Nineteen eighty-four: a novel

by George Orwell

Hardcover, 1949




New York, Harcourt, Brace [1949]. 1st American ed.


'Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.' Hidden away in the Record Department of the sprawling Ministry of Truth, Winston Smith skilfully rewrites the past to suit the needs of the Party. Yet he inwardly rebels against the totalitarian world he lives in, which demands absolute obedience and controls him through the all-seeing telescreens and the watchful eye of Big Brother, symbolic head of the Party. In his longing for truth and liberty, Smith begins a secret love affair with a fellow-worker Julia, but soon discovers the true price of freedom is betrayal. The Penguin English Library - collectable general readers' editions of the best fiction in English, from the eighteenth century to the end of the Second World War.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member aethercowboy
Nineteen Eighty-Four is THE dystopian novel. Many are turned off at the world that is presented within, a world where free expression is stifled and the government controls you through your vices. I would suspect that these same people rarely look out through their own windows.

Dystopias have a very strong merit as literature. You read them, realize that they're not all that fictional, you get angry, and you do something to change the world. Unless you're a politician. Then you read the dystopia and think, "hmm, that O'Brien fellow had the right idea!"

In the future, the year 1984 (though, more appropriately, it should have been 1948, which is another matter entirely), Winston Smith bides his time, day after day, with the eyes of Big Brother constantly watching over his shoulder. He spends his time inscribing criminal thoughts of discontent in his private diaries, a transgression punishable by death. This goes on, until he meets Julia, a mechanic for the Minitrue's novel writing machines. They team up and form their own private rebellion against Big Brother, Thought Police, and Ingsoc. But who's really free of the watchful eye of Big Brother, or the listening ears of the Though Police?

This book is dangerous, as it breeds discontent against real-life oppressive governments. Many governments have tried to ban or otherwise prevent the People from getting their hands on and eyes in this book. So, my recommendation to you is: buy this book when you can, and when the government tries to take it away from you, get the hell outta' Dodge.
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LibraryThing member jeff.maynes
Were I ever to undertake the arduous task of listing my favorite novels, I am sure that Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) would make the list. On one level, Orwell gives us a fascinating look at a dystopian society and the struggles of the "last man" to resist. He also gives us a brief, but potent account of the power of love in the face of external pressure.

Above all, however, Orwell gives us a meditation on power, and one that is haunting long after you read the book. Indeed, the novel is relatively light on action. The protagonist, Winston, is not the sort of person to lead armed rebellion or to race down alleys to escape the Thought Police. Instead, the book is mostly composed of Winston's descriptions and analysis of his society, and the thoughts of others. The latter portions of the book are dominated by chapters of a book Winston is reading (a book within a book), and the arguments of the major antagonist of the work. These passages do not ask us to believe in the society of Oceania, or believe that this is the course of human history. What they ask us to believe is a series of claims about power, most importantly, that power (a) comes from control of belief, (b) that external power can shape our even most strongly held internal beliefs and that (c) power is sought for the sake of power itself (among many other thought-provoking aspects which Orwell reflects upon).

The former comes through most vividly in the form of (collective) solipsistic view that the Party favors. This is brought out explicitly in the scenes at the end of the book, wherein Winston is put under incredible pressure to accept it. The scenes I found most effective here, however, are in Winston's description of his daily work. His job is to correct history, to change every historical record to reflect the changing realities of the time. So if a party member has fallen into disrepute, it is Winston's job to show that he has always been in disrepute. If the enemy in the ongoing war changes, then it is Winston's job to show that the war has never changed. It is total information control, and Orwell masterfully illustrates the frightening possibility that one cannot rationally engage those who simply demand an ideological driven view of reality.

It is hard to discuss the second without spoiling the ending of the novel. Allow me simply to say that the passage in Room 101 is among the most affecting in all of English literature. It is frightening, indeed, I find it more frightening than almost anything else I have ever read. We, like Winston, tend to think of ourselves in terms of certain relationships, and ideas that we will hold on to. My wife is that limit, and my feelings for her are something I could never yield, no matter the pressure. At least, this is my self-conception. Yet, Orwell (like social psychologists after him) cast this into doubt. Are none of our most dear, most sacred, most definitional beliefs, ideas and feelings safe from external pressure and one's own deep-seated need to save oneself? Is my self-conception really simply a sign that this commitment has simply never been tested hard enough?

