Monday, May 10, 2010

1984 by George Orwell

Since my life has gotten crazy with summer school and an impending cross-country move, my recreational reading habits have slowed down a bit. As such, I thought I would start reviewing some of my all-time favorites, my ultimate on-the-shelfs, my fail-safe re-reads, starting with one of my top two favorites: 1984. You may have read Animal Farm, but you haven't experienced Orwell's genius, his genius that earned him his own adjective (Orwellian), until you've read this book.

Reviewed by Connie

Published: 1949

It's about: 1984 is a dystopian novel that describes (and warns against) a futuristic society in which the government gains control over every aspect of human life, even to the point of controlling human thoughts. One average, everyday man, Winston, through the process of writing in a journal, slowly becomes conscious of his brainwashed servitude to the government's extreme authoritarianism, but can he successfully evade its seductive and omnipotent power, or will he, too, disappear, like so many "thought criminals" before him?

I thought: Though obviously extreme, this cautionary tale is chillingly believable. From the beginning sentence to the closing line, this story will haunt you. It will challenge your every core belief and demand that you defend it. It is a story about every level of humanity, from introspection into the human heart and mind to an examination of global government forces. The characters, the plot, the language, are beyond skillful. This novel is as close to perfection as a book can come.

Verdict: STICK IT ON THE SHELF. This is a staple.

Reading Recommendations: I honestly believe that every single person in the entire world should read this book.

Warnings: As far as I remember, there are a couple of vague references to having sex. It's a pretty clean book, though.

Interesting info: If you've ever wondered where certain expressions such as "Big Brother is watching" come from, it's from this book.

Also, I convinced my husband to read this while he was hitchhiking across Europe, and he also loved it. When a woman who had lived under a totalitarian regime saw that he was reading it, he said that she talked to him for hours about how absolutely Orwell was able to capture the paralyzing fear that pervades your life when under that sort of governmental power.

Favorite excerpts:

"The past was dead, the future was unimaginable."

"From where Winston stood it was just possible to read, picked out on its white face in elegant lettering, the three slogans of the Party:

"You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized."

"It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself--anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face...; was itself a punishable offense. There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime..."

"Never again will you be capable of ordinary human feeling. Everything will be dead inside you. Never again will you be capable of love, or friendship, or joy of living, or laughter, or curiosity, or courage, or integrity. You will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty and then we shall fill you with ourselves."

"Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows."

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