This is a classic example of a book that needs to be read at least twice, nay thrice, for the sheer brilliance of it to fully sink in. To be able to create such a complex future out of words on paper, that was nearly half a century away, was a daunting task for Orwell, given the time he was writing in. And it is a testament to his incredible imagination. After reading ‘Never Let Me Go’, I was aching to get my hands on another novel of a similar genre. However, the feelings that ‘1984’ instilled in me, a complete three sixty degree turn to Ishiguro’s novel, can be summed up in one little word: depression.
Dystopia has never been described so accurately as it has been in ‘1984’. Through his observations of the Second World War and the subsequent totalitarianism established by both socialist and communist regimes, Orwell creates a world that is, quite frankly, terrifying to think about. What makes such a future even more frightening is the fact that it hits close to home, especially in the twenty-first century. After reading this book, I can see quite clearly how easy it is for those who have too much power to manipulate and mould it in shapes that suit their own needs. ‘1984’ creates a world that no one wants to live in, a world dominated by Big Brother, The Thought Police, and the Two Minute Hate. All these elements strip the characters of their ability to think independently, especially when there is little left to distinguish reality from the realms of imagination.
Orwell forces us to think beyond the bigger picture, the dangers and consequences of handing one individual an endless amount of power and control over the lives of billion. Given the world we live in today, its not surprising to see why this book shakes up the conscience of a reader. In addition to that, ‘1984’ is a book that just keeps on giving, as never have I been more mesmerised by an author’s use of lexis; Orwell is the master of alteration. He employs it an unconventional manner but the effect is astonishing; we can see how even the slightest alteration in language can completely change the thoughts of an individual. His use of adjectives adds to this style of writing, and echoes Orwell’s own statement that ‘simplification of language affects the mind and its ability to think objectively’.
One of the aspects that stand out and make this book utterly terrifying is the measure to which control is exercised. Every aspect of life from eating and drinking to thinking and decision-making can be detected by the State. In fact, even the children are encouraged to report any acts of disobedience; and they are not afraid to betray their own families to the authorities. Orwell explores entirely new aspects of human nature in this novel, for example, the curious relationship between Winston and Julia. Together they make an unstoppable force of nature, one an intellectual weapon and the other a complete ‘rebel’ in the eyes of the State. However, the phrase ‘strength in numbers’ has never made more sense, as we see how upon separation, both characters recede into the shells that house their fragile and beaten souls. Shells that are too impotent to make a stand against the Party.
Additionally, Orwell highlights in ‘1984’ his conceptualisation of human emotions. The evolution of emotion, and how someone can control it in themselves and in others, is displayed through an intricate and astonishing style of prose. Orwell is a master artist, painting his empty canvas with words that show how its possible to eradicate love, plant the seeds of hatred and induce false respect while also instilling control. At this point I could feel the depression and cold realisation creeping up my spine in small shivers. Every single concept of control inducing surveillance described in this book makes sense to me as a reader, because it is a concept that we now see in our world on some level. As haunting as the idea seems, one of the reasons why readers of the twenty-first century can relate to ‘1984’ is due to the fact that every aspect that Orwell talks about is related to our world in one way or another.
Upon the climax of this book, it never ceases to be the case that ‘1984’ is an exemplary piece of dystopian fiction, not matter how depressing. The totalitarian regime showcased in this novel make all the tyrants in our history that look like amateurs. It forces the reader to think about the past and the future in a new light. Control, in the hands of one individual, is a recipe for a world that is a nightmare dressed like a fictional concept that no one stops to comprehend until it is far too late. ‘1984’ scared and depressed me unlike any other piece of fiction I have read, but it has also given me one the most rewarding experiences that literature has to offer. Orwell’s pure literary and creative genius reminds me why we need such element of fiction in our lives. The complexity of the future that he has created leaves me in awe, respect and fear. How does one carry on with the monotony of life after coming down from a high that authors like him have to offer with literary masterpieces such as ‘1984’? I’ll let you know when I find the answer…