The third is most eloquently discussed in the final scenes of the book. When asked about why the Party rules as it does, Winston gives the answer he thinks is required of him, that the Party does it for the good of those who cannot rule themselves. Yet, with brutal frankness, the primary antagonist tells him that "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power." This leads into perhaps the most famous passage from the novel:

"But always—do not forget this Winston—always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever."

The individual who seeks power for the greater good (think of Plato's Republic) is one who can be reasoned with. If Plato is wrong that individuals who grasp the Good will, as a consequence, be motivated to do good things, he might be dissuaded of the idea that the few ought to rule. Orwell's ruler is far more frightening, for s/he rules for the sake of ruling, holding power for the sake of power. This is a position beyond reasoned argument, based purely on the intoxication of power. These are passages that will linger long after one finishes 1984.

I cannot recommend this novel highly enough. It is far more than a simple dystopian vision of a possible future, and more than a warning about certain political ideas. It is a masterwork of engaging with complex ideas (in this case, the nature of power) in the setting of a novel. Though the prose is brilliant and easy to read, this is a novel which rewards slow reading and thoughtful consideration.
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LibraryThing member absurdeist
My two cents on 1984: The ideas and warnings Orwell presented far outweighed his writing. The writing reads to me as if Orwell were a 19th century Russian master but the English translator mediocre at best. Orwell wrote better than this -- a lot better -- and his journals proved it. I wonder if he purposefully stripped down the prose in order to dramatically accentuate his dark futuristic visions, going for the effect in the novel you can produce in printing when you reverse-negative text, making the white of the words, the ideas, pop out from the page because the page, now, except for the words, is completely inundated with black? Don't know. I rate Zamyatin's "We" higher because it's better written (and I say that even though I don't read Russian and am forced to read what very well may be a mediocre English translation!) and it's ideas, "We's," are as innovative, if not more so, than 1984s.… (more)
LibraryThing member ianracey
Nineteen Eighty-Four is a seminal work, maybe the most important work of fiction written in English in the twentieth century. Like its only real competitor for that title, The Lord of the Rings, it is both a work of outlandish fantasy while also having something truly profound to say about our own post-Second World War world.

What I find most impressive about Orwell's vision of the future are both its prescience and its political neutrality. All the most chilling aspects of Big Brother's totalitarian government--constant electronic surveillance of its citizens, rewriting history to serve the political concerns of the day, the infiltration of society by secret police--are really just exaggerations (well, one hopes that they're exaggerations) of practices that our own Western democratic governments engage in today, and have been engaging in for the past two generations. And what's more, they're practices that have been followed by parties at either end of the political spectrum--by supposedly small-government Republican (American) and Conservative (British) governments just as much as by liberal Democrats (American) or socialist Labour (British). Orwell's dark vision sees society as a whole, not just one ideology or another.

Orwell himself, of course, was extremely left-wing, to the point of actually advocating revolutionary overthrow of the existing capital order, and also of fighting on the Republican side during the Spanish Civil War. For much of the Second World War he remained convinced that the national effort required to beat the Axis Powers would necessarily place such a strain on the British social order that it was guaranteed to result in Communist revolution on the Leninist model.

