~by George Orwell
1984 Prometheus Award Winner, Hall of Fame

One of the books that I read for Banned Books Week was George Orwell's anti-utopia classic 1984. This was actually a reread for me, having first encountered the book in high school--surprisingly enough, not for a class. Instead it was being passed around one group of friends and while it was important that we shared it with each other, we never really talked about it together; we were a rather strange and cynical bunch. 1984 was my introduction to dystopian literature, which remains to this day one of my favorite genres. For various reasons, I've been meaning to reread the book for a while, and reading it for Banned Books Week seemed to me to be extraordinarily appropriate. One of the reasons that it is often challenged is that it is felt to be "pro-communism." As with many banned and challenged books, this makes me wonder if those protesting have actually taken the time to read the material.

Winston Smith is thirty-nine, an Outer Party member working in the Records Department at the Ministry of Truth where he corrects false information to suit the Party's current outlook. Except he know it is a lie, that it all is a lie. And he knows he hates the Party and Big Brother, its leader. And knowing this, he also knows he is guilty of thoughtcrime and that it is only a matter of time before he is found out and something is done about it. For Big Brother, and the Party, are always watching--and they probably already know.

Winston is doomed--he knows it, and the reader knows it. False hope only serves to distract from the inevitable outcome; the only questions left is when it will happen and how long will he last when it does. 1984 is certainly not a happy book. Indeed, it is rather distressing, depressive, and ominous, not to mention disturbing and relentless. Big Brother loves you, and you better love him, too.

It's hard to say, but I believe 1984 probably made a greater impact on me now than when I first read it. The book has aged amazingly well; even though originally written in 1949, it is still incredibly relevant. Perhaps even more so than when it was first published. The book is less about plot and action (there is actually very little of either) and more about the state of the world and how it got there--it is a "thinking" book. It is also a dire warning of what we as humanity are capable of, and what we could become. Some things aren't entirely plausible (yet), but one only has to look at the current state of politics and governments to realize that some things are frightening possible, and some things so probable they're likely happening now. 1984 isn't the greatest novel, but it is an important book. I may still be strange and cynical, but Orwell shows amazing insight into human nature. There is a lot of Truth in this work.

No comments: