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1984 ()


Amazon.com Top 100 Books of the Millenium

It's 1984 in Airstrip One, Oceania (formerly London, England). Winston Smith works at the Ministry of Truth, altering old newspapers to reflect current versions of events--"All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as necessary". This work is vital to the Party, whose legitimacy depends on the "mutability of the past."

Oceania is governed by Big Brother and the Party and the doctrines of Ingsoc (English Socialism):

    WAR IS PEACE

    FREEDOM IS SLAVERY

    IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

However, Winston does not believe these things and he has a message for us, which he confides to the journal that he has secretly begun keeping, even though he knows it will destroy him:

    To the future or to the past, to a time when thought is free, when men are different from one
    another and do not live alone-to a time when truth exists and what is done cannot be undone: From
    the age of uniformity, from the age of solitude, from the age of Big Brother, from the age of
    doublethink-greetings!

What is doublethink?:

    To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully
    constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which canceled out, knowing them to be
    contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while
    laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of
    democracy, to forget whatever it was necessary to forget then to draw back into memory again at
    the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the
    same process to the process itself-that was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce
    unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just
    performed. Even to understand the word 'doublethink' involved the use of doublethink.

But against the tenets of doublethink, Winston posits the following: "Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows."

Winston becomes convinced that a young woman at work, a sash wearing member of the Junior Anti-Sex League, is a member of the Thought Police out to destroy him, but one day she stumbles & when he helps her up, she hands him a note that says "I love you". The two soon become lovers, "but you could not have pure love or pure lust nowadays. No emotion was pure, because everything was mixed up with fear and hatred. Their embrace had been a battle, the climax a victory.  It was a blow against the Party. It was a political act."  As Julia understands: "Unlike Winston, she had grasped the inner meaning of the Party's sexual puritanism. It was not merely that the sex instinct created a world of its own which was outside the Party's control and which therefore had to be destroyed if possible. What was more important was that sexual privation induced hysteria; because it could be transformed into war fever and leader worship."

Winston and Julia know their love is doomed and they are doomed because of it, but they make each other a promise:

    Winston: When once they get ahold of us there will be nothing, literally nothing, that either of us
    can do for the other. If I confess, they'll shoot you, and if I refuse to confess they'll shoot you just
    the same. Nothing that I can do or say, or stop myself from saying, will put off your death for as
    much as five minutes. Neither of us will even know whether the other is alive or dead. We shall be
    utterly without power of any kind. The one thing that matters is that we shouldn't betray one
    another, although that can't make the slightest difference

    Julia: if you mean confessing, we shall do that, right enough. Everybody always confesses. You
    can't help it. They torture you.

    Winston: I don't mean confessing. Confession is not betrayal. What you say or do doesn't matter;
    only feelings matter. If they could make me stop loving you-that would be the real betrayal.

    Julia: They can't do that. It's the one thing they can't do. They can make you say
    anything-anything-but they can't make you believe it. They can't get inside you.

    Winston: No, no; that's quite true. They can't get inside you. If you can feel that staying human is
    worth while, even when it can't have any result whatever, you've beaten them.
 

Now that he is committed to independence of thought and loving Julia, Winston musters the courage to approach O'Brien, who he is convinced opposes Big Brother and tell him: "We believe that there is some kind of conspiracy, some kind of secret organization working against the Party, and that you are involved in it.  We want to join it and work for it. We are enemies of the Party. We disbelieve in the principles of Ingsoc. We are thought-criminals. We are also adulterers.  I tell you this because we want to put ourselves at your mercy. If you want us to incriminate ourselves in any other way, we are ready."

And so, O'Brien initiates them into the Brotherhood. He gives them a text by Goldstein, a founding member, but subsequent enemy, of the Party and frequent subject of The Two Minutes Hate. Within the book, Goldstein explains that whereas human history had seen a series of rebellions by the Middle against the High in the name of equality, the current revolution lead by the Party is
different: "With the development of machine production, ... the case was altered. Even if it was still necessary for human beings to do different kinds of work, it was no longer necessary for them to live at different social or economic levels. Therefore, from the point of view of the new groups who were
on the point of seizing power, human equality was no longer an ideal to be striven after, but a danger to be averted." And he describes the makeup of the Party: "The new aristocracy was made up for the most part of bureaucrats, scientists, technicians, trade-union organizers, publicity experts,
sociologists, teachers, journalists and professional politicians. These people, whose origins lay in the salaried middle class and the upper grades of the working class, had been shaped and brought together by the barren world of monopoly industry and centralized government."

Here then lies the genius of Orwell and the reason that the Left so despises him. It would have been easy to write a polemic against fascism in 1948 and by then you could even criticize Communism without courting total revulsion from the Left.  Moreover, the politically expedient way in which to criticize these isms was to speak of the noble goals betrayed by tiny bands of oligarchs. But Orwell went beyond these easier targets and attacked Socialism and centralized government in general. When Winston is being tortured, he is told: "If you want a picture of the future imagine a boot stomping on a human face-forever." 1984 stands as an indictment of all the bureaucratic boot wearers everywhere, regardless of their intentions or their ideology. It is a paean to freedom & freedom of thought.

1984 is clearly the greatest novel of the 20th Century and should be #1 on the Modern Library list.

(Reviewed:)

Grade: (A+)

  

Websites:

George Orwell Links:
    -George Orwell (1903-1950) - pseudonym of Eric Arthur Blair (kirjasto)
    -NET GUIDE: GEORGE ORWELL (1903-1950) (The Guardian)
    -George Orwell Essays and Reviews (Gaslight)
    -ETEXT: 1984
    -ETEXT: Animal Farm
    -EXCERPT: Barcelona, 1938 from Homage to Catalonia, by George Orwell.
    -ETEXT: Articles by Orwell (Charles)
    -ETEXT: Shooting an Elephant
    -REVIEW: of Drums under the Windows by Sean O'Casey (George Orwell, 28 October 1945, The Observer)
    -ETEXT: Reflections on Gandhi (1949)
    -ETEXT: 'A Nice Cup of Tea' by George Orwell
    -ETEXT: Politics and the English Language BY George Orwell
    -ETEXT: The Prevention of Literature (1946)
    -ETEXT: You and the Atomic Bomb    by George Orwell
    -ETEXT:   Notes on Nationalism (May 1945)
    -ETEXT: Why I Write (1947)     -LINKS: Charles' George Orwell Links
    -ARCHIVES : "orwell" (NY Review of Books)
    -George Orwell Links (K-1)
    -George Orwell (Essays, Biblio, etc.)
    -George Orwell (Chestnut Tree Cafe)
    -George Orwell (Spartacus Educational Home Page)
    -The Orwell Reader
    -the Internet Public Library:  Online Literary Criticism Collection:  George Orwell (1903 - 1950)
    -ARTICLE :  ORWELL RADIO SCRIPTS AND LETTERS FOUND (JUSTINE DE LACY, June 12, 1984, NY Times)
    -ETEXT: George Orwell: A Life by Bernard Crick
    -TRIBUTE: A Seer's Blind Spots: On George Orwell's 100th, a Look at a Flawed and Fascinating Writer (Glenn Frankel, June 25, 2003, Washington Post)
    -ESSAY: Orwell Up Close: On the 100th anniversary of his birth, a clutch of new biographies explores the wintry genius of George Orwell - a hero claimed by left and right (DONALD MORRISON, June 30, 2003, TIME Europe)
    -ESSAY: Blacklisted writer says illness clouded Orwell's judgement: Survivor tells Guardian that author was 'losing his grip' (Fiachra Gibbons, June 24, 2003, The Guardian)     -ESSAY: The Road to Oceania (WILLIAM GIBSON, June 25, 2003, NY Times)
    -ESSAY: Introduction to 1984: The road to 1984: George Orwell's final novel was seen as an anticommunist tract and many have claimed its grim vision of state control proved prophetic. But, argues Thomas Pynchon, Orwell - whose centenary is marked this year - had other targets in his sights and drew an unexpectedly optimistic conclusion (Thomas Pynchon)
    Why Orwell Matters: The world of Nineteen Eighty-Four may have ended in 1989, the year the Berlin Wall came down, but George Orwell's writing remains as relevant today as ever. (Timothy Garton Ash, Fall 2001, Hoover Digest)
    -ESSAY: The Man Who Saved Orwell: Harry Milton served with George Orwell in the Spanish Civil War. His papers recall the trauma of opposing Franco's forces on the battlefield-and of fleeing Stalin's forces in revolutionary Barcelona. (David Jacobs, Fall 2001, Hoover Digest)
    -ESSAY: Mencken and Orwell, Social Critics With Little (and Much) in Common (EDWARD ROTHSTEIN, October 26, 2002, NY Times)
    -ESSAY: George Orwell: A Study in Trans-Political Truth-Speaking (Michael R. Stevens, Religion & Liberty)
    -ARTICLE: In Latin America, the Cult of Revolution Wanes (LARRY ROHTER, May 18, 2003, NY Times)
    -ESSAY: George Orwell, devoted family man 50 years after death, his son remembers (The Daily Telegraph)
