Sunday, September 29, 2013

Rereading Nineteen Eighty-Four

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
Published 1949

This was my third reading of 1984, and I couldn't have appreciated it more.  Orwell does a masterful job describing a world under a totalitarian regime by violating all of the reader's senses, such as: the offending smells of nasty foods and other things; the grimy, dingy, depressing sights of neglected people, relationships, and whole communities; and the glaring, intrusive sounds of Big Brother ringing in your ears constantly. Orwell allows the reader to feel unsettled like the main character, Winston Smith, who is unable to elude the intrusive eyes of Big Brother.

Winston is an Outer Party member, rather like the middle class.  Above him are the Inner Party members, and under him are the Proles, the lesser common man.  Winston works for the Party by destroying evidence of past history as it relates to the Party in the present because the Party controls history.  Meanwhile, Big Brother, who is above everyone, is an enigma.

Winston hates the Party and seeks to connect to the Brotherhood, an enemy of the Party, and join the resistance.  When Winston meets a young woman, Julia, also from the Outer Party, they not only share their hatred for the Party, but they develop feelings for each other.  Although emotional relationships are forbidden for Party members, Winston is sure he can tolerate his life now that he has Julia.

When Winston admits to O'Brien, an Inner Party member, that he and Julia hate the Party and want to join the Brotherhood - of which he is sure O'Brien is really connected to - it leads to their arrest; O'Brien is not a member of the Brotherhood.

For an extensive period of time, Winston is secluded from the world, tortured, and interrogated by O'Brien, who is representative of the Party itself.  During this time, Winston learns about Big Brother, the Party, their motives, and his fate.  It is a horrific ordeal in which Winston comes to understand how powerful the Party is.  However, as long as he can keep the truth straight in his mind, he believes it is all the freedom he needs and that he can beat the Party at their efforts; they can never get into his mind and control his thoughts . . . so he thinks.

Nineteen Eighty-Four is an important book.  A lot of people hate it because it makes them feel terrible.  Well, it should. And it should serve as a warning to freedom-loving people who can at least still make choices about their leaders and the direction of their country.  When I read this book a little over ten-years ago, I had no idea my country would look so different.  I thought we were safe from such foolishness, but I was ignorant.

I have a lot to say about this book; therefore, this week I hope to answer the questions from The Well-Educated Mind and write about some observations I have made and even some disagreements I have with Orwell, whom I respect much.

What about you?  Have you read 1984?  If so, when, and what did you think about it?


Tonia said...

Reading it now... still on part 1 but I'm enjoying it. Enjoying seems to be the wrong word, perhaps I should say that I find it interesting. I agree that we shouldn't take our freedoms for granted.

Ruth said...

I look forward to reading your take on 1984. I had the same feelings: I enjoyed it, but not to the extent of fun enjoyment.