs to get rid of people who have been killed by the party, or made into 'unpersons'.
Winston lives in a dingy apartment with a telescreen. All buildings, both public and private, must have a telescreen so that the party can keep an eye on what the people are doing. Winston is lucky enough to have a small alcove in his apartment, out of view of the telescreen, which affords him a little privacy. Here he writes in his journal (a crime in itself) and thinks about the rumoured underground resistance that could bring down the party.
I quite enjoyed this book. What struck me the most about it, was how I could see this happening. The idea of living in a dystopian future where 'Big Brother' or 'the party' rules the lives of all their citizens was somewhat unsettling because it could happen. I guess this is why this novel is one of the most banned books of the 20th century (see the Saturday, Uncensored! post here).
We currently live in a world where our governments currently use fear to control the masses, to a certain extent. For example, since 9/11 measures have been taken in the guise of public safety. Even in Australia, we have new laws and security measures to 'keep the public safe' which in effect, take away the rights and liberties of people who are only 'suspected' of illegal activity.
We also have safety cameras all over Sydney, in order to prevent crime. There have been many jokes about 'big brother' watching us... which is kind of creepy. That said, if I were mugged I would probably be grateful it was caught on camera so there would be more chance of the suspect being caught, but it does make you wonder who is behind these cameras?
Anyway, I digress... the telescreens in this book, which the government used to constantly keep an eye of the citizens of Oceania creeped me out. Imagine having someone watch you all the time, even in your own home? All so they can make sure you don't commit a crime against the party.
The fact that 'thought crime' was the most serious offense you could commit against the party, meriting death, was also really scary. Imagine living in a world where you are not even free to think what you may if it is against the government? I feel lucky that we live in a country where we openly mock our politicians. That's a freedom I am glad to have!
I must admit, I found Orwell's style of writing a little dry. But the premise for this story and Winston's fight to retain his individuality and his right to keep his mind his own, made for interesting reading.
Have you read this novel? What did you think?