1984 is one of those novels that I picked up many times, but never got around to reading. I’ve read a number of Orwell’s works before, including; Animal Farm, Homage to Catalonia, Why I Write and Down and Out in Paris and London. The novel was published in 1949 as a dystopian novel set in the future, telling of a superpower called Oceania which is engaged in perpetual war, and has extensive surveillance of the populace by the ruling regime.
We follow the life of Winston Smith as he begins to question the world he lives in. After a nuclear war, possibly a Third World War, there are three superstates: Oceania, covering the Americas, the UK, Southern Africa, Australia and New Zealand; Eurasia, covering Europe and Soviet Russia; and Eastasia mostly covering China, Korea, Japan. The three are constantly at war and changing alliances, whilst fighting over a disputed area described as a, ‘rough quadrilateral with its corners at Tangier, Brazzaville, Darwin, and Hong Kong’. Oceania is ruled by Big Brother, a party leader who is the figurehead for the ruling Inner Party. Despite the ruling party supposedly being socialist the Inner Party are actually only interested in keeping power for themselves.
Throughout the novel Winston Smith fall in love with a colleague, Julia. The two enter into a relationship which is banned as it has not been approved by the Party. They both realise that they no longer agree with the way that Oceania is being ruled and question their whole upbringing, which has essentially been indoctrination by the Party. Eventually they are tracked down by the Thought Police and they betray each other under interrogation. After a long period of interrogation and re-education they are allowed to enter back into society.
This novel is both a novel of love and a warning to the world about the dangers of indoctrination and the importance of people questioning everything that they are told. 1984 is famous, much of its terminology has entered into the English language, and I think now it is more important than ever. If you haven’t read this book before, or even if you have, now it is the time to read this novel.