But his Communism was not we now think of as Communism, the Cold War Soviet state of faceless bureaucracy and rigid suppression of individuality. Instead, he sought through Communism--or what he called "democratic socialism"--the opportunity to achieve the profoundest freedom for the individual, by freeing him from the fetters of capitalism. And that philosophy infuses Nineteen Eighty-Four, and is probably the biggest reason why it remains such a powerful story today. For while it is a novel of the inexorable expansion of government at the expense of the individual, its central theme is the necessity for the individual to maintain constant vigilance for the preservation of freedom (which is not the same thing as democracy).
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LibraryThing member bfrazier02
“Big Brother is watching you.” Before reading this novel in July, I had no idea what that phrase meant. Granted, I had an idea of what the sentence implied, but I didn’t understand where it came from or in what context it would be used. So when I finally asked my uncle where he had gotten the phrase from after I heard him say it, he told me he got it from George Orwell’s novel 1984. Curious, and desperate for something to read on my six hour drive to the beach, I decided to buy it at the local bookstore and give it a try. Little did I know 1984 would become the most amazing yet terrifying novel I read this summer.
George Orwell’s novel made me look at the world in a whole new way, and that’s one of the reasons why I loved to read it. I always enjoy novels that are a little “out there”, and 1984 was definitely one of them. The whole idea that minds and memories could easily be manipulated based on the ruling party’s needs terrified me, and yet I was intrigued. It’s such an unheard of concept that it made me all the more curious to find out whether or not this form of mind control would succeed. Granted, I was also scared by how simple it was for this form of mind-manipulation to control an entire population. But that was why this novel was one of my favorite reads this summer; it made me stop and consider new possibilities.
Another thing I enjoyed about 1984 was the way it was written. When I heard it’s considered a classic novel, I have to admit, I cringed. I didn’t want something hard to understand, or something with pretentious vocabulary. Instead I found 1984 was a novel that was entertaining, and at the same time easy to understand. I was able to appreciate the deeper concepts in novel because it wasn’t written in a confusing way. That was another thing I really enjoyed about the novel.
A very important aspect to any novel is its characters. If the characters aren’t strong, than neither is the novel. In 1984, there were a variety of strong characters that made the book all the more entertaining. My favorite character in the novel was Syme, an intellect whose job it was to create a finalized version of Newspeak. Although he wasn’t a main character, I found that his lack of discretion in conversations refreshing in a world that was clearly all about not acting too different. And one way to be different was to be too smart and too informed, and Syme had both of these qualities. He was too intellectual, and because of that he became a threat to the Party, so eventually he was eliminated. But all of the characters in 1984 were very well developed, and I found that having such well developed characters made the story more enjoyable to read.
So now, after reading the novel, I understand where the phrase “Big Brother is watching you” comes from and what it means. 1984 was a novel that made me reconsider what I thought to be possible, and it presented a scenario that was intriguing and terrifying at the same time. I’m glad that I chose to give the novel a chance, despite its label as a classic.
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LibraryThing member Schmerguls
I read this on Sept 18, 1954, and said: Compared to it, other books are nursery fare. It is a real adventure in horror, a total immersion in hopelessness and terror. It is, of course, a classic and one of the most important books of our modern world, though it loses some of its urgentness and immediateness by un-subtlety and a too pessimistic view of all humans. It is a true picture, I think, of what we could expect if there were no God--minds would be able to be taken over and there could be a complete victory for the Party. But the other world is beyond Big Brother and his tortures, and so the final triumph cannot be his. To an atheist this consolation is denied. SPOILER I shall sketch briefly highlights of the book: Winston Smith, a member of the Outer party who aids in "correcting" the past falls in love with Julia. They are betrayed and subjected to torture whereby Winston successfully becomes convinced that 2 and 2 are 5 and betrays Julia by asking that the rats about to be unleashed on his face instead be unleashed on Julia. Finally, at the end, he loves Big Brother and the horror is total. The Party has gotten inside of him and he is no longer possessed of a shred of human dignity. One of the most pwerful and terrifying books I have ever read.… (more)
LibraryThing member Smiler69
This was a re-read for me, and last time I read the novel and saw the movie was, fittingly enough, back in 1984 during my high-school days. Thanks to my faulty memory and the accumulation of years, I remembered virtually nothing of the story, save for a few crucial and indelible parts, so it was like discovering a new novel all over again. What amazed us then and continues to amaze now is how much foresight Orwell had. Big Brother might not have the same face as that displayed in the ubiquitous posters in the story, but he is among us and rules our world. Or that's how I feel about it when in a more cynical mood. In other ways, one can't help but feel relieved that there is a thing such as the "free world" which none of us should take for granted.

The story itself seems very basic. A man called Winston Smith is an intellectual working for the Party in the land of Oceania. Life is strictly regimented for Party members with tv screens everywhere observing their every move and seemingly able to read their very thoughts as well. Winston remembers a time in childhood before the Party had taken over, but this is his damnation. Because in the current world of Big Brother, the past is continually being edited and re-edited to fit the latest ideology embraced by the Party, and Big Brother must always be made to look as though his foresight is infallible, hence, a full-time job re-writing newspaper articles and entire books and changing photos and burning any evidence which might prove that the Party isn't all that it claims to be. Enter Julia, a woman whom Winston first thinks might be spying on him. In this world, children are raised to spy on their parents and deliver them to the hands of the Though Police if they are found to deviate in any way from the Party line. But Julia ends up being opposed to the party, a subversive who takes chances yet embodies all that the Party most prizes: complete adherence to it's principles, wherein only the Party must dominate and the individual be quashed to fit into a militaristic mould, in a world wherein the reigning slogans are WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, and IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. Winston and Julia become lovers, which in and of itself is a subversive act, because in Oceania, sex is not something to be enjoyed, but endured for the sake of bringing new Party members into the world. It is self-evident that things must turn out badly for the pair, and they do, though they both know from the beginning that the Ministry of Love, which is in charge of torturing dissidents to death, will catch them them sooner or later.

