Book Review: 1984

George Orwell’s novel 1984 has become a common reference on many social media comments. Nobody in 1949 (the year the novel was published) could have imagined the internet and being able to chat with people all over the world digitally. Yet the idea of being spied on and lack of privacy was a big issue even then. Some ideas and fears transcend time and will always be in the background, not knowing who is listening.

1984: Summary

1984 book cover
1984

Winston Smith works for the Ministry of Truth and his job is to rewrite history. More specially, his job is to erase the real history and write the one that the Outer Party and Big Brother, the mysterious leader with a cult-like personality, deems to be correct. Anyone who does not follow the Party’s rules is arrested and tortured. The Party spies on people in various ways including through the television set.

Smith secretly hates and is opposed to the Party’s ways and wants to rebel. The thought alone makes him think he is a criminal and he believes he will be caught soon. That doesn’t stop Smith from learning more about ideas that Big Brither condemns. Or taking risks that might lead to his disappearance.

One day, Smith meets Mr Charrington who is an antique owner and buys a dairy. In the diary, Smith writes his thought criticizing the party and sending him down the path of rebelling against the system. After talking to people, Smith discovers that nobody remembers life before the party.

Julia, Smith’s coworker hands him a note and they began to date in secrecy. Sex is an act of rebellion and is only for reproduction. They meet in secrecy and exchange ideas. Their encounters make Smith recall his past life and life before the Party came into power. Now, Smith has to avoid getting caught but who can he trust when Big Brother is everywhere?

Commentary

The ideas in the novel are truer than ever before. Governments all around the world spy on their people. When Orwell wrote the novel in 1949, he was talking about Stalinist Russia. Now, it can be applied to most countries.

I do believe that like a lot of novels in the 20th century, Orwell imagined the worst-case scenario. Yes, the mass surveillance part was hauntingly accurate ( we willingly let websites and apps track us) but a lot of the other stuff didn’t happen. Ironically, Orwell was right about cult like personality leaders but they are the real ones with power and not the party as Orwell predicted.

The novel is over 70 years old and life back then was much different than it is now. A lot has changed and nobody could have guessed how much independency people would have. That also went in the opposite direction of what Orwell predicted. We as individuals have our own choices and beliefs and even our own realities as the past year has shown.

Conclusion

1984 has become a household name and is reminds us of how little privacy we actually have. I do believe that we mostly focus on the privacy part and not the lack of freedom the characters in the book have. That is because that part never became a reality whereas we saw firsthand of how the government spies on us without our knowledge or consent.

I do recommend people to read the novel because it has a lot of great ideas and some of them are still coming true today. People have come to use this novel to criticize the government over the years. It is also a good reminder of how new technology makes some people think of the worst possible outcome. Can anyone imagine life without a television set? We think them harmless but when they first appeared, many authors thought they would be used to spy on us. Now we have people fearing 5G internet. Some things don’t change no matter how much time passes.

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