Holy cow — I thought I had read George Orwell’s 1984 way back in high school, but I just read it and there is no way I could have read it before and forgotten.
A couple of years ago I took some quiz on the Internet that purported to determine which book would most resonate with me, and the answer was 1984. I started reading it then but for some now inexplicable reason gave up a short while into it. I don’t know why I bailed on it then — I subsequently read Animal Farm and loved it, so I don’t think it’s Orwell’s writing style. Well, I decided to give it another shot and am now breaking my own arm patting myself on the back for my achievement (such achievement also known as “reading yet another book that everyone in the world already read” and/or “reading yet another book that’s the source of ideas and theories that I use in everyday conversation despite not having read the actual book”).
1984, written in 1948, is Orwell’s ominous tale of a future state in which the government has taken a far greater role in the lives of citizens, from their thinking to their daily activities. It focuses on Winston Smith, who lives in London, which is part of Oceania, which is one of three global empires in Orwell’s fictional modern world. Oceania is under the control of the Party, which is led by Big Brother, and which exercises close watch and control over the population of Oceania. Smith himself is a member of the Outer Party who works at the Party’s Ministry of Truth, rewriting passages in archived media to alter historical records to better fit with the Party’s then-current agenda and proclamations.
Smith’s story and the way it demonstrates the workings of the Party, together with the writings of Emmanuel Goldstein (the so-called “Enemy of the People”) as relayed in “The Book” that Winston reads, present an unbelievably compelling insight into the manner in which power can be obtained and maintained. While many books have been written during the time between Machiavelli’s The Prince and Orwell’s 1984, the vast majority of which I’ll admit that I may not have read, I doubt any other author has been able to present such an innovative or downright scary case as either of those two. Believe it or not, I had peeked a while back to see what the last four words to this book were, because they were the answer to a trivia question, and knowing those powerful words in advance not only didn’t spoil anything about this book for me, they gave me goosebumps while reading everything leading up to them.
If there are any of you out there who haven’t read this one, you need to get on it. Or the Thought Police will get you.