Saturday, November 24, 2012

Review: 1984 by G. Orwell

I wanted to read 1984 right after reading The Handmaid's Tale, which I did. I must say that I enjoyed The Handmaid's Tale much more than I did 1984. I was more impacted by The Handmaid's Tale. Maybe because it was told from a woman's point-of-view which made it more relateable to me, maybe it's because I didn't read 1984 pre-1984 so it didn't impact me as much as it could have, maybe I just preferred Handmaid. Whatever the reason, I did enjoy 1984 in and of itself.

The story is set in 1984 (dur) and is told from the point-of-view of Winston Smith who, like Offred, can remember what it was like before "The Great Change" happened.  Winston lives in Oceania where Big Brother is always watching him. Literally. Always. Oceania is ruled by a form of government known as Ingsoc (which sounded like a morbid kind of Communism) where all the members of "The Party" must always follow a set of rules which includes things like hating traitors and thought criminals who may be against Big Brother. Winston is himself a Thought Criminal: ruh-roh for Winston. On the first day that we meet Winston he begins writing in a diary (which is forbidden) about how much he hates Big Brother (which is super-duper-uber forbidden). Winston works for the Ministry of Truth in the Records Department which means that he spends his days re-writing the past and making every event that has happened thus far in history match up with what The Party wants it to be. Since Winston has memories that go back to his childhood and the time before, he knows what is going on with The Party and he loathes being a part of the cover-up. "And only yesterday, he reflected, it  had been announced that the ration was to be reduced to twenty grams a week. Was it possible that they could swallow that, after only twenty-four hours? Yes, they swallowed it." Over the course of the book Winston meets another rebel named Julia whom he falls in love with. Together they seek out a secret underground of anti-party people called The Brotherhood. Thinking that he has discovered a link to The Brotherhood Winston and Julia place their trust and lives into the wrong hands. This misplace of trust leads Winston and Julia on a path of being arrested, tortured, forced to turn on those they love the most and brainwashing. There is no hope for a bleak future for the people of Oceania just monotony, rule by an invisible Big Brother, and an ever-changing past which the residents won't remember anyway.

Title: 1984
Author: George Orwell
Publicationn Date: 1948
Pages: 328
Publisher: Signet Classics
Where I Got It: Gift from a relative
Dates I Read It: November 11 - November 21, 2012
Number of Stars: 3/5

Plot:  4/5
What I Liked:
The plot seemed like something that could definitely happen in the future. I read somewhere recently that A. people are getting much dumber, so honestly it would only be a handful of people who would even notice that the world was becoming a robotic, brainwashed nation, the rest of us are on the couch watching Jersey Shore with our heads in the sand. And B. that by the year 2050 every single thing that we do in a day will be recorded on video camera. How long before the cameras start barking back orders to us? The plot was pretty slow to start with, but it was still bearable and you could tell that something big was brewing. It was compelling and I found myself wondering what would happen to Winston and Julia.
What I Didn't Like: I didn't like a section near the last-half of the book which is a selection from the Brotherhood Book. It was dry reading and boring and even Winston noted that there wasn't anything of any new importance in it. Other than that, it was a quick and enjoyable read with lots of action, especially towards the end of the novel.

Characters: 3/5
What I LikedThe characters were honestly written. Winston becomes a fully developed character over the course of the book. The characters were flawed, which gave them more credibility and made them more reliable. Winston is a character that you cheer for, you want him to win, and through him, you gain a hatred for Big Brother.
O'Brien is also well written, so well written and so believable  that I had to re-read the ending with him, just to be sure that what O'Brien was saying and what he was doing was really happening.
What I Didn't Like
I didn't like Julia. I'm sure that I was supposed to, but I didn't care for her at all. I resented her nativity. Julia was young enough that she couldn't remember a time before, so she accepted the Party for what it was, but she still didn't care for it. She had an air of indifference around her, especially when Winston was attempting to engage her in conversations about how it was before the Party took over, and how could she honestly NOT remember Oceania being at war with Eurasia just 4 years earlier?

Prose 4/5
What I Liked
For a classic, this was a very readable book. It flowed well, it was linear, and the story moved at a good pace. Orwell is a magnificent writer, and after reading 1984 I am now very interested in reading Animal Farm. Orwell is able to give a voice not just to his characters, but to their emotions as well. Much like the Party, I was able to tell what a character was feeling just by the way Orwell described a movement, or a behavior. Orwell is able to capture an exorbitant amount of thought, feeling, emotion, etc. with very few words.
What I Didn't Like
There wasn't a whole lot about the prose that I can say anything negative about. The only thing that slowed the flow of the book for me was the section that was from the Brotherhood book. I, personally, just got bogged down by it. Other than that though, I thought that the book was written flawlessly.

Memorable Quotes:
"War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength."
"At the sight of the words I love you the desire to stay alive had welled up in him, and the taking of minor risks suddenly seemed stupid."
"Anything that hinted at corruption always filled him with a wild hope."
"I hate purity, I hate goodness. I don't want any virtue to exist anywhere. I want everyone ot be corrupt to the bones."
"No emotion was pure, because everything was mixed up with fear and hatred."
"She had become a physical necessity, something that he not only wanted but felt that he had a right to."
"The birds sang, the proles sang, the Party did not sing."
"Down with Big Brother"

Recommended For:
Science-Fiction/Fantasy Fans looking for something a little deeper
English Majors
College-bound students
High School Students

Final Thoughts:
While I enjoyed the book, it wasn't exactly what I thought that it was going to be. I enjoyed the story, I found value in the cautionary tale that warns us of an unforgiving future. Though the events didn't play out in the year 1984, they weren't too far off either. The possibility of a government that controls our every movement is just around the corner I believe. When that time does come, I do hope that we have renegades like Winston and Julia and The Brotherhood out there fighting against the powers that be.

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