134 of 140 people found the following review helpful
If you can, skip the introduction to 1984.
Forget the film. Or any other adaptation.
Forget that it *might* be comment on society 50 years ago and that it *might* apply to Soviet / Sino governments which hardly exist any more.
The themes which Orwell tackles are completely relevant today, and his method for exploring them is as fresh now as when I first read 1984, in the early 1980s (how appropriate).
So just dive straight in and read about a brilliant, scary, compelling and stark possible-future society.
1984 is an amazingly good read. It's easy to get in to and the characters grip you straight away. The language is pretty straightforward and it's a compact story -- so it's not a marathon 800-page monster like many modern novels can be. The dilemma of Winston Smith is so involving that I've found myself re-reading the whole book in one or two sessions (and I know exactly what happens!), just because I can't bear to put it down.
So just read it for the pleasure of reading a really great speculative novel, which comments on human society, and human relationships. Yes, it has dated somewhat but that's true of every book. The nightmare which surrounds the main characters isn't affected by the passage of time, and Room 101 is still very, very scary (you'll also discover just how many popular phrases came from this book. Plenty!)
Then, afterwards, you can get really concerned about how much of it has come true and how close our society is to that of Orwell's imagination...
And if you were forced to read 1984 or Animal Farm at school, it's worth re-reading it as an adult to appreciate it without someone leaning over your shoulder and telling you what you should be thinking.
70 of 76 people found the following review helpful
on 26 June 2006
`1984' is Orwell's post-modern classic, concerning what the world may look like in 1984, 40 years after the book was written. In Orwell's dystopia, the UK, as part of Oceania, is ruled by the despotic Big Brother. Big Brother has total control of all the media, and therefore controls all the information reaching the populace. The people, divided into the ruling Inner Party, the middle class Outer Party and the under-educated Proles, have total loyalty to Big Brother, in both thought and deed, and the righteousness of his actions, and the cause of Oceania, is unquestioned. Hints of rebellion, even in people's thoughts, are viciously crushed, and executions are commonplace. Against this background, Winston Smith begins to have doubts. He wants to engage in a love affair (as opposed to the passionless, state-sanctioned marriage) and have the ability to question Big Brother. Smith's attempts at subversion bring him face to face with the workings of the party, and a brutal introduction to the realities of life in Oceania.
Orwell's book chronicles a scary trajectory in which the twentieth century was headed in the 1940s, and at times it is no less relevant today. Although Orwell was writing partially about the totalitarian regimes of Hitler and Stalin, the observation of governments controlling the masses by controlling the flow of information through the media is possibly more pertinent today than ever before. Sometimes our society looks very different from Oceania, but some aspects are scarily similar, and Orwell's book is a timeless reminder about the dangers of giving anyone too much power. Few writers (perhaps only Shakespeare) have introduced so many new phrases to the English language. Two current TV programmes (`Big Brother' and `Room 101') take both their names and concepts from the pages of `1984'. This is perhaps an indication of both the richness of ideas and their ongoing relevance of `1984', and also an indication that everyone should read this book, to see how much of the world around them they can see in its pages.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 20 August 2014
I read The Hunger Games about three years ago and fell in love with the dystopian genre; since then I have read many of the countless other dystopians that seem to have recently flooded the YA genre. Seriously. I have read A LOT of dystopians, and A LOT of them have been amazing, and I have loved A LOT of them. So, it was probably about time that I read a classic dystopian, I thought. 1984 was the obvious choice (and I intend to read Brave New World by Aldous Huxley sometime soon too.)
I know that a lot of teenagers will be deterred by the idea of ‘classics’ – for some, they conjure up the image of musty, old-fashioned books – but I loved 1984. It was completely on a whole different level to all the ‘modern dystopians’ I have been reading recently. Not to discredit any of those at all, but 1984 honestly is in a league of its own.
The world created by Orwell is fascinating and so plausibly and realistically portrayed that I felt, not like I was reading a fictional novel, but a real, non-fiction account of what actually happened in 1984. That’s how believable Orwell’s writing was. I think what may have added to the depth of the dystopian world created in 1984, as opposed to other dystopians I have read, was that there was a solid political background and reasoning given for how things were the way they were.
I found it absolutely fascinating to contemplate some of the concepts of the 1984 world. Could it really be possible to keep a whole population docile by limiting their vocabulary, thus not giving them a means to express any disagreement or dissent? Could it really be possible to effectively wipe out everyone’s memory of the past by continually changing it to fit whatever version of events the government wished to tell? Would people actually accept this? Would they, or the majority at least, remain oblivious to what the government was doing?
This dystopian world that Orwell created is one of the most shocking I have read about, and it is made all the more terrifying by how realistically it is portrayed. I strongly recommend this to anyone who enjoys the dystopian genre, and, in fact, to anyone who wishes simply to read a truly praiseworthy novel.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1984 is a book that I've been intending to read "at some point" for years. It's a book that's so influential and left such a mark that I knew so many of it's phrases, ideas and characters (even if not always aware of where they came from).
I finally decided it was time to give it a go and to coin an overused phrase, I was blown away.
