1984 is written by Gorge Orwell published in the summer of 1949, is considered one of the most definitive texts of modern literature. This novel is set in Oceania (former Great Britain) one of the inter-continental super-states that divided the world after the global war. Orwell’s novel is a critique of the political structures of the time, examines the role of truth and facts are manipulated in many ways.
The story follows the life of Winston Smith, low ranking member of ‘The Party’ who is exasperated by the omnipresent eyes of the party, and the dictatorial leader ‘Big Brother’, who employs the thought police, who enjoys persecuting individuality and independent thinking by brainwashing the people. The story takes place in a fictional future where the world has fallen victim to impending war and fictitious language as ‘Newspeak’- which consists of words like doublethink (accepting contrary opinions or belief at the same time), crimethink, crime stop. The Party also negates the history, changes it according to their will and the people are in all-time surveillance of omnipresent government.
What happens in 1984?
In 1984, former Great Britain now known as Airstrip One, is a province of Oceania, one of the three totalitarian superstates which are ruled by ‘The Party’. Big Brother (leader of the Party) controls every facet of people’s lives, Newspeak, a new language invented, created ‘Thougthcrimes’ to stop people from thinking any rebellious things eliminating any uprising for politics.
The Party controls everything that people do, what they read, speak and do; maintains the strength through ‘Though Police’ and constant surveillance through telescreen- which is a two-way camera, and hidden microphones. Purging out anybody who does not follow their commands under the ideology of Ingsoc- a short form of English Socialism in Newspeak. The elimination takes place using the ‘Thought Police’ and those who fail to follow and do not work in favour of the Party becomes ‘unperson’ disappearing with all the evidence of the existence of their life.
The protagonist Winston Smith works in the Ministry of Truth rewriting/editing the history- aligning it with current political thinking- the past original documents are destroyed in the memory hole. Frustrated with the governments' invasiveness and no regard for privacy Winston always longed for the truth which leads him to secretly rebel against the government by keeping his diary /journal. And the thought of rebellion makes him ‘Thought Criminal’. Gradually, he starts a forbidden relationship with Julia, a coworker in a different department, who has similar interests and rents a room in a middle-class neighbourhood above a shop with a friendly owner.
Winston is given a book of history by his boss in the workplace, whom he considered to be a member of the Brotherhood- a rebel party who is against Big Brother. Unaware of the knowledge that both, Julia and Winston, are being watched closely they spent their time together in the shop-rented room. When Winston is approached by the shop’s owner- later discovered was a spy for the Party on a vigil for ‘thought criminals’.
Eventually, both are caught and sent to the Ministry of Love (which maintains law and order). The imprisonment and torture were not merely for re-education and breaking him physically, but for him to submit his independence and demolish his dignity and mortality. Winston was interrogated in Room 101 in the Ministry of Love a room where the prisoners are exposed to their worst nightmares and forced to submit. In the process, he loses everything dear to him, ultimately betraying Julia and his values by admitting that he doesn't care what happens to her. With this betrayal, Winston is released accepting that he loves Big Brother.
With its words and quotes like ‘War is Peace’, ‘Ignorance is Strength’, ‘Freedom is Slavery’ to grasp the original power and greatness you have to clear your mind of whatever you know and you will discover that 1984 is a shocking and heartrending work. The word ‘Orwellian’ can mean a situation that can be destructive to society; also a style of writing which is simple as well as influential.
The book will always be indispensable- as the person (protagonist) in it is struggling to hold onto what is real and is tortured for seeking the truth- makes you understand that truth can be a very flimsy thing and values are regarded as a vulnerability in front of power. And Orwell said ‘In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act’. The novel shows you the dangers of totalitarianism, language can be a tool for controlling the mind; technology can be used as a means of power. Just like Winston we live in the fear of being controlled and dreading surveillance with a state of uncertainty.
As the name suggests the name Ministry of Truth does the exact opposite of it- where lies are manufactured and in today’s world the misleading, opinionated, and fake stories are passed off as news.
The ‘child spies’ in the book were components of the Big Brother’s Party who monitored and spied on the thoughts and activities of their parents; relevant to today’s world children should be protected from the hatred of the world because they are the future of the country which will root more problem and not solve them. We are living in the era described in 1984 where ‘Big Brother is watching you’ is constant and here in reality we are being watched and monitored not just momentarily but also through our preferences.
70 years after his death and the man is still in news.1984 keeps finding new relevance as Orwell intended it to be a warning for the human race, not a prophecy highlighting the control over the nation and oppression of politics. Maybe the most disturbing knowledge that comes to light by this book is that the control of the entire nation under the totalitarian state is possible. The world can fall by continuous scrutinization and ever-present power that can’t be stopped from taking control.
Some quotes from 1984 which are relevant today:
“But if thoughts corrupt language, language can also corrupt thoughts.”
“We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it.”
“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”
“Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else.”
“Perhaps a lunatic was simply a minority of one.”
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