The concepts and terms in this book are difficult to describe and explain neatly in a short review. Even for those who have never been exposed to this work before, there are many notions which are familiar, because they have become part of the vernacular since the publication of the novel in 1949, such as Big Brother, Doublethink, Thoughtcrime and Newspeak. There is no question that Orwell's ideas were informed by the Soviet and Nazi totalitarian regimes of his time, and yet he clearly understood that all such regimes share common belief systems at the core.

I loved the fist three quarters of the novel, which took us into Winston's mind, his workplace and routines and describe this bleak world he is an observer and unwilling participant of. The final part of the novel, which takes us into the nightmarish edifice of the Ministry of Love, and describes the inhumane treatment Winston is subjected to in order to "rehabilitate" him, is hard to witness, especially when one knows that similar treatment has, and continues to take place in many parts of the world, so that I was quite anxious for the suffering to end. All the same, this is an excellent novel, and a very important one which should be required reading for everyone as an effective argument for why freedom of speech and thought and movement are things none of us should take for granted and must seek to defend at all cost.

The audio version narrated by Samuel West is highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member azoni
This is a very unhappy book. But, in a weird way, it is also a very hopeful book.

It concerns a man named Winston, who lives in a world where every movement is watched by the Party. The Party alters all records of historical facts to conform to the latest propaganda, and the people believe it. The Party changes the language with the eventual goal of not being able to express unorthodox opinions. Those whose actions, whose very thoughts are in any way nonconformist simply cease to officially exist. These people are tortured until they are no longer capable of unorthodoxy. That's the simple version.

Winston realizes what the party is doing and he holds onto his memories of the true past. He falls in love with a girl and they conduct a secret affair until one day they are captured and ruthlessly tortured. When they emerge, they are completely changed. Winston remembers his affair with Julia but he no longer cares. He unconditionally believes all the propaganda, all the record changes, and he adores the figurehead of the party - Big Brother.

While reading it, sometimes I was very eager to continue and at other times I had to sit myself down and tell myself to skim a chapter. Sometimes the bravery of Winston and his lover Julia filled me with a sort of hope and at other times the imaginations of this dystopian world by the author filled me with horror and a disconcerting realization that what is in my mind might not necessarily be true.

The style of writing is very precise and skilled. I would say that the main reason this book affected me as it did was because of the way it was written.

When I finished the book I felt very glad that in this world, I have privacy. I am free to learn history, to read books simply just because I want to, to feel joy, to love my family, to make friends, to have crushes on people. I am glad I read this book because it made me think about the world in a different way.1984 definitely deserves to be called a classic, and is definitely absolutely worth reading.
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LibraryThing member DanielClausen
Long Live Ingsoc? Or Long After 1984 Big Brother Still Wins

Warning: Drenched in Spoilers.

Long after 1984 has come and passed, Orwell's book still remains relevant if a little dated. I was highly tempted to give this book four stars instead of five. In a way, the book has been outpaced by the times. What made me change my mind? Great details and a very riveting and appropriate ending—but also perhaps the notion that Ingos, Doublespeak, and Big Brother may be with us in ways we have yet to realize (see for example Hardt and Negri's Empire).

Even though Fukuyama declared the End of History and made reference to the last man, we are left to wonder if liberal democracy really did “win” and whether there is not something strangely Ingsoc about our own time. After all, we continue to see examples of doublethink and doublespeak in our own politics and times—see for example the works of Derek Gregory and other Critical Geopolitics scholars.

There is also no reason to believe that the conceits of domination through party rule are over. It seems to me that our postmodern times contain the seeds of many transformations including those that render us dominated by party or a kind of Big Brother.

As I was reading this book, many people commented to me, “Didn't you read this book in high school?” Certainly, the book seemed a bit dated. After all, while I was reading it it seemed that I had read the book without ever having really read it. The words doublethink and doublespeak, to say nothing of Big Brother, were already familiar without having read the first page. The scenes and nomenclature of Orwell have been used a number of movies and TV shows from Star Trek to that weird gun Kung Fu movie with Christian Bale. I'm not sure if negative utopian books (Fromm's word, though wouldn't “dystopia” be more apt?) have really ever evolved beyond 1984. But even if the book is too familiar for most readers, it still did have a few surprises, especially at the end.

Many of the political landscapes are familiar. We saw them in Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Soviet Union, and still see it today in Kim Jong Il's North Korea. But the details have an infinite ability to amuse. How can one ever forget a world where machines write novels as humans toil in fields. It is not until you hear O'Brien's rants and see the lengths the party goes to control the inner reality of a person that the book really earns its fifth star.

