Culture

Book Week: 1984 by George Orwell

As one of the most entertaining and influential books that have ever been written, George Orwell’s 1984 shows readers a horrific totalitarian future (at least a future considering when the book was published). Released in 1949, Orwell was one of the first to fully explore dystopian science fiction; a genre so ingrained into modern popular culture today, and in my opinion, 1984 was instrumental in the popularisation.

In Orwell’s world within 1984, sometime during the 1950s, World War 3 broke out, large amounts of nuclear weapons were used and ultimately the world was broken into 4 sections; Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia who are perpetually at war over the final, the Equatorial Front. After this war and changing of boarders, a new controlling power and political ideology took control in Oceania. This power is called English Socialism, referred to as INGSOC after the creation of “New Speak”, (shortened version of English created to control the way people speak).

INGSOC rules through complete control and surveillance; each movement, word spoken and even breath is monitored by telescreens present in every room. These screens are seen as the eyes of Big Brother, a near god-like fictional creation by INGSOC, designed to scare and intimidate the population through posters stating “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU”. Being caught by this constant surveillance can lead to being re-educated or even “vaporised” (killed and removed from all records).

The novel follows the main character, Winston Smith and his struggles within the society under the ruling oppression of INGSOC. We see him develop love for a woman named Julia as well as many thoughts and feelings against INGSOC as he tries to escape the watchful eye of Big Brother.

Orwell’s creation of an oppressive atmosphere throughout 1984 makes for an incredibly enjoyable and thought provoking read. Every detail of Winston’s horrific life is explored in excruciating detail which helps build an incredibly clear image of this world in the reader’s eye, something Orwell exceeds at.

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Original 1949 cover art. Credit: flavourwire.com

Every twist and turn the story takes manages to impress me even after reading it at least a dozen times. Even after many readings, the masterfully crafted narration from the point of view of the main character manages to make me feel genuine emotion, which very few writers have managed to consistently achieve.

In my eye, no bookshelf is complete without a copy of 1984; not only due to how enjoyable it is to read, but the historical impact this book had, as it is mostly to thank for the popularisation of the dystopian horror genre.

Interestingly, in recent years there has been a resurgence in sales of Orwell’s classic story. This increase in sales has been due to many people drawing connections between our society and the story’s… I doubt the election of everyone’s favourite orange twitter-addict has had anything to do with this.

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