Friday, November 6, 2009

Review: 1984 by George Orwell



1984 by George Orwell
Published by Signet Classic, 1949
ISBN: 9780451524935
368 pages
Genre: classics, dystopia
Source: Library audiobook









Summary in a Sentence (or two):

Published in 1949, the book offers political satirist George Orwell's nightmare vision of a totalitarian, bureaucratic world and one poor stiff's attempt to find individuality. The brilliance of the novel is Orwell's prescience of modern life--the ubiquity of television, the distortion of the language--and his ability to construct such a thorough version of hell.

My Thoughts:
War is peace.
Freedom is slavery.
Ignorance is strength.
I find it very intimidating to review a well-known classic. I think since there is so much information on both the book and the author that I will just touch on a few of the concepts pervasive in the novel and, considering this is one of the daddies of dystopia, how the novel's presence has impacted literature as a whole.


Big Brother is the ever-present leader of the party, staring at the citizens of Oceania wherever they go with the aide of telescreens. Winston, an employee of the Ministry, isn't really sure if Big Brother actually exists or if he's really even an actual entity. The point Orwell is making here is that the party is always watching and has complete control over its citizens' bodies and minds. As party members go higher up in the ranks, vagueness ensues until one realizes that no one really knows who is ruling the country.


First draft of Orwell's 1984.

One of the most disturbing examples of the Party's mind control, and there are many, is illustrated in the description of Winston's job. His role within the party as propaganda officer is to alter official government publications in order for them to fit with the Party's official version of how events really went down. The Thought Police are constantly vigilant, searching out dissenters of the Party. They monitor citizens to the point where having a dissenting thought against the party is against the law and punishable.

Inevitably, Winston becomes one of these disillusioned dissenters,and he is arrested and tortured for it. During his interrogation, his captors explain to him that he will be re-integrated, or brainwashed, back into the Party.


The influence of Orwell's 1984 is indeed extensive; how many times have you heard someone describe something as "Orwellian"? Anthony Burgess wrote 1985, which was intended to be a sequel to Orwell's original work. In more recent work, Cory Doctorow's Little Brother directly references 1984's Big Brother, and Doctorow's main character, Marcus Yellow, is a direct reference to Winston Smith.

I recognize this book's extreme importance in the field of dystopian literature, and I found parts of it to be truly terrifying. However, parts of the novel, especially the segment in which Winston reads aloud entire chapters of the underground opposition party's manual, moved very slowly and were very dry. I'm glad I've read it but will probably not revisit it.

Rating: 3/5


Also Recommended:
Other Reviews:
This book counts toward my Four Month Challenge.

8 comments:

Amanda said...

I read this one, along with Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, in my high school senior english class. I liked it, except I thought the end with room 101 was extremely anticlimactic. I felt like Orwell had had a difficult time putting together a strong, impactful ending to his novel, which kind of broke the rest of it. I liked BNW much better.

I think it was summer 2008 when my book club read 1984. I didn't need to reread it, but I decided to try it again. Unfortunately, beyond being bored to death by those dry chapters you talked about, the end was still very frustrating to me. I've read multiple books by Orwell and nearly all the time, he has the same abrupt, anticlimactic way of ending his books, as if he just couldn't think of something better and got tired of trying. It's really irritating.

I'm glad I read it though. Both times. Since I love dystopian fiction and was writing my own dystopian novel at the time, it really helped me to see where I did and didn't want to go with my own book.

(sorry, ending this long comment now...)

brizmus said...

Wow, only a 3 out of 5 for 1984. Craziness.
This is one of my favorite books! I absolutely LOVE it!
It's definitely dry at times, though,. . .
great review!

Lula O said...

I've been wanting to read this for awhile, but as I'm so politically charged up right now it'd might be more than I could take. It is a very interesting concept though.
Great review!

Raspberry said...

I think this is a fabulous book - nice review.
And thank you so much for putting that giveaway up on your list. The author had contacted me and told me to end it now because of restraints from the publishers, and I was pretty sick, so I thought I'd ask if you were up to it. Anyways, thanks again.
:)

Enna Isilee said...

I really want to read this. But I just don't have the time with all the new books out there.

You have an award over at my blog!

Diane said...

I never loved 1984 either. To me it was just okay. Good review!

Veens said...

I have no tread this one and this one doesn't sound like the book I will enjoy. But these are books you really read because they are classics .. hmm!

farmlanebooks said...

I enjoyed this slightly more than you. I think that the things he predicted were very impressive and the fact that so many of our phrases in common uses come from this book makes it very important, but it wasn't an enjoyable book to read - too slow and detailed for me. I'm pleased I read it though.