1984 By George Orwell
1984 by George Orwell is usually referred to as “one of the most famous dystopias of all times” and “the book-prophecy” or “Orwell’s masterpiece”. All of these names are on-point for this novel, written in 1948. In 2003, the novel was listed at number 8 on the BBC’s survey called The Big Read, along with The Brave New World and 451 Fahrenheit as the most cited books of the science-fiction genre.
1984 is also “the most important book printed in the last 60 years”, according to The Times. A lot was written about its plot, significance and influence on modern society, yet it still remains debatable piece of literature. This book is like a huge mountain – you have to be at some distance to notice all its greatness. As more and more time passes, we open more and more facets of the novel and ideas presented in it.
The action of the book takes place in the totalitarian country of Oceania, which is ruled by the Party and is totally controlled by it. The whole system is headed by Big Brother, who is worshiped and adored almost as a divine creature. The protagonist of the novel, Winston Smith, works in the Ministry of Truth (Minitrue) and is supposed to organize propaganda and the revision of history. Smith is a skillful and exemplary worker, but in reality he hates the Party and does not believe Big Brother’s ideology. Winston Smith falls in love with Julia, who is a member of the fanatical Junior Anti-Sex League. They are both “thoughtcriminal”, both try to rebel against the totalitarian system, but are betrayed and fail. After tortures and “political re-education” from the Party, they betray each other.
In my opinion, the main idea of the book is not just a critique of totalitarian societies, like the USSR or Nazi Germany, for example. There are a lot of traces found in the book which reflect the real events and features of totalitarianism. But the idea of the novel is much broader than that. It is also a critique of any society in which human values are substituted with propaganda, radicalism and fanaticism. Orwell gives some kind of a prophecy about the society in which the minds of people are under control and manipulated. In such a society, personality and human feelings are not of value anymore. The world which is pictured in 1984 resembled most totalitarian societies which threatened humankind during the twentieth century. It can be even noted that Big Brother’s appearance is quite similar to that of Joseph Stalin. But we can see the traces of that horrible world even in modern times. Orwell criticizes the system in which people turn into thoughtless machines and lose their individuality.
1984 made a great influence on culture and linguistics, and creative mediums overall. Such phrases as, Big Brother, Room 101, the Thought Police, thoughtcrime, unperson, and double speak became common phrases in the English language to denote a totalitarian regime. As any dystopian book, this novel pictures our world as it could be in the future and what should be avoided in the present. Humankind should learn the lessons from this book and never bring to life those false ideals and aims which were spread in Oceania.
Zverev A.M. (1989) Foreword to Russian edition. George Orwell. 1984. (Golyshev V.P., Trans.) Moscow: Progress
Schellenberg, J. (1999) Challenging Destiny. Science Fiction and Fantasy Reviews. Retrieved from http://www.challengingdestiny.com/reviews/1984.htm
McCrum, R. (2009, May 10). The Masterpiece Which Killed George Orwell. The Observer. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/may/10/1984-george-orwell
The Times Made a List of the Best Books of the Last 60 years. (2009, August 4). Glavred. Retrieved from http://ua.glavred.info/archive/2009/08/04/215837-15.html