We’ve all heard of 1984 and since I wanted to go into some classic literature that I had passed up during my formative years, I decided to read this one.
The story is about Winston Smith who lives in Oceania. The world that he lives in is surrounded by surveillance and continual threat of being caught for even thinking something against The Party’s beliefs. Winston’s job at the Ministry of Truth is to rewrite history, literally. He goes through old newspaper articles and rewrites them in Newspeak, the language of The Party, to make the articles reflect The Party’s beliefs. Winston hates The Party and he hates Big Brother, the ominous presence that The Party has to keep a close eye on everyone. Julia, who fixes the novel-making machines and whom is a member of the Junior Anti-Sex League, gives Winston a note one day that says, “I love you.” He finds out that she too hates The Party and they start a secret affair. However, the more time they spend together the more willingly they run the risk of capture. When they are taken by The Party to jail, Winston is subjected to numerous forms of torture until he breaks and betrays Julia.
Forgive me for talking myself through this book as I do the review because there were some things I had a hard time with. I really hoped and expected to like this book. I heard over and over how much people loved it so I thought it would be face-paced, exciting and interesting. However, I got frustrated with the descriptions of the dystopian world, which I understand is necessary, but I am not interested in politics so this was the worst book for me to chose to read. Orwell took so much time creating the world that I didn’t care about Winston. I didn’t care about that book he got either. I skipped through the entire section. It was dead boring and it just wanted to show that the real history wasn’t what The Party tried to tell everyone it was. I got it.
Maybe I wasn’t supposed to care about Winston either. He says, “I am thirty nine years old. I’ve got a wife that I can’t get rid of. I’ve got varicose veins. I’ve got five false teeth.” This isn’t the most desirable character to chose as a hero, especially when he wants to rape and murder women. I guess he’s supposed to be a product of his environment but his willing rebellion from Big Brother is simply sleeping with Julia. That was his motivation. Julia had been with a ton of Party-hating men so her only form of rebellion was by seducing men (this would make more sense in 1949 when the book was written, I think.) Still, it seems a bit weak for a motivator when you have the whole dang world going to pot. I guess that’s the only way they could rebel since Winston says that the Proles (normal people) were the only ones who could potentially rebel with any success. Those in The Party had no chance.
Once Winston is caught and under unspeakable pain, he still argues with O’Brian, his captor. He even tells him that he hasn’t betrayed Julia so he hasn’t won. I understood that the interrogation was just to show how people have to accept whatever garbage their told to believe. 2+2=5 if you hear it long enough and it keeps you from dying. Winston’s capture was his own fault - he willingly got sloppy. He must have wanted to get caught just to get the looming inevitable over with. He went romping with Julia, tried talking to people about hating The Party, and then fights them while his back is breaking. He ends up saying he loves Big Brother and he doesn’t feel the same about Julia. They’ve won. His whole purpose in the story was to show us how bad The Party can be.
Again, it’s just not my kind of book. I was interested in the parts about Winston and Julia but that’s only some of the book. The rest was too much description and political discussion that I didn’t have the patience for. I know it’s supposed to be an indicator of present times in society but in the land of the free and the home of the brave, we celebrate vapid, talentless rich people vapid who have 74 day marriages. I don’t think anyone’s going to get a rat cage attached to their face anytime soon for having an opinion on that – thank God.
Anyway, I agree that students in senior high should read this to get an idea of how politics can be. I’m not saying it’s not culturally or historically significant or that it’s a “bad” book. I just didn’t enjoy it as much as other classic books I’ve read. Politics aren’t my thing so any discussion of war puts me to sleep (just like baseball.)
Original post at Unfinished Book Reviews