Tuesday, July 22, 2008

1984 by George Orwell

Though I finished reading George Orwell's "reverse utopian" novel 1984 several days ago, I've been putting off writing the review for several reasons. First, I don't exactly know what to say about this book. It took me two entire weeks to read this relatively short book because I was unusually busy, but also because I did not look forward to reading it. I had to force myself to pick it up and concentrate. The second reason I've put off the review is that I know I'm not going to do the book justice. Because I was really busy, I really just needed a good story to read. While 1984 does have a main character, Winston Smith, the book is far deeper than this one man's story. I skimmed over several passages in the book because I was impatient, and I found them to be dry, but I know if I would have spent the time, I probably would have better understood what Orwell was saying through his book. So, I apologize for my review ahead of time--I'll try to find links to good reviews to share!

Society in 1984 is run by a totalitarian government. There are 3 classes of people--the smallest group, yet the people with the most power and privilege is the Inner Party. The Outer Party have very few creature comforts, but they work in government office-type jobs. The remaining class, which make up 85% of the population, are the "proles." They are looked down upon as unintelligent, and have hard labor-type jobs. Though English is still spoken, many words have been completely dropped off, with the introduction of "Newspeak." The goal is to have a language that is so easy and has so few words that people really don't have to think very much at all, and there is literally no way to have thoughts of words such as "freedom." Along with the language, the past is slowly being wiped out. Books of all types have been altered to remove anything that is not in alignment with the Party. Reading, writing, thinking, and feeling are not only discouraged, but punishable.

There are three major powers in the world at this time--Oceania (the setting of 1984), Eurasia, and Eastasia. The three powers are constantly at war. Who Oceania is at war with, and who they are allied with changes frequently, but no one really pays attention. People's lives are devoid of emotion, fun, and free-will. They do exactly what they should be doing, according to the Party (Big Brother), as they are constantly watched from the ever present telescreens and/or hidden microphones that are in homes, at work, and even outside in the woods. People that deviate are "vaporized" and their names are erased from any records--as if they never existed.

Winston Smith, an average 39-year-old Outer Party member is unhappy with this life and occasionally has flashbacks to his childhood when things were different. He knows the history books aren't accurate, as his job is to actually update the past events to make them parallel with the Party's agenda. He only takes part in the Party rituals, such as the Two Minutes Hate, because he doesn't want to disappear forever, to become and "unperson." He lives in constant fear, and knows he can't trust anyone...until he meets Julia. It is only after he begins spending time with her (which completely isn't allowed), that Winston really learns what happiness could be like, as well as what the Party is capable of.

Imagining this world of despair and loneliness is depressing. I'm glad that even though we are well past the year 1984, our world is not even close to the dreary place pictured in the novel. Well, actually, I don't know...maybe someone is watching us through our televisions...

Read other reviews: (please let me know if you've read and reviewed it, and I'll add your link).
The Hidden Side of a Leaf
The Inside Cover
Thoughts, Books, and Philosophy

Date Completed: July 20, 2008
# of pages: 308


Nymeth said...

Sometimes I worry about being able to do a certain book justice too, but you did just fine, Laura.

I love this book, but I can definitely see how picking it up at a busy time would get in the way of the reading experience.

Becca said...

I had a hard time reviewing this book too. First, I hate reading something that everyone else seems to LOVE because for some reason I become super critical of it.

Also, I had so many different thoughts as I was reading through it and then when I finished I felt like I couldn't put them all into words.

I think you did a good job though. And thanks for linking to my (super short) review of the book too! :-)

Bookfool said...

I read 1984 before 1984. Wow, that was a long time ago! I really enjoyed it, at the time, and it's really stuck with me. It seems like it was prescient, in many ways (and in other ways a bit ridiculous -- the rats . . . ugh). Seems to me you did a fine job of reviewing. :)

Trish said...

Sounds very creepy--I don't like the idea of people watching us through TVs...

Is this the kind of book that you would be interested in re-reading one day to pick up what you missed or do you have no desire to ever revisit it again? I definitely think that busy times make reading books like this difficult and unenjoyable (you worked on this one for 2 weeks--I've been working on poor Tess for over a month! Eeks). I still have this on my list of books to read, but I'll definitely make sure that we're not in busy season!

Tiffany Norris said...

I agree that you did a great job on this review! I recently read Animal Farm, and this is another that is definitely on my TBR list...even though it is a bit creepy.

Stephanie said...

I thought your review was great!

Just wanted to let you know I nominated you for a blog award. Stop by and see!

Laura said...

~Nymeth-Because I didn't want to let my distraction get in the way of other great books, I figured I should read some lighter books for a little while.

~Becca-I'm always a little afraid I'm going to slightly offend someone if I don't like their favorite book. I found this a very difficult book to review!

~Bookfool-if a book can stick with you for over 25 years, that must mean the author knew what he was doing! Down the road, I might read Animal Farm--have you read it?

~Trish-good idea! Read this when you have time to read slowly!

~Tiffany-I wonder how Animal Farm will compare to 1984?

~Stephanie-thank you so much for the award! I feel very special! :)

Josette said...

Hi, I didn't look forward to reading this book too. I only kept on reading because it'll help me understand what I'm learning in my Mass Communications class!

But I have to say it's kind of a good book. An eye-opener and thought-provoking. Seems like Orwell wrote it based on personal experiences!

Here's my review of it. :)