The political philosophy of the book is also highly evolved: Orwell makes the bold claim that a socialist world will still have a proletariat and that despite our best wishes, they will not save us from corrupt oligarchies. The proletariat never revolt is the message throughout the book and even in the end, the author does not waver (sorry for the spoiler)!.

It's also good that we arrive at the book in 1984 (though we cannot be sure of the time) and not later. As O'Brien explains later, Winston is the last man (though this is somewhat in dispute). Julia might be the “last man” as well—but she seems totally uninterested in understanding the system she rebels against, only the carnal pleasure of rebellion. One of the things that is essential for this book—the one area where you must sustain your disbelief at—is that there is a human at the center of it. In other words, there is someone who is not a product of Ingsoc or Party ideology. Eric Fromm's conclusion states, Orwell assumes that humans have something innate inside them that struggles for peace, justice, and liberty. Whether Orwell believed this or not—he probably did—it is absolutely essential for the novel.

You have to care about poor Winston and his varicose ulcer. You have to feel his suffocation and long for freedom as he does. And you have to see his transformation at the end. In order for the book to work, there has to be things such as love and orgasms (O'Brien and the party of course have vowed to eliminate the orgasm). By the end of the book though, we are left to wonder if there will be anything left human to carry on a story in another ten years. After all, O'Brien calls Winston “the last man”. This of course may not necessarily be true, since O'Brien—and it is assumed other members of the inner party—are aware that there were once things that existed outside the party and the demands of Ingsoc.

The end of the book reminded me very much of Shusaku Endo's Silence, perhaps because both books end with torture and the obliteration of a person's inner self. In that back too, the novel ends with the main character a shell of a person. One of his friends too is a shell of a character. Much like 1984 also, the main character is forced to work on a project which upholds the credos of a regime he doesn't believe in—in this case xenophobic tenets of Tokugawa Japan. It's not an easy thing to read, but if the author has done his work and made us care for the character, hope that he can somehow resist, then we endure the torture with him to a degree.
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LibraryThing member pru-lennon
when i first read this book, i loathed it. there's a section where winston (the main character) is reading a book and i found that part rather dry. i was inspired to read it again from a friend and i am so glad i did! there are some truly great scenes in this book which i won't write out for fear of giving things away. all i have to say is more than a few times, i felt my heartbeat quicken at crucial parts in the book. it's worth reading and worth considering what any society's future could turn into if the love of power outweighs everything else. in a place where you are never truly alone, not even with your thoughts, where even the language is changed to control your thoughts or ability to think outside the box and you're surround by perpetual war and less than stellar living conditions, what becomes of your humanity? i think orwell paints a thought-provoking, mind-blowing, soul-stirring picture of the possibilities.… (more)
LibraryThing member PhoenixTerran
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.

Experiments in Reading
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LibraryThing member TheLostEntwife
It's always a bit daunting to me to write a review of a "classic" book. I mean, a simple google search will provide all sorts of information and scholarly thoughts about the story held in the pages of 1984.

So instead of trying to explore the deeper meaning, let me talk about the things that really hit me hard.

- I had no idea that Big Brother came from this book. I've grown up hearing the term bandied about, but never really understood where it came from and what it referred to. I know now, and it frightens me.

- I think the most potent part of the book was, for me, the end of Part One. When Winston opens a note passed to him and reads what is written there, I felt as it my heart skipped a beat because, of all the possibilities, that was one I was not expecting.

- What was most frightening to me was, as I was reading Goldstein's writings held within the book, I found myself understanding why things were the way they were. Things began to make sense - this in a book that made no sense to me when I first started it.

- All my dystopian reading I think prepared me for this book. If I had read it a few years ago, I might not have appreciated it as much as I appreciate it now. I totally get that there are those out there who didn't like it, but I really enjoyed the stimulation to think it provided me.
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LibraryThing member HankIII
1984 is one of those books in which inevitably one can't help but make various parallels to past and current totalitarian governments and policies, and for that alone, it seems, makes Orwell's work profound.However, I am struck by the sterility of the characters, Winston and Julia, both of whom are not particularly appealing, and how Orwell is able to convey how these characters have been conditioned by their oppressive, intrusive world, and what happens when they attempt to break free consciously, though by different means. Winston is the idealist; Julia is hedonistic, but both are driven by their individual identity, and at times, I don't think they are too aware of what that is, but worth seeking anyway--in spite of knowing of a most certain tragic outcome.Although I read 1984 many years agp, I'm glad I gave it a new read.It's not a pleasant read. I can't think of a work by Orwell that is. You have to be in a particular mood to read Orwell, which usually comes after reading a few frivolous pop books. I did think that Chapter 9 where Winston reads The Book to be a little long winded--it could have been condensed.I didn't liked it, I didn't enjoy it, but 1984 is one of those works that possesses a great deal of literary merit, profound insight, and intellectual value to make it worth the effort for reading.… (more)
LibraryThing member atdCross
I finally read this after having it sit on my bookcase for 10 years or so, and I read it since that was the #1 book being sold at Amazon, mostly due to Trump's election as President; and I can understand why.

