Eerily, but perhaps not surprisingly, George Orwell’s 1984 continues to stay relevant and reflect real life, with its ideas becoming truer and truer as time passes. I found it the perfect time to recommend it, as it’s not only my favorite book, but it also discusses topics we might try to pay attention to and be wary of today.
Written in 1948, 1984 is set in a war-torn Britain (now called Airstrip One, a province of Oceania), where The Party, led by the mysterious Big Brother (who may or may not be real), controls the population through the Thought Police (who find and eliminate anyone who thinks differently) and Telescreens that track everyone’s movement. It’s in this world that Winston Smith, Party member and employee of the Ministry of Truth (where he rewrites historical records to fit whatever truth the Party wants), begins dreaming of rebelling and starts a secret relationship with his colleague, Julia.
This book has been talked about and analyzed for years now, so I won’t go into all of that. After all, this is a rec, not a review. I do encourage you to do your own research on it and read up on the topics it debates though, as it’s such a rich source of knowledge and a great reason to think and question the truths of our own lives.
Winston is an everyman, Winston is me and you and any regular guy, stuck in the same routine, tired and alone. He starts recording his rebellious, anti-Party thoughts in a diary, knowing that he’ll eventually be caught by the Thought Police, but set on not conforming anymore. It’s this conviction that leads him to form a relationship with Julia, a colleague he initially hated but grew to have feelings for (a union which is an act of rebellion in itself), as well as join O’Brien, a man Winston thinks is part of the underground resistance movement.
The book is full of tension and very unsettling, as it feels like Winston’s thoughts, movements, wishes, everything is tracked, spied on, scrutinized. The risks he takes heighten as the book progresses, leaving you increasingly stressed out for what’s going to happen.
It’s got such an intricate, detailed world building, creating new concepts such as newspeak (a new, shortened English language, essentially designed to limit one’s thinking) or doublethink (accepting two contradictory beliefs at the same time). It’s this, coupled with Orwell’s descriptions and writing style, that create an immersive, evocative universe you can’t help but be absorbed into.
What makes this such an iconic book is how closely it resembles real life, from the screens in your home that track everything (like webcams) to the propaganda churned out by governments. There are too many parallels to pick apart here, so discover them as you read and be horrified at how much our world is turning into this fictional dystopia. Being aware of this makes reading it so much more unsettling.
A book like this needs to be read and understood by both parties before delving deeper into its meaning and analyzing it, so I’ll stop here. There is so much to say about it, but I feel like discussing character dynamics, themes, and story progression will take away from the enjoyment of reading it. I’d be more than happy to have a conversation after you’ve read it though! Now, go forth and enjoy this masterpiece.
As always, thank you so much for reading! See you next week!