Updated: Jul 7, 2020
It was strange to read George Orwell’s 1984 because this was a book where although I hadn’t read it before, I went into it feeling as though I knew everything about it. I knew about Big Brother, about Room 101, about the dystopian society (which set the template for dystopian societies in fiction) the book is set in. It is interesting to consider all the different elements that the regime have to control to keep people under their influence from media manipulation, constant monitoring and even rewriting the past.
I knew not to expect a happy book although I wasn’t aware of how the story actually ended- whether there is any resistance or significant change to the regime or not. The main character Winston Smith constantly believes that as soon as he has thoughts which goes against the regime, he will be caught sooner or later. I’ve seen it written that there isn’t much depth to a lot of the characters who appear in the book but I think that’s supposed to be reflective of the lack of individualism within this society.
I’m glad I didn’t read this when I was younger. The book is a heavy read, both in terms of the theme and the writing itself. One chapter, in particular, sees Winston essentially reading a manifesto without much interruption which was a bit of a long slog to read through. There is plenty of detail in the book but a lot of this is due to too much exposition, particularly towards the end where everything about the society is laid out in front of the reader.
I was impressed with the added details that aren’t so obvious to those who haven’t read the book. I knew the book was all about suppression and forced obedience, even ignorance perhaps, but I had never considered that language could play a part. I found the idea of reducing the words in the English Language to be an interesting concept- the idea that if you phase words out of existence then future generations wouldn’t be able to think using those words- words which promote individualism or resistance wouldn’t exist for people to have these rebellious thoughts in the first place.
The book is not without its flaws but it’s important to remember that it was written in 1949 and there are things about modern society that you can point to and say that it reflects points raised in the book by those in power to hold onto power and manipulate media or people anyway they can. The downside of this is that some people tend to have an overly-dramatic response in citing this book for any little thing the government does which they don’t approve of.
The actual plot of 1984 may not be one of the best in terms of the story of Winston Smith as he goes through his life and flirts with rebellious thoughts but the overall setting and background information that Winston both tells the reader and finds out for himself makes it one of the most interesting reads of any book around.