Written in 1949, this is a futuristic world where the government is in absolute control of information, from it's flow to what that information actually entails. The government controls the news, even to the point being able to change past news events according to what they want the people to know or not know.

For example, the world consists of three countries: Oceania, Eastasia, and Eurasia. If the government wants to say that they are at war with Eastasia, they disseminate that information. However, should they change their mind and want the people to know that they are warring with Eurasia and not Eastasia, they will correct all past news reports to reflect that they had always been at war with one and not the other. The truth would never be found out because all past news is destroyed and all that exists is the news as it has been changed.

The government sets out to control not just the dissemination information but the way the people think and, primarily, to think as the government tells them to think and whenever their is a self-contradiction, there really is no self-contradiction. If the government says 2 + 2 = 5, then 2 + 2 = 5, no questions asked.

This is called doublethink, that is, to hold simultaneously two contrary opinions as true with the full knowledge that they are contrary but, nevertheless, to believe it with the belief that the illogical is logical while, at the same time, knowing it is not but dismissing such knowledge; it is consciously knowing truth while being unconscious to what is truth.

Is that confusing? Yes. it is called "doublethink." Something that, apparently, Trump may be unconsciously practicing.

This is a book that should be read, in my opinion, especially during the Trump's presidency in order to understand the dangers inherent in believing someone, without question, who speaks and tweets falsehoods practically everyday and, especially, who rails against the news media for passing "fake news."

Read the book. It reflects a dark utopia.
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LibraryThing member SavannahC
1984, by George Orwell. It’s not one of those straight out of the shoot amazing action novels that has you twisting and turning since page one. No, instead it is slow, dull, and boring. It’s only as your about to ease your pain and put the book down forever, just so you don’t have to pry your eyelids open you you stay awake, that the book finally gets interesting. The “BAM!” factor sets in and then you can’t seem to put it down, till gets dull…again. I mean, I can’t tell you how many times I just wanted to put the book down, give up, and rely on spark notes for any assignments I may have had to do. Yet, it seemed like just as I was about to put the book down and give up, another interesting, amazing thing happened, and so I never wanted to put the book down; that thought alone would’ve made me drop dead of laughter at the very beginning of the novel. Yet, Winston and Julie’s journey though the word of 1984, finally caught my attention and held it. I must say that though I may have been disappointed, not in Orwell but in Winston, at the end of the book (that does not mean I want you to skip to the last page, so don’t) I really did like the book. It was definitely way different than the typical novels I read and to tell the truth, this may be the first book I will ever reread. I’d definitely recommend you read it.… (more)
LibraryThing member AlCracka



How long did it take people to start pointing out that these things are already true? Or did it happen immediately?

The problem with this book is that it's a cliche even to point out that it's a cliche to point out that it's already happening.

But anyway, hey guys did you know that we've been at war for over a decade, that Republicans say the best thing for the poor is to give tax cuts to the rich, and that whole masses of people don't believe in evolution?
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LibraryThing member baswood
Orwell' dystopia famously titled 1984 was well wide of the mark when 1984 finally arrived and reading it today nearly thirty years later the horrors of Big Brother, Newspeak and Ingsoc seem further away than ever. It must have been very different for those readers picking up the book when it was published in 1949. The horrors of the Second World War were fresh in the mind, there was widespread rationing in much of Europe, cities were in ruins, and the totalitarian regime of the soviet Union was emerging with frightening force. War may well have seemed perpetual to a couple of generations who had lived through two world wars. It was a time when dictators were able to grasp power and mould society into their own crazy visions and so Orwell's book must have resonated all the more powerfully. Reading the book today that feeling of a post war European society reeling from the shock of war comes across very clearly and permeates much of the atmosphere of 1984.