I'm no literary expert but to me this is just beautifully written and a somewhat terrifying view of a world where political ideology and the desire to control has met the technology that enables it (a technology that is now common place).
The book itself tells the story of Winston Smith, an ordinary member of "The Party" born in a post nuclear world where all freedoms had been lost and all individuality removed by a state that was piece by piece removing all traces of the past to keep it's people trapped in a perpetual state of war, fear and subsistence. Sadly for Winston he commits the cardinal sin of beginning to think for himself and to question, behaviour that is not well received in his 1984.
Given Orwells experiences in the Fascist uprising in Spain and his own views on Stalinism as expressed in Animal Farm, it's clear that he had powerful fears about the totalitarian states that might rise out these ideologies and what might happen if they had the technology to support them and didn't make the mistakes of past failed states.
Reading it now so many years later gives a really interesting perspective on it. We are now surrounded by the technology to support this state, we carry little cameras and location trackers with us at all times, we regularly use online repositories as the basis for wisdom and knowledge... it's chilling to think how Big Brother could subvert this.
So I must add my voice to those who call this essential reading. A fantastic book, a gripping read and a classic.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 29 December 2013
This is not a cheerful tale. It often causes you to think that there is a method of making a stand against the totalitarian government which exists in the story, however, by the end of the novel a disturbing idea is produced: that you can be modelled into becoming the exact person you once despised, even if every fibre of your being was originally pitted against it. 1984 demonstrates class division, what totalitarian power would become and a hugely psychological and physical control.
When the story begins the reader is quite mystified by the world they have been plunged into; it is clearly a very different one from which exists today. However, at the time of writing it, it was a warning, an exhibition of what this world could tumble into becoming if the totalitarian states which existed took control. In fact, Orwell first began writing it at the disillusionment of the socialist block and the soviet movement in Russia.
The main character, Winston, is a party member and as such is one of 15% of the population - the `Inner Party' a minority at the top who enjoy privileges. 'Telescreens' are continually watching party members and the streets of London where the Proles live. These Proles (proletariat) account for the other 85% and consistently Winston thinks `If there is hope, then it lies in the Proles'. However, the idea of `the party' which is presented is an everlasting one. The party have gained power and, based on the failure of totalitarian governments who were overthrown, now know how to maintain it. Big Brother may not even be human. The case is that the Proles merely believe he is human, they believe in everything the Party and, particularly those in the inner party for it is they who have control, tell them. Winston often becomes disturbed by the idea that people can swallow all this, believing one thing at one instance, to then be told the opposite and believe that that thing has always been so. Yet this is due to the principle phrase: "He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past."
This novel truly allows the reader to look again at the world around them and think about where events are heading and what the world could become. Winston constantly believes that there is an external reality which the party have created, but the novel really shows that reality is only the way you perceive it, knowledge and truth can be modeled into being what someone wants them to be, so that to the reality they have created, they are accurate: 2+2 can indeed = 5 where the statement may actually be incorrect or not. The theme of physical and psychological control is everywhere and possibly the most debatable one. Indeed, the book tries to show that, to control the body through pain and fear (torture and experiencing room 101) is to control the mind, something which few have the experience to argue against.
This is certainly not an uplifting novel. The writer is sending us a clear message though: if we are to allow such a society to exist it will be the last thing we are able to freely allow.
I would recommend that everyone take the opportunity to read this. You will not regret it.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on 25 September 2007
If you need to crank up your mind to think outside the box in a university subject, this novel will help. My college lecturer said "If you haven't read 1984 before you get to university DO SO!" So I did, out of sheer curiosity.
Everyone has written about the story line and the style. Here is the practical comment.
When you read this book, imagine you are writing it just after WWII and the technology, politics and the way society operated then. At the same time think about how things are now. I was freeked out, pleasantly. The author must have been some kind of a prophet. For example, satellite tv knows what you are watching, when you watch it, categorises your type of viewing. They are watching you watching them - similar to the happenings of 1984. The novel describes a language that is similar to the texting language we use today. Are we heading for a society described in 1984?
A good debate to help you get into the right frame of mind for sociology, psychology and criminology.
37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on 20 December 2006
In 1984, Orwell relates the depressing story of Winston Smith, a doomed citizen living in Airstrip One (formerly known as London), a poverty-ridden dystopia ruled over by The Party: a city where those who show signs of independent thought vanish in the night, where gigantic telescreens monitor Winston's every move, where he must scratch a living on what The Party provides, working a job rewriting old newspapers in The Party's favour while clinging to his sanity through tiny acts of secret rebellion.
The first of these acts is to purchase and write in a diary, and later to meet a female Party member in private (marriage is formally controlled by The Party, and is strictly for the sole purpose of reproduction). It is only when he finds true happiness and apparent haven from the eyes of the Thought Police that The Party choose to act, arresting him and subjecting him to a torture too cruel and lasting to imagine: one that destroys him in a more important way than death ever could.
