Big Brother is Watching You 1984 – George Orwell
LORELAI: I was just going through something, I thought you might be interested. It’s from 1984.
SOOKIE: The book?
LORELAI: No, the year.
Gilmore Girls Season 4 Episode 7 The Festival of Living Art
It’s 1984 in Oceania. Winston Smith is employed as a records editor at the Ministry of Truth. His main duty is to rewrite the history and documentation of the state in order to satisfy current Party policy and interpretation. The Party is a totalitarian superpower that controls and manipulates its citizens by making sure that they live a life without freedom. In Oceania, Big Brother is always watching.
The Party controls everything. They change history books, newspaper articles and government documents in order to make sure that their views are a reality in the past, present and the future. They even control who Oceania is at war with.
The novel starts with Winston on his way home with a diary. In Oceania citizens are not allowed to have a diary as their thoughts are not their own. Winston defies this by keeping a record of his thoughts and daily activities. This is the first step he takes in defying the Party.
Winston soon meets Julia, a like-minded individual, with whom he has a secret love affair. Their affair, however, does not last long as they are discovered and arrested. What follows are horrific scenes of torture, as they are brainwashed to believe that they have betrayed themselves and the Party.
I had trouble relating to the characters. I feel like Winston was just going through the motions. He never took an active step to betray the Party, it just sort of happened, just like his affair with Julia. Winston was mechanical in his thinking and his love for Julia. I guess this could also have been a side-effect from being manipulated by the Party all his life. He didn’t know how to show love or affection. Even though Julia was more pro-active in getting what she wanted her main goal was to make her life as enjoyable as possible. She didn’t seem concerned about the destruction happening around her.
I wouldn’t say it’s an enjoyable novel to read, as I constantly felt worried and stressed that Winston and Julia would be caught. In the end when they were arrested, their worst fears were realised as they were tortured and starved. In a movie you can at least keep your eyes closed if there are parts you don’t want to see. Keeping my eyes closed would make reading a bit difficult but that is exactly what I wanted to do during the torture scenes. They were written in such detail that it actually made me feel sick to my stomach.
It’s still 1984
The ideas and concepts of propaganda, war, power and class divides in 1984 are timeless. It’s nerve-wrecking how relevant it still is today. In the end Winston was set free, if you can call it that. He was allowed to return to his apartment but he had been so manipulated and brainwashed that his mind once again belonged to the Party. I didn’t like the ending although I couldn’t really see it ending any other way. I still hoped that the Party might be defeated. But even that thought wasn’t very comforting as the Party was sure to be replaced by another government with the same principles.