George Orwell ~ 1984
Orwell's 1984 The future is here... George Orwell believed the stark totalitarian society he described in 1984 actually would arrive by the year 2000, thanks to the slow, sinister influence of socialism. ~ Documentary
1984 opens with the decision of the protagonist, a mid-level Party functionary named Winston Smith, to commit "thoughtcrime."
Winston begins keeping a journal chronicling his nightmarish life in a future London, an impoverished, bombed-out husk of the former British capital. England itself has become Airstrip One, a province of Oceania, a superstate that apparently includes the entire New World.
Vying with Oceania for global dominion are Eurasia and East-asia, with which Oceania is alternatively at war, switching allegiances every few years, apparently at the whim of Party leadership.
The Party itself, loosely patterned after the Soviet Bolsheviks, is emblemized by Big Brother, the semi-mythical, almost messianic party figurehead.
The four ministries of Truth, Peace, Plenty, and Love are responsible, respectively, for propaganda, war, economic affairs, and ensuring the absolute obedience of the populace, especially Party members.
The Party's three slogans embody its deliberately contradictory world view: War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength.
Orwell's tale follows Winston Smith as he spirals more and more deeply into thoughtcrime, knowing throughout that the Thought Police will catch him eventually.
He develops a forbidden love interest in Julia, a young co-worker who detests the Party as much as he does. Winston even makes contact with what he believes is a subversive underground movement dedicated to the Party's overthrow.
Eventually both Winston and Julia are arrested and taken to the Ministry of Love, where Winston finally comes face to face with the Party's monstrous and irresistible final aim: to stamp out utterly the last vestiges of human individuality and independence of thought, all in the name of the unalloyed and unapologetic pursuit of absolute power.
Much of the timeless appeal of 1984 is in the details, such as Orwell's trademark fluid prose and a cast of tragic characters whose quirks and frailties seem (by design) to be out of place in the mechanized nightmare world of Oceania.
The setting is as vividly imagined as any alternative universe from the realm of science fiction or epic fantasy: futuristic machines like telescreens and memory holes, the former to record and broadcast information, the latter to destroy it; horrific weaponry like rocket bombs and floating fortresses; a sprawling bureaucracy for the manufacture of insipid popular culture, from computers that compose vapid and formulaic popular songs to committees that produce pornography to help placate the voiceless masses of "proles" or disenfranchised working classes; and even a made-up language, Newspeak, a radically simplified, denatured version of English devoid of nuance and spontaneity, and intended to keep the limits of human thought firmly within Party control.
Against such a leviathan, Winston Smith (and, it is implied, everyone else as well) is ultimately powerless. Nor did Orwell himself see any bright prospects for the human race. Man, he believed, was unequal to the demands of his destiny, and would end up converting the fruits of high civilization (modern technology in particular) into the instruments of his own enslavement.
Orwell, though an opponent of totalitarianism, was a dedicated socialist. He spent years in the trenches of the Spanish Civil War as well as in British India, observing man's inhumanity to man and nurturing the despairing pessimism that pervades his two best known works, 1984 and the darkly humorous fable Animal Farm.
1984 ~ George Orwell
Reposted November 25, 2008 - KnowTheLies
Image by Carol Cotter