Author: George Orwell
Genre: dystopian fiction
I have a confession to make. I have never read the dystopian classic, 1984. Given the peculiar political climate in the US lately, I decided that now might be a good time to read the novel. It’s (obviously) set in 1984 London and the protagonist is Winston Smith. Winston decides out of the blue one day to keep a diary. Keeping a diary in this version of dystopian London is dangerous and illegal and Winston finds that he must enter his thoughts and musings in the blind spot of his home’s telescreen. The illegal diary begins a domino effect in Winston’s thoughts and behaviors that allow him to question everything in this society.
In this world, there are no one-dimensional televisions; the telescreens are a surveillance tool of the Party (Big Brother). The Party controls the population through the destruction and revision of the past; the past is rewritten so that the Party can take credit for accomplishments, victories, and inventions: “If all records told the same tale then the lie passed into history and became truth. Who controls the past controls the future?” Of course, if a citizen remembered an event that differed from the party line (pun intended), “how could establish even the most obvious fact when there existed no record outside your own memory?”
The erasure of the past is assisted by the removal of all physical and written references to statues, memorials, and historical markers and all original records are modified and destroyed to reflect the new truth of the Party. Scraps of paper are discarded and incinerated immediately- can’t have any contradictory evidence hanging about, you know. The Party even changes the structure of the English language, truncating it as much as possible to that multiple definitions and nuances cease to exist. Speaking of ceasing to exist…in this world rebels and thought criminals are vaporized. Once a person disappears all records of their existence are erased and they briefly become an unperson before memories fade.
Marriage is no longer a religious ceremony or an act of love but a duty to the Party since any children born of this union are the future of the Party. Solitude and individualism are looked down upon- all extracurricular activities and free time are expected to be used in service of the Party.
As if all this wasn’t depressing enough but Oceania (yep, countries and alliances have changed too), is constantly at war with her (supposed) enemies; in a war in which no progress is ever made. Winston finds out that this continuous state of war is a conspiracy to decrease wealth and upward social mobility among the common people.
So, all these plot points sound exciting for a dystopian novel but I found George Orwell’s writing style boring and I felt the book ended too abruptly and with no change in atmosphere or events than from the beginning of the novel (no hero’s journey). As a result, it has taken me most of the summer to read this book since there were more interesting books to read.