    -ESSAY: Words and Things  On the 50th anniversary of George Orwell's essay, Politics and the English Language, Andrew Marr assesses the state of political English and finds it in robust good health. (Prospect)
    -ESSAY : On Shooting at Elephants (John Leonard, The Nation)
    -ESSAY: A Comparison of Orwell's Animal Farm and 1984
    -ESSAY: Orwell & Marx: Animalism vs. Marxism
    -ESSAY: Orwell and me (Margaret Atwood, June 16, 2003, The Guardian)
    -ESSAY: The big O: the reputation of George Orwell (Joseph Epstein, New Criterion)
    -DISCUSSION: the Journalism of George Orwell (radion national)
    -Senior  Seminar: Professor Osborne  War & Remembrance
    -ESSAY: WRITERS IN UNIFORM (Stephen Spender, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY : George Orwell, Socialist, Anarchist or what...? On George Orwell's Political Development (Claus B. Storgaard)
    -ESSAY: Homage to Catalonia and The Spanish Civil War (Andrew Weiss)
    -ESSAY : THE MACHO MAKER OF NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR (Virginia Held, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY : PUBLISHING: ORWELL'S SIMPLE SECRET (EDWIN McDOWELL, NY Times)
    -ESSAY : PUBLISHING: FROM BBC'S ORWELL FILE (EDWIN McDOWELL, NY Times)
    -ESSAY : THE VISION OF BOTH ORWELL AND KAFKA IS AS SHARP AS EVER (WALTER GOODMAN, December 30, 1983, NY Times)
    -ESSAY : Is Bad Writing Necessary?: Adorno and Orwell's competing legacies (James Miller, Lingua Franca, December 1999/January 2000)
    -ESSAY : IN SEARCH OF '1984' (LINDA McK. STEWART, NY Times)
    -Orwellian & Animal Farm Studies Resources  From the Chico High School Library
    -READERS GUIDE: Animal Farm (Novel Guide.com)
    -ONLINE STUDYGUIDE: 1984 by George Orwell.  (SparkNote by Brian Phillips)
    -SUMMARY: Nineteen Eighty-Four (Maros Kollar)
    -ONLINE STUDYGUIDE: Animal Farm by George Orwell (Rebecca Gaines, Spark Notes)
    -SUMMARY: Animal Farm  (Maros Kollar)
    -DISCUSSION : orwell's "coming up for air" (George Orwell Campfire)
    -SUMMARY: The Road to Wigan Pier (Maros Kollar)
    -LINKS: George Orwell in Our Age
    -LINKS: George Orwell Resources
    -LINKS: Charles'  George Orwell Links
    -ARCHIVES: "george orwell" (Find Articles)
    -ARCHIVES: "george orwell" (Mag Portal)
    -REVIEW: of Homage:  George Orwell's Prelude in Spain (Granville Hicks, NY Times)
    -REVIEWS : of Coming Up for Air (Epinions)
    -REVIEW : of ORWELL The Lost Writings. By George Orwell (Will Watson, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of ORWELL The Lost Writings. By George Orwell (Walter Goodman, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of GEORGE ORWELL The Authorized Biography. By Michael Shelden (Samuel Hynes, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of ORWELL: The Road to Airstrip One. By Ian Slater (Michiko Kakutani, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of GEORGE ORWELL A Life. By Bernard Crick (John Leonard, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of GEORGE ORWELL A Life. By Bernard Crick (Steven Marcus, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Orwell: Wintry Conscience of a Generation By JEFFREY MEYERS (RICHARD BERNSTEIN, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of ORWELL: Wintry Conscience of a Generation by Jeffrey Meyers ( JOHN CAREY, Sunday Times of London)
    -REVIEW : of Orwell by Jeffrey Myers (Paul Foot, The Spectator)
    -REVIEW : of Wintry Conscience of a Generation, by  Jeffrey Meyers (Enda O'Doherty, Irish Times)
    -REVIEW : of "Orwell" The new biography glosses over the defiant, troubled life of the eerily prescient author of "Animal Farm" and "Nineteen Eighty-Four" (Benjamin Anastas, Salon)
    -REVIEW : of THE POLITICS OF LITERARY REPUTATION The Making and Claiming of 'St. George' Orwell. By John Rodden (Julian Symons, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of '1984' REVISTED Totalitarianism in Our Century Edited by Irving Howe (Arthur Schlesinger Jr, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of George Orwell By Gordon Bowker (The Economist)
    -REVIEW: of Orwell's Victory By Christopher Hitchens (The Economist)
    -REVIEW: of ORWELL: WINTRY CONSCIENCE OF A GENERATION By Jeffrey Meyers (The Economist)
    -REVIEW: of George Orwell by Gordon Bowker (Philip Hensher, The Spectator)

