Book Review : Orwell’s 1984

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When Orwell wrote the ‘1984’- a dystopian novel in the year 1949, the critics started questioning whether such a status quo would ever come into existence. Orwell passed away in 1950 just after completing this novel. Readers who have read the novel not only regard him as a great novelist but as a visionary who could draw a lot of parallels about the social, political, and economic structure of 1984.

In Orwell’s frightening future, society (Oceania) is under the control of the ‘Big Brother’. Though nobody has seen or met him, he is believed to be omnipresent and omnipotent. The regime is authoritarian and totalitarianism were even thinking something against him is a punishable offence (usually death). He rules with the help of the ‘Thought Police’ whose only objective is to identify traitors and execute them. Young children often give information to the Thought Police when they overhear their parents talking anything wrong about the Big Brother or the ‘Ingsoc’-English Socialist Party (the Party that rules Oceania). In Newspeak-the official language of the State-this is called ‘thoughtcrime’. Thus, everyone is under a constant watch through cameras and telescreens and anyone who dares to question the Party finds himself dead in the long run.

Winston Smith is the protagonist of the novel. He works in the Records Department of the Ministry of Truth. Winston is the one who is skeptical about his loyalty towards the party and believes that he is one of those people who hate the Party and its style of working. He begins a subtle rebellion against the party by keeping a diary of his secret thoughts, which is a deadly thought crime. With his lover Julia, he begins a foreordained fight for freedom and justice, in a world where no one else appears to see or dislike the oppression the protagonist opposes. Julia also works in the Ministry of Truth but in the Fiction Department. Following which is an account of the struggles and obstacles they both face in order to meet each other speak about the ruthless dictatorship of the Party.

The party makes sure that the concept of love has vanished from society and the only purpose of marriage remains to be producing more and more babies. It is taken care that lovemaking doesn’t take place among the masses and 2 people who fall in love are not allowed to marry. The party discourages the feeling of eroticism or sexual desire and only believes in the principle of productivity. Winston, although married to Katherine, feels empty in his relationship. He believes that whenever he touches his wife, she freezes to death. Yet, she urges Winston to have children as she believes it is their duty towards the Party. Winston doesn’t face the same problem with his lover Julia who also hates the Party. The only problem he faces is the fear of getting caught one day.

‘Ignorance is Strength, War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery.’ This is the official slogan of the Party which can be seen everywhere in Oceania. Winston, in his quest to know more about the Party, tries to talk to people who have actually seen the Revolution. Failing in this, he tries to gather evidence that could be used against the Party. Reaching nowhere, he concludes that it is only in the memory that one could remember anything in contemporary times. It is the only place where things including people can be restored. It is the sequential process of the Party that whoever is given capital punishment is erased from the records. He is believed to be vaporized. Nobody can talk about him afterward. He just remains in the minds of people. Winston also looks for the tiny possibility of the existence of the Brotherhood-an anti-establishment force hiding somewhere. Orwell in this sense tries to provide hope even in the darkest times.

Orwell effectively explores the themes of mass media control, government surveillance, totalitarianism, and how a dictator can manipulate and control history, thoughts, and lives in such a way that no one can escape it. He has always been a critic of Stalin and his policies in the Soviet state. He thus tries to put forward an analogy which is set in the future. By the medium of Winston, he claims that the only hope remains with the Proles-the Proletariat class which constitutes 85% of the population and yet they are the ones subjected to different forms of exploitation and discrimination. 1984 also becomes a satire as it not only warns about the threats regarding hegemony of a dictator in the future but also depicts a system where relationships are replaced by physical necessities, loyalty takes the place of subordination, and nationalism turns into fascism. Winston towards the end states that freedom is the right to speak that 2+2 make 4 and not 5 as the Party claims. This is indeed the freedom that Orwell claims would be obsolete in 1984. Hence, Orwell’s novel is a warning for the human race. It highlights the importance of resisting mass control and oppression.

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