Orwell's world is frightening: resulting in a complete loss of humanity. Initial impressions are of a claustrophobic shabby world of spies, informers and shortages with a population cowed into mindless work, but it soon becomes much more sinister. From Winston's first small act of rebellion (writing a diary hidden from view of the remote cameras) he realises he is signing his own death warrant. What sort of society is this we wonder? and Orwell reveals more and more horrors as the novel draws to its inevitable conclusion. Winston is told:

"Never again will you be capable of ordinary human feeling. Everything will be dead inside you. Never again will you be capable of love, or friendship, or joy of living, or laughter or curiosity, or courage, or integrity. You will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty, and then we shall fill you with ourselves."

This is a society based on an elite's hunger for power, who have learnt from previous failures that to stay in power they must alter reality for those who they control. they must control thoughts as well as actions and the weapon that is used is the familiar one of fear. There is no hope in this world which contrasts so strikingly with Albert Camus [The Plague] published two years earlier. Phrases used by Orwell in the early part of his novel could have been lifted right out of Camus oeuvre. Orwell has Winston say "Now that he had recognised himself as a deadman he must stay alive as long as possible" and later "The sexual act successfully performed was rebellion" In Camus hands these thoughts would be signs of hope, a revolt against dogma that could be successful for the individual, but in Orwell's book, they are straws in the wind, the individual will be crushed along with any chance of revolt in the future.

I re-read [1984] in 1984, something that many readers probably did and so was fairly familiar with the book on this latest re-read. I was still horrified by the final third of the book, which describes Winston's incarceration, torture and brain washing. I was prepared for Orwell exposition of the politics and society of the government of Oceania, which runs for thirty pages and is considered by some readers to be a dry political tract. The doomed love affair between Winston and Julia is like an oasis in the gloom, but also has it's contradictions especially with the characterisation of Julia. Like many classics there is usually something to be gained from a re-read and this was once again a five star read.
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LibraryThing member jclarkd
1984 was awesome. At first its a hard read.
The mood is a bummer, the setting is oceania, or london. Controlling oceania is Ingsoc, a party that abolishes human characteristics in people and has the intention to control the world. All hope is gone and the only person to realize it is Winston, a decaying 39 year old man. Ingsoc is symbolized into BB, or big brother. The society views BB as their "savior," and one that they show all love for. They work for big brother, Love big brother, repopulate for big brother and seek comfort in him.The society even loses what makes them human for big brother.
Winston seeks a quest to form a revolution with another rebel/ his lover, Julia. Together they go through the unimaginable. When i finished this book i realized that the idea of this dystopia isn't too far fetched. I could see it happening, thats the haunting part. George Orwell succeeded in making the reader feel like they were in the society. the book has more symbols that wing-dings. I can say this is the king of all dystopia's, and i'd recommend it to anyone.
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LibraryThing member JessicaSR
Orwell's 1984 is well packed with foreshadowing, goes through many twists and turns, and its carefully planned out. This book takes you to a whole new society that wouldn't have crossed my mind. It may not have turned out the way the hero of the story wanted it to be like, but Orwell succeeds to make a point. As much as all of us want to rewrite the book, it's best the way it is. I recommand this book for everyone because it gives us something to think about in almost every chapter wether it's based of the story line or how it connects to our lives and our society.… (more)
LibraryThing member jhw
A horrible but powerful book, and it is worth considering why. It is not that the society he depicts is really credible. Even if we could believe that religion would disappear so easily as he suggests, we cannot accept the idea of so much energy spent on retaining power for its own sake - power as an end and not as a means. But a satirist is not concerned to paint a credible picture. He is concerned to bring out the evils of his society by exaggeration or caricature, and it is by his success in that that he should be judged. Orwell's concern appears to be to show just how far control of men's ideas can go, and to make his point he imagines two terrifyin techniques:
i) The systematic falsification of the records of the past so that it becomes absolutely impossible to prove that the Party has ever been wrong.
ii) The development of new language with a progressively dimishing vocabulary which makes it increasingly difficult even to think insubordinately because the words in which such thought could be expressed do not exist.
Now these ideas do seem credible; and so do some of the deductions he draws from them, e.g.:
i) that it is possible not just to crush the spirit of the rebel but to change his innermost mind and make him really believe that the Party is right after all.
ii) that the younger generation, typified by Julia, would revolt, if at all, purely as individuals and on selfish grounds. The idea of the Party actually being overthrown is to them unthinkable. They take it for granted as rabbits do foxes, as he says somewhere.
This is what gives the book its power. The society as a whole may be incredible. But the techniques of totalitarianism are not. They could possibly exist.
It is odd that there should be a character in the book called Ampleforth.
(notes written 1954)
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LibraryThing member CaptainBroadchurch
Boring and impossible to like. A book for the kind of dreadful people who like to imagine that, of all the abuses and brutality a fascist state is capable of inflicting upon its population, they'd find distortion and control of the truth the worst - the street beatings, massive corruption and state approved murders would probably concern me more than the prospect of "being rehabilitated" and betraying the truth.