As harrowing as Winston's despair-ridden tale is, it's the sheer relevance of the world he inhabits that makes the book such a joy to read in the 21st century. With our highly-filtered and biased news reports, a network of CCTV cameras watching us in city centres, tax on our products feeding the government money and censoring laws and activists stifling free speech, comparisons to 1984 are inevitable. In the world of 1984, people are robbed of personal freedom, brainwashed, abducted, tortured, gradually starved, lied to and killed, and the truly terrifying result of The Party's efforts is that there exists no material proof of their crimes.
The book illuminates the darkest eventuality of politics and government control, and makes it feel that bit too real for comfort.
Orwell's writing has not aged noticeably - I had no problem reading it, and I'm all of seventeen, so most readers will fly through it. If anything, however, some may find the writing style too coarse or simple: Orwell never entirely escapes the analytical style so well-suited to his essays, and in places the book lacks emotion and descriptive flair. In particular, the female protagonist is painfully shallow, never extending very far beyond a "Hello, Dear!" persona. At one point, Orwell also diverts away from the main story and dedicates a large portion of writing to a book within the story, one that Winston is reading, which should be interesting but is annoyingly long-winded and detracts from the main story.
Overall, though, 1984 is profound and chilling. It is a timeless tale of man vs state, and may be uplifting or depressing depending on the individual reader. At any rate, the countless parallels to modern culture make it interesting, and the arguments of logic between Winston and an Inner Party Member will give budding philosophers food for thought. Political enthusiasts will also find issues to chew over, and fans of popular culture may pick up on some unlikely links; musicians, authors and directors in years since have taken heaps of inspiration from the book: the iconic expression "a rebel from the waist down", made famous by a Marilyn Manson song, finds its roots here, alongside the concept of Big Brother and the inspiration of the video game Half-Life 2.
Something for everybody.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 25 July 2011
1984 is an incredibly important piece of literature that should be compulsory reading. It's portrayal of a dystopian totalitarian society based on hatred and fear is so close to the bone that it feels as if Orwell himself were sending a haunting message of warning to the future.
The concepts of the novel are utterly terrifying; a reality taken to the extreme. For it is certainly true that we can see elements of our own existence in this fictional scenario. Namely, the ubiquitous eye of 'Big Brother' ever watchful and thirsty for condemnation. Episodes of denunciation and torture, too, ring true of the dreadful reality of dictatorships and persecution, acting as a firm reminder that allowing the seed of power to cultivate can harvest frightening consequences.
The Ministry of Truth, with its unfathomable contradictions embodied in its slogans and various departments, (Ministry of Love etc.) are troubling to say the least. The very idea of exterminating 'Oldspeak' and rewriting works of genius is utter sacrilege to my mind, and the notion that 'the present controls the past' is worrying, not least because of the growing power that the media is accustomed to in our own society.
The latter part of the novel introduces some fascinating notions, such as solipsism, which induce some thought provoking questions on existence. It is here too that the sheer magnitude of the 'brainwashing' that takes place comes to the fore. Indeed, in true 1984 contradictory style, it would be fitting if the 'brainwashing' that prevails in the novel, were to wash clean our own brains thereby making us more aware and vigilant of the threat of totalitarianism.
The ending leaves a bittersweet after taste of horrifying genius followed soon after by a collective sigh of relief. Readers everywhere, past, present and future, all thinking the very same thing.
"Thank God we don't live in a society like that."
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 19 January 2004
As an A-level text I expected Nineteen-Eighty-Four to be rather unengaging. It was not. The tale of Winston Smith, living in a totalitarian society and firmly convinced throughout that he is outwitting it is bittersweet. On the one hand it is a tale of hope, of finding one person who will stand by you and make a dreary and (completely) controlled life bearable. On the other, there is always the feeling that Winston is about to be discovered and when he is, the consequences are appalling. Torture, fear and routine combine with love, hope and desperation to provide a truly horrific vision of the future. Now, in my second year of an English degree I find myself returning to Nineteen-Eighty-Four for pure enjoyment value.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 11 February 2005
Addmittadly, this was an impulse buy on my part. I had vaguely heard of Orwell before, and I had never read any of his work. Now, I have read three of his books, and am looking for more. Why the change? I had no idea that Nineteen Eighty-Four was going to be as it was - frightening, thought provoking and ultimately distressing. To think that a work of fiction from the 1940s could so accurately discribe elements of life today is amazing, and almost unheard of.
Other writers have attepted to sujest what the future may be. Asimov, for example, thought up a universe filled with robots. But Orwells world is something totally differant, and much more in line with what has actually happened. It is a world where your every move is watched, where the media is controlled, and people who do not toe the line, even in their sleep, become "unpersons", seasing to exist altogether. This is the world of Room 101. This world has it's own language, a twisted corruption of English, which can in part be seen today. It is easy to imagine that a camera is on you all the time, that people can look inside your head. Ingsoc could easily have happened, and could be around today.
This is the world Orwell creates. It is a political jab, as well as a frightening piece of fiction, becoming truth. Upon finishing it, two things horrified me: the first being the content of the book, particularly its ending and the simple style of writing that captured the mood amazingly, and the second that I had not heard of the book before. I would almost demand of my friends to read this! In fact, as a result some have. Why is it not more widely known to the younger population? Even though it is set in the past, it almost seems to be about what it yet the future, something that could still easily happen to us. And that, that really scares me.