Starting off simple, 1984 by George Orwell is one of the best and most influential books I have ever read despite how sick it made me feel (maybe I should do a special posts on all the books that have impacted me in a great way so far in my life!). It’s a dystopian novel complete with a totalitarian government or Party that absolutely controls its citizens by watching their every move with cameras and even to the point where they can’t express themselves with words. Mind you, to them, all individual and independent thinking are “thoughtcrimes” and Big Brother is always watching. Just how dangerous it is to control because individuality gives you freedom.
Take it from an example of the Party’s three slogans.
- War is Peace
- Freedom is Slavery
- Ignorance is Strength
Now how do those phrases sound? Quite eerie huh? But those words are personally my guidelines in reading this book.
Our main character is Winston Smith, an everyday man living in the superstate of Oceania (which is actually London). His job is not your usual nine-to-five, it’s about editing and rewriting facts and statistics of past newspaper articles in a way that support the Party’s beliefs. In other words, the Party is manipulating its people so that they are not exposed to true facts that could endanger the credibility of the party. Therefore we could see that need of control is what makes the government totalitarian and that’s what George Orwell despises.
With the first slogan, the idea of war helps the party maintain or keep peace at home. The second is simply being ignorance of the people is the strength of the party with the example of Winston’s job. If you just simply follow and believe what you’re told to believe, you’re be far from trouble and that is the strength that the Party means to achieve.
Then finally, slavery of the people means freedom for the government. Children in the novel actually participated on spying their parents and taught to report anything suspicious to the “Thought Police”, and word power is reduced by removing words from dictionaries so that people won’t be able to express any individual thought that could lead them in rebelling the party.
All of this is scary but modern literature is all about that, and most of the time readers are gripped by whatever the author put on the table. From class I learnt that modern literature has a characteristic of juxtapositions where two completely opposing ideas are brought together. How can war really bring us peace? How does slavery relate to freedom when you’re ripped off of your rights from actually being human with thoughts, feelings and emotions? George Orwell’s novel has represented this.
This novel was published in after WWII and from what I’ve been learning in Modern Literature class is how in the beginning of modernism era it was all about being optimistic. It was, breaking free from philosophical and moral traditions of the past to having a fresh, new, idealistic outlook on life. Yet after WWI, optimism turned to skepticism because the bleakness of reality slapped them hard in the face. Writers who were filled with high idealism became angry and lost hope at how technology is being used for violation like the war itself. In the book, there are cameras following the people, monitoring for any possible acts of independent thoughts, ‘telescreens’ that spew out propagandas to the people, and the all-righteous Big Brother (Big Brother is Watching You).
Now, modernism in literature includes innovative literary techniques which usually, well, mostly includes a non-linear plot, evident with the characters’ stream of consciousness or overflow of thoughts being played around in the story. Whereas in 1984, the narrative or plotline is basically in order, combined with the standard third person omniscient point of view by the author. However, you will get the feel and taste of modernism with just how bleak the novel is and how it makes you feel so dark inside.
Everything is just so darn ridiculous where citizens are brainwashed but it comes as a warning for people today to not become some sort of robots. Our individuality, our humanity, whatever it is that makes each one of us special is something that we should hold close and fight for.