FILMS :
    -FILMOGRAPHY : "george orwell" (Internet Movie Database)
    -ESSAY : DID THE HEART OF ORWELL'S '1984' GET LOST IN THE MOVIE? (Richard Grenier, NY Times)
    -FILM REVIEW: Animal Farm a TV movie review  (Rick Norwood, SF Site)
 

GENERAL :
    -ESSAY : The left's ace of clubs : It sold books, held dances, supported causes and promoted socialism. Paul Laity on the radical venture that engaged the political passions of the British middle classes in the 1930s (The Guardian, July 7, 2001)
   -REVIEW : of THE BLOODY CROSSROADS Where Literature and Politics Meet. By Norman Podhoretz (Cynthia Ozick, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of England, Their England Commentaries on English Language and Literature By Denis Donoghue (John Gross, NY Times)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: Such, Such Was Eric Blair: a review of Facing Unpleasant Facts: Narrative Essays by George Orwell, compiled and with an introduction by George Packer; All Art Is Propaganda: Critical Essays by George Orwell, compiled by George Packer, with an introduction by Keith Gessen; and Why I Write by George Orwell (Julian Barnes, 3/12/09, NY Review of Books)

Book-related and General Links:

Comments:

Anyone who considers that one book should "clearly" be considered the greatest, cannot expect his viewer to take serious his commentary( though I agree 1984 is a work of brilliance.)

- Adler

- May-06-2005, 01:11

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Here, I must agree with the commentor, who sadly is anonymous. This is not a review WORTHY of Orwell's grand achievement. Nor is it much of a /review/ in the first place.

- Anna

- Oct-27-2004, 00:43

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you know.. you were incredibly swift to pronounce damning sentence on umberto eco for not "acknowledging his debt" to sir arthur conan doyle for supposedly stealing the essence of a sherlock holmes mystery novel.

interesting that you shouldn't pounce upon orwell for the same negligence involving yevgeny zamyatin's "we," written in 1920-21.

thanks for the summary of the book, by the way.. did you have any real commentary on why 1984 was the greatest novel of the century, beyond just copy/pasting entire pages of text and paraphrasing the rest?

so it's an artful "indictment of all the bureaucratic boot wearers everywhere." great. does that singlehandedly boost it beyond literature dealing directly with the human condition (eg, fitzgerald's gatsby)? are orwell's "indictments" so damning that they supercede those of nabokov or erofeev? is he stylistically as visionary in principle and execution as the emerging high modernists?

-

- May-14-2003, 01:47

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