1984 by George Orwell

Image result for 1984

C’mon, admit it, you love dystopian novels. The Hunger Games, The 5th Wave, Divergent, all are popular teen novels that kids love reading these days. But how about older dystopian novels? Those ones that actually have the tragic end that they were promising from the beginning of a broken down world? Sure, I could be talking about Fahrenheit 451, another really great older dystopian novel, but I am talking about the one I enjoyed even more: 1984.

Although written in 1949, it talks about a world that has experienced wars ever since WWII, only to be pulled out of the dumpster by a totalitarian government that gave the people total war, slavery, and ignorance. The nation of Oceania controls this post war London, where there is never enough products, and everything already there, like houses, is over 50 years old. Winston, who works in the government, notices this but keeps on writing lies to public so that they would like the government more. After meeting a person he likes, O’Brien, and a person he hates, Julia, he starts to want to rebel.

I really liked the themes of the book. The government is always watching them, which is cool. We also sometimes take freedom for granted, but as Winston says, he doesn’t even have the freedom to say 2+2=4.

However, there is some adult things to be worried about, like a graphic torture scene or two, and a lot of themes of fertility. I also did not personally like the main character. Although he perfectly suited the themes of the novel, I kept screaming at him to not be stupid.

And, finally, this is a really great novel. Even if you don’t like old books, you’ll love the idea of corrupt governments, and a desire for freedom.

-Megan V

1984 by George Orwell is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Animal Farm by George Orwell

animalfarm_georgeorwellHave you ever hated animals so much that you wanted to eliminate all of them from the face of the earth? I, for sure, haven’t. I can’t imagine what life would be like without any pets or farm animals or zoos. We probably wouldn’t be able to live for long, so it is a ridiculous idea, right?

The animals of Animal Farm don’t seem to agree one bit. They see humans as a threat, who take the fruit of all the animal’s labor and give them hardly anything in return. After being rallied by Old Major, his fellow pigs, Snowball, Squealer and Napoleon run the farmer off the farm. With him gone, they eliminate any human influences, such as the saddles for the horses and the whips the farmers used to show their authority. For a while, the pigs ran the farm peacefully with everyone following the same set of simple rules:

The Seven Commandments (p 24)

  1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
  2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
  3. No animal shall wear clothes.
  4. No animal shall sleep in a bed.
  5. No animal shall drink alcohol.
  6. No animal shall kill any other animal.
  7. All animals are equal.

Life seems straightforward, until the pigs, the supposed role models, begin to act more like humans, living in the house, drinking alcohol, learning to walk on their hind legs, and killing other animals, thus breaking five out of the seven rules.

Oddly enough, a story about a group of pigs overthrowing their human farmer and becoming the owners of a farm is captivating. It seems so outrageous that this could even happen, but there was a strong comparison to Stalinist Russia’s own problems. To young readers in this century, the story might have lost some of its meaning, as it was written during the Cold War, where relations between the United States and Russia were strained. Therefore, because  Snowball represents Trotsky, and Napoleon represents Stalin, the younger generation of readers may not fully understand the deeper satirical object of the text. As a result, some research the Russian Revolution beforehand may aid in understanding.

I truly thought this novel was wonderful! It is one of my favorite required reading books. Most memorable for me was the song, Beasts of England. I also loved the reactions of the other farms when they heard that Animal Farm was run by animals. I would have liked to see their faces in real life!

– Leila S., 10th grade

Animal Farm is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library, Overdrive, and Axis360.

Authors We Love: George Orwell

george_orwellBest known for his haunting dystopian classics, George Orwell was an extremely influential British author, capable of expressing his powerful political views through his writing. Living in England from 1903 to 1950, during an era where the rise of totalitarianism was prominent, Orwell’s numerous works brought awareness to social injustice and offered a unique political perspective during a disturbed, chaotic time. Through literary criticism, poetry, fiction, and journalism, he conveyed his opposition to Nazism in Germany, fascism in Italy, and Stalinism in Russia, as well as expressed his outspoken support for democratic socialism.

