To avoid beating around the bush, 1984 is a wonderful book. It explores not only the darkest part of society, its recurring nature and its vulnerabilities, but also the darkest part of man, our ability to lie to ourselves. In just under 300 pages, Orwell manages to go from explaining a society ruled by epistemophobia, to the social trends of human history that makes this possible, to the base human instincts that allows the world to remain chained to fear. Nothing in 1984 is written without a purpose in mind; every detail contributes to explaining the state of the world, and how such a horror can come to pass. The story starts out strong, with an introduction to the totalitarian and, indeed, Orwellian society of Oceania, its constant surveillance, and the tyrannical activities so flagrantly committed, as well as Oceania’s cultural refusal of the existence of any such activities. The middle portion of the book is dedicated to the main character, Winston Smith, attempting to discover more about Oceania’s true history, an act that is, in Oceania, traditionally met with imprisonment by the government, execution, and the erasure of any evidence of the offender having ever existed. Yet, with the discovery of a book detailing the contemporary history of the world and how Oceania became as it is (courtesy of a “fellow conspirator”), Smith learns of the world’s flaws, the recurring hegemonies of the middle class, and the method by which the party elite (Oceania’s ruling class) solidifies their power. I found this section to be the most interesting thus far, as it detailed the perpetual waste of resources and the calculated famines used to keep the lower class in line, how warfare in this world was perpetual, because it is the most efficient means by which production could be wasted with the full bodied support of the people. With Winston Smith’s arrest (also courtesy of this “fellow conspirator”), 1984 dives headlong into a discourse on human nature, delivered via Winston Smith’s torture. In the epilogue, we are left with a converted Winston Smith thanking the Party for saving him from his delusions, and hailing the very concepts he despised. We are left with an indoctrinated Winston, and the distinct opinion that we humans are malleable as clay. The plot in 1984 is riveting, the themes are excellent and well suited to this genre, and every scene is masterfully described. So, why not a perfect 10/10? Because, though George Orwell covers the point of his story well within 300 pages, and describes the world as well as is necessary, there is a great deal of untapped potential. One example of this are the Floating Fortresses, massive military installments meant to waste as much money in the form of weaponry as possible. A description of this, of the warfare in that age, of anything relating to the world in which the story takes place would be wonderful. Orwell constructs this interesting world, and only covers the basics. But then again, maybe that’s all we need to know.
-Dan Tudorica (A2)