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1984 by George Orwell

Review of: 1984
Book:
George Orwell

Reviewed by:
Rating:
5
On May 3, 2012
Last modified:September 29, 2012

Summary:

Orwell's 1984 was written following WWII at about the mid-point of the 20th century. It was a book ahead of its time in many, many ways. From a pure science fiction perspective, it's amazing how well it has held up almost as well as it's power to terrify.

1984 By George Orwell1984 is not a happy book.  It is an important book though, and I realized that, although I’ve quoted phrases from it that have become part of our lexicon, I hadn’t yet read it. I rectified that this weekend.

Orwell’s novel was written following WWII at about the mid-point of the 20th century. It was a book ahead of its time in many, many ways.  From a pure science fiction perspective, it’s amazing how well it has held up. The technology Orwell invented for his future world has not been dated by actual technological advances.  The book could have been written today. There is no disconnect in the book’s ability to cause suspension of disbelief because of a mistaken perception of the future – like flying cars, for example.  On the contrary, Orwell carefully chose only the technologies he needed to make his novel work – and hit the mark precisely.

From a literary perspective, Orwell creates a world that is frighteningly realistic. He uses a new vocabulary of his own design, which so perfectly matches the story as to lend credence and realism.  This language is called Newspeak.  In this fictional language, words mean everything and nothing at the same time.  Every word means what it needs to mean at any precise moment – even if that is the opposite of its true meaning.  In Orwell’s world, truth is an evolving concept that depends on what the party organism decides at any given moment.  So if the party says that 2 + 2 = 5, then 2 + 2 = 5, if, at another point it equals 3, or 2 then unquestioned belief in that equation is required.

So it was in the real world in which Orwell lived when, on August 23, 1939, the Soviet Union, having vowed its opposition to Nazism, signed a non-aggression pact with Germany and demanded loyal communists follow where the party led.

The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears.  It was their final, most essential command.

In today’s world we are have our own version of Newspeak.  Under the pressure of political correctness – terms like: undocumented workers replace illegal aliens, insurgents take the  place of terrorists, investment is substituted for taxation, all distort and confuse.  At one point in the book a colleague of Winston’s (the protagonist) explains,

Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought?  In the end we shall make thought crime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.

As I wrote in The Narrative, facts are irrelevant and must be shaped to fit needs.  There are no inconvenient truths because truth is what the narrative dictates it must be.  I’ve had numerous conversations on line and off with people like Winston’s wife.

She had not a thought in her head that was not a slogan, and there was no imbecility, absolutely none, that she was not capable of swallowing if the Party handed it out to her.  ‘The human sound-track’ he nicknamed here in his own mind.

As I read 1984, I was overcome at several points by a sense of deja vu.  Finally, I realized that the cold psychopathic pragmatism of O’Brien, a member of the thought police, reminded me of something I had read elsewhere – then it hit me, it was in the tone conveyed by Sol Alinsky in Rules for Radicals.  Simultaneously grandfatherly and almost friendly, but yet sickening.

Orwell does to the reader exactly what O’Brien does to Winston.  In the first part of the book, he holds out the hope that Winston and Julia will triumph. It is shocking when Orwell reveals that everything has been an elaborate scheme to crush Winston’s soul.  The kindly O’Brien was merely playing with Winston – for years.

The conversations between O’Brien and Winston at his “cure” in the Ministry of Love are painful but illuminating.  O’Brien makes no attempt to hide his purpose.

The old civilizations claimed that they were founded on love or justice.  Ours is founded upon hatred.  In our world there will be no emotions except fear, rage, triumph and self-abasement.  Everything else we shall destroy — everything.

Orwell does a masterful, if unpleasant job of depicting pure evil.

If you want a picture of the future, imagin a boot stamping on a human face — for ever.

1984 still has the power to terrify, perhaps more now than when it was written. It must have seemed far-fetched back in 1949.

It doesn’t seem so far-fetched today.

2 comments

1 David Hunt { 05.04.12 at 2:42 am }

Newspeak is not just vocabulary. It’s information.

Consider that afte we invaded Iraq we DID find evidence of WMDs; one armored bunker had drums of liquid labeled “pesticide”, and the one next door had missiles whose warheads had been modified to carry a liquid payload.

Saddam literally had buildings torn down and their materials scattered just before the invasion. Trucks streamed to Syria. Etc., etc., etc.

Yet the MSM set the narrative: No WMDs. And, alas, Bush didn’t fight it.

People can only make decisions based on the information they have available. And the Left has made far too many inroads into the means of informing people… which is why they deride and hate Fox and the internet so much.

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2 Jeff Edelman { 05.05.12 at 9:08 pm }

Barack Hussein Obama utilizes newspeak. Of most everything he says, the opposite is true. It is a Democrat tactic in general. Does anyone remember: “It depends on the what the meaning of ‘is’ is.”? Or, “I did not have sex with that woman.” Volumes the number of the U.S. tax code could be filled with quotes of democrats’ newspeak. This is proof, once again, that the democrats have to deceive to advance their agenda. In regards to the book, the edition I read, back in the ’70’s, said Orwell had studied communism. For this reason, I contend the book was not a peering into the future but, a current look at communism. And, it wasn’t true just of the Soviet Union. It was true of East Germany, the rest of the eastern bloc countries, and Castro’s Cuba. It is true of North Korea today. I seem to recollect in the book accounts about shortages in the production of shoes. . This is communism/socialism. This is inherent with a centrally planned, bureaucratically controlled economy. This is obama’s vision for America! Orwell’s 1984 was not so much a futuristic tale as a cautionary one. And, in a related matter. Is it ironic that in an obama reelection campaign slideshow the name of the girl being used as an example of the benefits of cradle to grave government care (socialism/communism) is “Julia”? Sleep well, all.

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