NINETEEN EIGHTY – FOUR
by George Orwell
“The best books… are those that tell you what you know already.”
Genre: Dystopian, political fiction, social science fiction.
George Orwell was the pseudonym of Eric Blair. He was born in the village of Mothiari in Bengal (India), where his father was a British servant. He was sent to a private school in England.
From 1922 to 1927, Orwell joined the Imperial Police in Burma, but he returned to England aspiring to become a writer.
He chose to use a pseudonym to hide his origins and the social position in which his elite education placed him.
He went to Paris trying to earn a living (by) teaching and he then came back to London experimenting a tramp life.
Both experiences in Paris and London inspired his first book Down and Out in Paris and London (1933).
In 1936, when the Spanish Civil War broke out, Orwell went to Spain as a reporter and fought with the Republican side.
He wrote in 1938 Homage to Catalonia and in 1945 Animal Farm.
He was an outstanding journalist who wrote essays for the left – wing British journal Tribune.
He died because of tubercolosis.
Nineteen Eighty – Four was published in 1949.
There are three superstates which are geographically connected to the countries we know:
-Eastasia (China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan)
-Eurasia (form Portuga to Bering Strait)
-Oceania (the UK, the Americas, Australia, New Zeland, the British Isles and South Africa)
The story is set in Oceania, in a futuristic London not so different from the city known by Orwell’s contemporaries.
The society is divided into three groups:
-the Inner party, the small ruling
-the Outer party, the more numerous and highly indoctrinated
-the proles, politically meaningless.
The protagonist of the novel is Winston Smith, from the Inner party, who works in the Records Department of the Ministry of Truth.
He had to rewrite historical documents.
Winston falls in love with Julia, a fellow member of the Outer party, who works in the Fictional Department of the Ministry of Truth, where novels are rewritten by machines.
The huge obstacle to the love and happiness between the two lovers id the ideology of the ruling Party, governed by the Big Brother, the symbol of a mysterious yet omnipresent oppressor.
In this futuristic world there is no love, no possibility of having independent thoughts.
The Thought Police works to find thought criminals and to punish them into Room 101.
The novel is a distorting mirror of our reality.
In my opinion, language is the real main character of the whole story.
Language is a weapon in the hands of the Totalitarian regime of the Big Brother who is always watching you.
The creation of a language of the Party, Newspeak, is a strong example of how influenced and controlled is the life of the entire population.
The simplification of the old and known language spoken by men brings to a reduction of the ability of men to express complex thoughts and opinions.
People cannot express anything, what the Party says is the only truth, and there is no reason why anyone should have any doubt.
But why do readers all around the world still notice a connection between their own reality and the novel?
The estrangement technique used by Orwell is powerful and it is the answer to our question.
Orwell describes a futuristic – Totalitarian world (particularly the city of London) through familiar and unfamiliar features.
Nineteen Eighty – Four is not like Star Wars; it is much closer to our society and incredibly more realistic, while there is at the same time tare certain aspects that don’t belong to our reality (or society, if you prefer).
This is a dystopian novel, a genre that puts the reader in three different positions at the same time.
Firstly, the reader is sure that the world described in the novel is not his/her own world, then – while s/he goes on reading – s/he starts wondering if the fictional world looks, maybe just a little, like his/her world.
Finally, the reader is depressingly surprised that it could end up being his world.
The death of language and the death of the past are themes that Orwell makes us reflect about.
His aim is to make us imagine what could happen if a Totalitarian regime would hold the whole power over a country, or worse, the entire world, for eternity.
Well, Nineteen Eighty – Four was published, as I said earlier, in 1949, a few years immediately after the end of WWII.
Does the adjective Totalitarian make you remember of something specific?
In the novel, there is a description of a poster of Big Brother stating the following quote : “the face of a man (…), with a heavy black moustache (…)”, and, yes, it reminds me particularly of someone.
So, according to what I am saying, I imagined that Room 101, the torture chamber of the novel, could be a fictional representation of the sadly well – known concentration camps.
People who get into Room 101 do not get out, but if the few people do get out (just a few of them) they won’t be the same anymore.
There are many more aspects I should write about, but my aim is that to give you some essential information about this novel, and to also try and convince you to read it.
So, if you want to know what happens to Winston and Julia, who is O’Brien and how much villain he is and if you want to know what characteristics of our reality are inside the pages of Orwell’s novel, you should just read it.
I am warning you, once you get into Nineteen Eighty – Four pages, you won’t ever get out, or, at least, you won’t be the same.