Nineteen Eighty-four is by far my highest rated book, and I foresee it will wear this crown for a long time before it gets overthrown. Therefore it is only right that I dedicate my first published book review to this revolutionary creation.
I made an effort to understand the background of the author Eric Arthur Blair, better known as his pen name George Orwell, before entering his literary political world. I am eternally grateful that his impactful works including ‘Animal Farm’ (think of this as a fairy tale) got published before they took him away. Even though it was published in the year 1949, he set up this dystopian world in the year of 1984. His capacity to imagine a world several decades later, while being war torn, was simply unearthly.
Orwell’s protagonist in Nineteen Eighty-four resides in Oceania, whose daily routine was unbearably mundane to him. He works as an Inner Party member for the ruling party of Big Brother in the Ministry of Truth, ironically concerning themselves with fabricating historical events and news as propagandas.
What do I like about Nineteen Eighty-four
“The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, the Ministry of Truth with lies, the Ministry of Love with torture and the Ministry of Plenty with starvation.”
In the first chapter, Orwell erected four virtual buildings in my head, each representing the ministries where the party members worked, each ministry depressingly named after the antonym of their functions. His protagonist Winston Smith works in the Ministry of Truth and his daily scope of duties includes altering news reports so that they coincide with the party’s policies. For me, the most spine-chilling irony is the Ministry of Love which functions to annihilate any thoughts showing signs of individualism which threatens the prowess of the party, regardless of intensity. This play of antonyms is most daunting, making it so impressive. Some writers will later attempt to adapt this concept; the different factions in the Divergent series.
“War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”
The play of antonyms can also be sensed in the three slogans of the ruling party. The subtle irony in these slogans is explained by the repugnant traitor portrayed by the character named Goldstein, through the book which spells resistance, ‘Goldstein’s Book’. It meticulously lines out the cause and effect of every empire, dynasty, and revolution since the beginning of human civilization, further affirming my belief that causes and effects come in loops. Distressing to know but I find myself agreeing to the teachings, equivalently agreeing to the three slogans of the party.
“Or again, if you want a stronger version of ‘good,’ what sense is there in having a whole string of vague useless words like ‘excellent’ and ‘splendid’ and all the rest of them? ‘Plusgood’ covers the meaning or ‘doubleplusgood’ if you want something stronger still.” (Syme)
Orwell created his own set of dictionary (Newspeak) in the book. For example, the ruling party’s name Ingsoc represents English Socialism; having individuality in thoughts and expressions and pursuing individual interest are perceived as a single forbidden action, thoughtcrime; doublethink is the ability required of all party members: to fully trust in the information produced by the Ministries while knowing they were altered. The concepts he created from these ‘Newspeak’ words aptly raised the ruling party to the epitome of tyranny. I especially liked how the in-book dictionary he created was supposed to eliminate all signs of emotions and greatly narrow the amplitude of thoughts.
The entire book is a parallel of our real world; the events that led to the rise and fall of political leaders, the doctrines practiced by ruling parties of their ages, the invisible caste system present in every century. Though residing in a country free of war and invasion in the 21st century, it is not difficult to spot traces of Orwell’s theories, which makes Orwell’s work brilliant. To elevate this point, understanding Orwell’s theories changed my perspective on many things that I used to view without intricacy. I would like to use one of my favourite trilogy ‘Hunger Games’ as an example. It can no longer be viewed as just a movie franchise starring Jennifer Lawrence, and oppressed people staging a revolution with futuristic gadgets. Seeing statistics of GDP on the news channels and papers will remind me of the underlying purpose of the Ministry of Plenty.
There are many other reasons for ranking this novel my utmost top to date, be it noteworthy or insignificant, for I know it touched me personally, gave me nightmares and sleep paralysis in the middle of the night, gave me knowledge I never had, and great insights to all other things I never paid more attention to. Readers who don’t usually fancy fiction novels should give it a try too!