Saturday, 19 January 2013

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Title: Nineteen Eighty-Four
Author: George Orwell
Publisher: Penguin
Released: June 8th 1849
Pages: 355 (Paperback)
Buy: Amazon UK / Amazon US

Hidden away in the Record Department of the sprawling Ministry of Truth, Winston Smith skilfully rewrites the past to suit the needs of the Party. Yet he inwardly rebels against the totalitarian world he lives in, which demands absolute obedience and controls him through the all-seeing telescreens and the watchful eye of Big Brother, symbolic head of the Party. In his longing for truth and liberty, Smith begins a secret love affair with a fellow-worker Julia, but soon discovers the true price of freedom is betrayal.

As I'm sure most of you know, I am a major lover of the dystopian fiction genre. For those of you who don't know what dystopian fiction is (though I don't know how, considering the recent hype for The Hunger Games), the definition is 'An imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one'. Authors usually imagine a future Earth much different from the world we currently live in, usually down to wars and a change of government  New rules have been implemented, and it may as well be a different Universe. One of the first and best-known works of this genre is Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, a novel that has influenced a lot of novels and television shows, like Room 101 and Big Brother. So I thought that considering I love the genre so much, why don't I read the novel that pretty much started the trend off?

Written in 1948, Nineteen Eighty-Four is what Orwell believes will be the future. Reading it in 2012/2013, I know that everything he imagined didn't happen - but I found it interesting to read it afterwards, to see his interpretation of the future and to know the outcome. I suppose the best time to read it would have been before 1984, and then to reread it again afterwards - it would have been fantastic to live through! However, I am not a Timelord, so I can not go back in time.

Nineteen Eighty-Four is split into three parts, and I have to say that my feelings towards the novel changed throughout each of these sections. I adored the Part One, I couldn't get enough of it! The language was rich, the plot was good, the pace was steady, and it was interesting to learn about this world under the eye of Big Brother. Orwell wrote a fantastic opening to the book, and I felt as if I couldn't put it down.

Throughout Part Two, Orwell developed the main characters of Winston and Julia. I loved reading about their secret meetings - with the way Orwell wrote it, I felt as if I was sneaking through the underbrush with them, just as guilty and just as excited. Their affair was full of tension and suspense, and I thought that despite the dystopian aspects, the author managed to keep a lot of it quite realistic, especially the fact that the pair couldn't talk much; if your every movement is captured my cameras, of course you wouldn't be able to do anything secretly very often. He kept that going, when a lot of authors probably would have bent the rules and made exceptions. Some may feel that this made the affair quite boring, but I liked it.

Now we get to the third part, which is where I began to have problems with the read. I started this novel on December 21st, and by Christmas Day, I was about halfway through. However, soon after this I reached Part Three, and my enthusiasm for this novel slowly began to deteriorate, until I didn't pick it up for days at a time. And why did this happen? (Please note that for the next paragraph, there will be spoilers, so skip this if you plan to read the book in the future!) Winston met O'Brien, and was given Emmanuel Goldstein's book about The Brotherhood. For pages and pages, Orwell wrote out the information in this rule book, and to be honest, I skipped the majority of it. Now I hate skipping things in novels, but it was so boring! It was literally a recap of everything we learnt about Oceania in Part One! This was the start of my lack of love for this novel, and as we went on to the scenes of torture and pain, my boredom increased, which I'm guessing was the opposite effect of what Orwell wanted. But to give credit where credit is due, my love for the book returned on the very last line - "I love Big Brother". As I said earlier, Orwell kept the book fairly realistic for a dystopian novel, and at the end of most dystopians, everyone lives happily ever after. Life isn't like that, and Orwell reinforced this by showing Winston's utter defeat. Nineteen Eighty-Four was never about being able to kick-start a revolution and turning the world around; it was about what political power the government can hold, and how we are defenseless against their ways of thinking. Yes, a few people can defy the rules every now and again, but it isn't going to become anything big, not until the majority are involved. For me, this novel was about Orwell's take on society and it's way of thinking, which I did find interesting. It was an essay, of sorts.

Overall, although I disliked Part Three, I did enjoy the majority of the novel. I found it easy to slip into, and Orwell's writing style was brilliant - yes, he went into depth about this future he created, but he never went overboard, which keeps the reader engaged. Well, at least until Part Three. I'd definitely recommend this novel to anyone who loves dystopian books, as this really did kind of begin the genre. It wasn't as brilliant as I was hoping, but I still enjoyed it.
Rating: 4/5

1 comment:

  1. I read this book way back in high school, so it was great reading your review and being reminded of what I felt about it. It is interesting to think of it as one of the first dystopian novels, since they are so prevalent now. This was a great review!