Even ignoring this, 1984 is a dull novel that is so cluttered with ropey symbolism that it makes Animal Farm look subtle: The snow globe, the nookie in the woods, the rambling on about the measurement of beer and gin, all combine to form a picture of Orwell forever mashing his overly laboured point into a human face. The theme of human betrayal and Big Brother's corruptive influence on society that underpins much of the novel is just as awkward and clumsy as the devices through which it acts: where some art may be said to mimic life, 1984 is a mere caricature of the horrors of totalitarianism.

Even so, at least it isn't Keep the Aspidistra Flying.
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LibraryThing member dschmersal
Slavery is Freedom

War is Peace

Ignorance is Strength

It is 1984, give or take. Against the backdrop of a blustery steely spring day, Winston Smith commits a crime: he opens a diary and begins to record his own thoughts. Hidden, or so he thinks, from the omnipresent telescreen, Winston strives to recreate disparate fragments of memory, unvarnished impressions, unsanctioned thoughts. The subversive act of seeing through the facade of illusion maintained through violence and ignorance by the socialist government of Oceania. As a lower-level functionary of the Ministry of Truth, Winston sees first-hand how the government of Ingsoc (English socialism) strives, and succeeds, to control history, memory, language, and even thought.… (more)
LibraryThing member GoofyOcean110
What can I say that 185 people haven't said before me?

Regardless, this is a classic.
LibraryThing member gbanville
This book may be profitably compared with [[Brave New World]] by [Alduous Huxley]. Both novels present a dystopia, and a world where the political powers have brought culture to a standstill. They deliberately prevent progress and maintain the same social order through a complete manipulation of the people. In this novel it is accomplished through discomfort, privation and conflict, in Brave New World it is accomplished through indulgence, drugs, mindless luxuries, conditioning and drugs.

One of the most glaring juxtipositions between these two worlds is in the treatment of sex. In this novel sex is suppressed and attempts are made by powers to remove people's opportunities for it, and their enjoyment of it when they are able to get some. The purpose of this is to keep people frustrated with pent-up energy that can then be harnessed for combative purposes by the rulers. In Huxley's world by contrast people are encoraged to indulge in it frequently as a shallow pleasure and by providing it the masters of the society intend to keep people satasfied and complacent. The reader may choose between these interpretations or choose to see that sex may influence their behavior in different ways in different environments.

In both this book and Brave New World the rulers find that improved processes of production require capital to be wasted in order to keep civilization in stasis. In this book they accomplish that through pointless conflict, in Brave New World it is accomplished through pointless luxury consumption.

In both cases I would argue that the supposedly permanent power structures are vulnerable to any unforseen natural disaster which would make maintaining the stasis impossible. One might consider the stasis necessary to both situations after considering [[Virginia Postrel]]'s ideas about the stasis/dynamism dichotomy presented in her book, [The Future and its Enemies].

These worlds probably also suffer from the problems inherent in all planned economies as outlined by F. A. Hayek.

[[C. S. Lewis]] might have some insights into these two largely artificial worlds in [The Abolition of Man], though [Brave New World] has a great deal more surface resemblence to his predictions than does this one.
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LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
This has one of the most striking first lines in English literature: It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. It's an apt first sentence at that--one that immediately warns us we're in a world off-kilter.

By the time we get to the end of the second paragraph we're clued in that we're in a totalitarian setting--whether of the National Socialist or Soviet Socialist type--the enormous poster, a world absurd and ground down so nothing works--the run down building called "Victory Mansions" and a mention of "Hate Week." And then we learn the caption on that enormous poster: BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU.

This is arguably the classic work of dystopia modeled on the real things in the twentieth century but set in a future in one of the iconic Democratic countries, Britain, to warn yes, it can happen here. The book gives us a road map and warning sign and many a famous phrase--particularly "Newspeak."

Orwell through the book warns that above all such regimes corrupt and oppress through the corruption of language. Euphemisms that are obscene in their linguistic twists that limit how you can imagine and articulate protest. resonates today in the very language we fight over: pro-life or pro-choice, affirmative action or racial preferences, enhanced interrogation or torture.
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