Monday, October 29, 2007


1984 by George Orwell

This classic story of Orwell's imagined future in 1984 written during the 1950s is a stark warning against totalitarian systems of government. In the story the government is headed by a shadowy figure titled Big Brother. This popular reference to "the man" or other monitoring organization originates in this story. The basic concept is that the ruling party monitors all aspects of a person's life through telescreens, microphones, and an elaborate spy system, among others. They create their own history and destroy all accounts which differ from their account of history.

They also invent a language called Newspeak which could be a reference to using politically correct language. Newspeak is structured to comply solely with the political philosophies of the Party and is intended to make thought which occurs contrary to this philosophy impossible. If someone tries to make claims to the contrary or engage in discussions that oppose the party it is considered "crimethink" and the person is taken away to be "fixed."

If current events or philosophies change, a complex system of forgery and reworking is in place to rewrite history so that Big Brother always makes accurate predictions, the economy is always better than it was in the past and things appear to be great on paper. In reality, people barely subsist, disease and crime is common, and life in general is much worse compared to life prior to the Revolution which occurred in the 1950s-60s in conjunction with wide spread
nuclear war. Old copies of books and newspapers are burned to eliminate any hard
copy of actual history.

There is no reality but that which the Party and Big Brother espouse. If you think outside or remember something different from the stated reality, you are considered delusional and in a minority of one. Those who persist in the belief that Big Brother is wrong, are arrested and systematically tortured and brainwashed to the point where they begin accepting the Big Brother philosophy and reality as truth.

The main character works for the Party but has doubts as to the positive benefits of the Party and its philosophy. He feels repressed and seeks out ways to fight against this overwhelming power. The first part of the book walks through his growing realization of the continuous brainwashing and creation of reality which can change at the drop of a hat.

The 2nd part adds very little to the overall plot and really could be skipped without much loss in value. It additionally contains a gratuitous amount of promiscuous behavior which serves little purpose other than an appeal to the prurient interest.

The last part of the book describes in detail the arrest, torture, and brainwashing of the protagonist. He has many logical arguments and perspectives which would likely occur to the reader fighting against the philosophy of Big Brother. This helps to make believable his eventual conversion to belief that Big Brother is good and right regardless of the reader's perspective grounded in the reality of today's thought.

1984 is quite thought provoking and serves as a good reminder that any political party or dictator with absolute power is dangerous and measures should be taken to avoid movement towards this type of system.

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