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Written in 1949 by an author focused on war and totalitarianism, 1984 tells the tale of a region under the control of Big Brother.
The difference between the show and Orwell’s vision is that one remains a light-hearted competition and the other is an unchallenged ruler of a nation.
While the book is controversial and has been banned in various places, there is no doubting that the dystopian piece of art is in the greatest works of fiction of all time.
Terms such as Doublethink (for example claiming that black is white, despite the contradiction to fact) and Newspeak (altering the language to eliminate unnecessary and provocative words) have become common in pop culture. This is because of Orwell’s strength in presenting possibilities for the future.
The story follows the main protagonist, a middle-aged man named Winston Smith, through his everyday life in Oceania and his dealings with the totalitarian environment.
With cameras and spies watching his every move, Winston must follow the strict rules of Big Brother whether he is at work, walking through the dull streets of Oceania
or even relaxing at home.
Winston faces sexual repression, censorship and constant surveillance by the Thought Police, leading to a rebellion through the most dangerous emotion possible; love.
The ideas presented are confronting and every action performed by Winston and Julia (his female counterpart) offers a risk that could result in death or torture, creating a suspenseful read with an eerie presence. Slogans such as WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH and BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU are regularly capitalised, challenging perception and the values of the individual.
Winston Smith is the perfect candidate for the lead character; he is flawed through illness and is an everyman. You can’t help but root for his success through-out the novel.
The brainwashing nature of the Ministries and Big Brother creates extreme difficulty for rebellion, as seen by the consequences the ‘comrades’ face.
Winston’s job at the Ministry of Truth is to rewrite historical documents to match the ever-changing ideals of the Party. If a person disagrees with something presented by Big Brother, they are likely to be tortured into submission or subsequently killed.
The ending will remain with you forever. Some people may even believe that 2+2=5 on completion.
The following quote is based on ‘two minute hate’, a brief video endorsing Big Brother and highlighting the enemy to the people of Oceania: “A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledgehammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic.”
Orwell’s belief in a dystopian future dominated by technology and totalitarianism arose from experiences with Stalin and other dictators. He paints a vivid picture of what society could become if too much power is given to one party.
After all, “Who controls the past, control the future: Who controls the present, controls the past.”