Picture this: the year is 1984. You live in a society ruled by Big Brother, a fearsome mascot whose ominous face fills enormous posters everywhere you look. There is constant surveillance in every part of your life, no matter what you are doing or where you go. Government propaganda is forced upon you multiple times a day. One wrong action, however small, could get you tortured and killed. Clothing and food are strictly rationed among other things. You must use the words of Newspeak, the language that cuts out “unnecessary” words in the English language, and regularly practice mental ideas like crimestop and doublethink to stay in line. You are a member of the Party in the book 1984, and you lead a life similar to Winston Smith, the main character of this story.
However, Winston doesn’t believe in the Party’s values and beliefs. He has been against them for seven years, but can’t do anything about it as trying to act on these thoughts would lead to certain death. As the book progresses, Winston does figure out a way to go against the Party and Big Brother, but I suggest checking out the book to read all about that!
There are parallels to today’s society within 1984, like invasive surveillance and other issues that are becoming increasingly prevalent. Reading 1984 gave me some interesting insight as to what 2019 could become if we let technology and surveillance become much more controlling and let them be abused. 1984 is a fascinating read about a dystopian world that isn’t as different from 2019 as one might think.
George Orwell’s 1984 is a dystopian novel read by countless high school students each academic year. It tells the story of a futuristic society(Oceania) under the rule of an elite group called the Party and the symbolic, mythical figurehead Big Brother from the perspective of an Outer Party member named Winston Smith. In this society, the population is divided into three main classes: the Inner Party (upper-class minority), the Outer Party (middle-class minority), and the Proles (lower class majority). Through the use of fear and mind control, Big Brother ensures that all citizens worship him, his administration, and his existence.
Excessive surveillance through telescreens and the Thought Police discourage rebellion and opposition. Individuality and basic human emotion and instinct are extinguished, and the citizens of Oceania have lost the ability to love and form familial loyalties. Techniques such as doublethink and crimestop are ingrained into the minds of citizens that prevent thoughtcrime, or having thoughts against Big Brother and the Party. Throughout the story, Winston battles with thoughtcrime in his brainwashed state, and struggles to become “conscious.” He falls in love with a fellow rebel, Julia, and tries to join the mythical anti-Party group known as the Brotherhood. However, this bliss soon comes to an end when Winston is caught by the Thought Police. He experiences both physical and psychological torture that transforms him into a devout follower and worshipper of Big Brother and the Party once again, and he sinks back into a brainwashed state as he waits for inevitable execution.
Orwell published this book in 1949 as both a prediction and a warning of what the year 1984 would have in store for human society. Although Orwell did not live long enough to see this fated year, his predictions create a shocking parallel with 2019. This book was not written as a simple story, but rather as an exemplar of our future and a passionate remonstrance against the direction it is taking. A message written to implore future generations to avoid bringing the world written in these pages to life. 1984 should be read by all voting Americans in 2019. We must understand that our actions have a power that can be used for better or for worse. Will 2019 become 1984? Only time will tell.
1984 by George Orwell is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.