“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever.”
With the news of the U.K general election taking over everything at the moment, it only seemed appropriate to review something political, because I’m topical like that 🙂
I read this book when I was 14, firstly because there just weren’t as many dystopian novels knocking around when I was a legit part of the the YA crowd (and believe me when I say this is the ULTIMATE dystopian novel), and secondly because everybody was always talking about what an essential read it is, which it is, so if you haven’t read it, please let me be the person to tell you that you need to and think of me when you’re reading it. And if you’ve never heard of it, well, congratulations on having such a strong internet connection under that rock of yours.
1984 is set in London in 1984, only it’s not London as we know it now, and Orwell’s depiction of the world in 1984 isn’t exactly 100% what it was, but it’s eerily close, when you consider the book was published almost 40 years before then (which is something you should be constantly aware of when you read this, just to appreciate how many things went just the way he wrote them). Our lead is a man named Winston, who lives in a world whose borders have grown, leaving it divided into 3 super continents, at least two of which are always at war at any given time leaving the population in a constant state of paranoia. Winston’s state is ruled over by ‘Big Brother’ who is more of a concept than a man, a creation that can never be wrong, never be challenged and never be brought down. Society is split into two groups, the ‘Proles’ who are sort of an extreme underclass, with no power, money or influence on how their society is run, but who also have a considerable amount of freedom compared to Winston’s because their actions are so inconsequential. The second group is where Winston belongs, and is a kind of working/middle class mix depending on what job you have. Winston job involves editing newspaper articles and historical texts, erasing anything that may contradict the ‘truth’ of Big Brother including erasing any images of people that have been disposed of for crimes against society. In Winston’s world, even thinking about rebellion is considered a ‘thought crime’ punishable by death, and so the population are controlled by this continual censorship of reality and history and even by the language they speak, which has become so limited it is hard for people to imagine concepts like love, intimacy, privacy or loyalty because they have no words for them. But Winston gradually begins to turn against his oppressive surroundings after he realizes that an area of his miniscule apartment may be hidden from the ‘telescreen’ that is always watching him and starts writing in a journal about all of his rebellious thoughts. Eventually he is approached by another party member and joins a secret group of like-minded individuals who hope to bring Big Brother down from the inside. As if it were so easy.
I could write all day long about the numerous things that make 1984 an astounding novel, but that would only take up more of the time you could be spending reading it. For me what makes 1984 such an important book is that unlike many older books, it only gets better and more poignant with time, because the more time that passes, the more Orwell’s terrifying prediction of our future comes true. It’s an absolutely stunning piece of storytelling and easily one of the greatest things I’ve ever read with an ending that I still haven’t got over completely.
Really, go and read it.