This is definitely one of those ‘books to read before you die’. It’s on all the lists, everyone always recommends it to you, and rightly so. It’s brilliant. Terrifying, but brilliant.
It’s set in Oceania in a dystopian future (1984 was the future when this was written – 1949.) This is a world of government surveillance, totalitarian ideology and mind control. Deviating from the permitted ideals is seen as ‘thoughtcrime’ and punished by the Party led by their revered leader (who may or may not exist) Big Brother.
The protagonist is Winston Smith who works for the Ministry of Truth, which in actuality is a purveyor of lies. Winston’s job is essentially to re-write history to suit the Party’s propaganda. There’s also the Ministry of Plenty (overseeing shortage and famine), Ministry of Love (overseeing torture) and the Ministry of Peace which oversees war and devastation.
Winston hates this existence, but is terrified by the consequences of speaking out. After becoming suspicious that his co-worker O’Brien has similar feelings, He is invited to join the ‘Brotherhood’ – a secret resistance movement seeking to overthrow the government – through which Winston, and his girlfriend Julia, are plunged into impending danger and the ever-present threat of torture in Room 101.
This controversial book really is a must-read. Unlike some of the other classics, this is relatively short, easy to read and exciting throughout. If you’ve already read it, you’ll know what I mean. If not, shame on you – go and read it now!
“You are a slow learner, Winston.”
“How can I help it? How can I help but see what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.”
“Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.”
If you like the dystopian theme you might like Brave New World.
If you like this author you might like Animal Farm.