Published by Signet on 1964
Genres: Classic, Science Fiction
Source: my shelves
Goodreads | Amazon
Is there such a thing as a utopian society? Can you picture a time in which everyone shared the same beliefs, and anyone who opposed said beliefs was considered a traitor and erased from existence? Would a world in which everyone was trained that all of their actions had to be geared toward the advancement of the people be a world where an individual could see themselves prosper? In a world that has no leaders–yet in which you are trained to be devoted to an entity–at what point would you find yourself wanting to break free?
These are just a few of the questions that I asked myself while reading 1984. 1984 is a story about a man named Winston Smith who, for as long as he could remember, lived in a society that mirrored the one mentioned above. He lived in a world with no privacy, no loyalty to anything or anyone other than ‘Big Brother’, and no identity. Everyone around him belonged to a particular section of this supposed utopia, and the sections rarely intermingled. Those who spoke of revolution simply disappeared; some returned to civilization as broken shells of themselves, while any evidence of others was eviscerated from existence. Paradise, right?
Winston had long felt as if he were an outsider; that there was something he knew, but he was afraid to make it known, for fear that he would cease to exist. On the outside, he maintained a uniformed front with his comrades, while inside he had many questions that he longed to ask. He forever felt alone in these thoughts, until he met someone who shared the same views, in Julia. They quickly developed an intimate relationship (considered a violation), and planned how they could rebel against the system that had controlled them for so long.
While reading 1984, I couldn’t help but get overtaken by a feeling of hopelessness. 1984 isn’t a story that leads you on a wild ride, only to end with the good guys winning. It is a story that told me there is no use in fighting the system; it will always win once it decides to flex its muscles. But it also made me realize that utopia is purely subjective: many are content with being told what to do, when to sleep, when to work, what to eat, and what to think. Living a life where you have no free will takes away any chance of failure. As long as your every move and every action are determined by a more powerful entity, you can do no wrong. The book continued to refer to one of the mottos of the society: “Freedom Is Slavery.” It is explained that, if you are free, you are a slave to your desires. You are a slave to your wants. If, however, you acquiesce to the rules of Big Brother, you will be free. Free to live your life as you see fit, with the catch being that the only fit way to live is by the sanctions handed down from Big Brother. This is a perfect example of what Orwell termed ‘doublethink’.
In my opinion, 1984 was more of a testimony to the frailty of the human mind than it was to the ramifications of giving all the power to one person (or idea). Revolutions occur when enough like-minded people feel that they are being oppressed; but if the oppressed people do not realize that they are being held back, those who truly feel oppressed are few and far between. 1984 was an enthralling, interesting read, and out of five stars, I eagerly give it four.
(Click here to learn more about George Orwell)
**If you choose to purchase this title–or any others–using the links below, I will receive a small percentage of the sale (to be used toward site maintenance and buying more books).