1984_georgeorwellOne of his best known works is the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, which is set in the future world of Oceania that is occupied by perpetual war. Extreme public manipulation and omnipresent government supervision is utilized to prevent individualism and any form of independent thinking. Society is separated into the privileged and controlling Inner Party elite, the Outer Party, and the “proles,” the lowest class. The novel follows Winston Smith, whose job focuses on propaganda and rewriting history so that everything meets the Party’s needs. Although compliant and skillful in his work, Winston secretly hates the Party and dreams of rebelling against Big Brother, the supposed Party leader and epitome of tyranny.

Orwell’s second well-known work is the allegorical novella Animal Farm, which parallels the events leading up to the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the beginning of the Stalinist era in the Soviet Union. The novella tells the story of the mistreated animals of Manor Farm, who overthrow their master Mr. Jones and take over the farm. Initially, the animals imagine a life of freedom and equality, but eventually, the cunning and ruthless rebels, led by the pigs Napoleon and Snowball, start to take control. Suddenly, the animals discover that their world of equality is virtually impossible, as they find themselves trapped as one form of tyranny is replaced by another.

animalfarm_georgeorwellIn both of these works, Orwell compares his characters to real political figures in history. For example, in Nineteen Eighty-Four, Big Brother represents Stalin. In Animal Farm, Mr. Jones represents Tsar Nicholas in Russia before he is overthrown and the pigs Napoleon and Snowball symbolize Stalin and Trotsky. I especially love Orwell’s writing, as it is chilling and insightful, yet simple and easy to understand. Incredibly influential, Orwell’s works continues to shape popular and political culture, and the term “Orwellian” is still used to describe totalitarian practices, with terms such as Big Brother, thoughtcrime, and Though Police. Even if you are not a big fan of politics, like me, I encourage you to read at least one of Orwell’s works during your lifetime, as it will make you question the world we live in and imagine what we could be living like today, if the forces of democracy had not triumphed over authoritarianism.

The works of George Orwell, and those mentioned in this article, are available to check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library, Overdrive, and Axis360

How to Improve your SAT Critical Reading and Writing Scores

glasses-272401_640As a high school junior, I have grown to realize the importance of the SAT, and have searched for hours for ways to improve my scores.  From my own experience, reading is ridiculously helpful in improving critical reading and writing scores, so I thought I would provide you guys with a list of books that are both rich in SAT vocab, and enjoyable to read.

Leonardo di Caprio and Carey Mullligan in a still from The Great Gatsby1.  The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald:  Fitzgerald is one of my favorite authors of all time.  I love him because he writes about the 1920s, which is pretty much the most interesting era of all time, and his writing style is beautiful.  The Great Gatsby is one of those rare books that I actually recommend reading after you see the movie, as it makes the plot much easier to understand and hey, looking at Leo DiCaprio for three hours isn’t all that bad either.

2.  Lord of the Flies by William Golding:  This was my favorite book that my class read during sophomore year.  It’s a fictional expose on the concept of civilization and it is interesting and terrifying all at once.  I definitely recommend this book if you are a fan of survival stories, adventure, or even horror.

brave_new_world3.  Brave New World by Aldous Huxley:  This book was required reading for my sophomore year, but I would have read it even if it wasn’t required.  Brave New World is a book that predicts how our future society will look, and also uncovers the startling faults in our own present-day society.

4.  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee:  I can sum up all the reasons I love this book in two words: Atticus Finch.  Atticus is one of the main characters in the book and is pretty awesome.  He is one of those silent-but-deadly literary heroes that are so hard to find in books nowadays, and that makes me love him even more.

catcher_in_the_rye_cover5.  The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger: This book is amazing because it is written exactly the way I think: sarcastically, honestly, and caustically. (Like how I threw in an SAT vocab word?)  Holden Caulfield is one of the most famous literary characters of all time, and you should definitely read the book to find out why.

6.  Animal Farm by George Orwell:  This book is a satire on the Russian Revolution, as different figures of Russian history are represented by farm animals.  The great part about this book is that it will help you learn grammar and a little bit of history at the same time!

Other books that I haven’t read yet, but are rich in SAT vocab include:  Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, and Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.

Have you guys read any of these books yet?  What did you think of them?  Are there any other books that helped you with your SAT studying? Reply in the comments and good luck on your SATs everyone!

-Amanda D., 11th grade