War is Peace
Freedom is Slavery
Ignorance is Strength
These are the words that send chills down your soul on several occasions while reading George Orwell’s magnum opus, “1984”. It is a book that will change you as a human being. It is a book you will never forget in your life.
To begin with, the book is ever so relatable in today’s times, when authoritarian regimes are resurfacing in the faces of America’s Donald Trump, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, China’s Xi Jinping, India’s Narendra Modi, North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un, UK’s Boris Johnson, and Hungary’s Viktor Orban. It delves deeper and deeper into the layers of authoritarianism and fascism, instilling fear inside the readers which is extremely hard to get out of one’s self.
What I loved most about the author is that he didn’t make any false promises or create illusionary dreams. Orwell creates a world where you will find a strong resemblance to the one we live in. This makes you sad and anxious from within. He pushes you to a state of mind that’s not only uncomfortable but also depressingly existent.
Plot Summary of 1984
1984 is a story about Winston Smith of Oceania. It is one of the three states on the entire planet, ruled by the English Socialist Party or ‘Ingsoc’. The other two states are Eastasia and Eurasia, and either of them has always been at war with Oceania. Through Winston’s eyes, Orwell walks us through daily life in Oceania under the totalitarian regime of the Ingsoc. The Party has made a life for the common man a living hell. What’s more chilling is that people don’t even realize this.
The scarier part is that people not only have no control over their material choices but also have no liberty of thought. The state vigilantes, the Thought Police, hunt down individuals who seem to have any kind of ‘thought’ or display irregular behaviour that is against the Party’s ideology.
However, Winston harbors the desire to revolt against the party and end its regime, knowing that it would end as soon as it begins. In his quest, he meets a fellow party member, Julia, with whom he falls in love. Julia and Winston have their small “adventures” before things turn ugly.
The Big Brother – A Figure that Transcends Geopolitical and Social Boundaries
Head of the Party, the supreme leader of Oceania, Big Brother, is a mammoth figure which has always existed. No one has seen him, yet his eyes are everywhere. He knows everything about everything and everyone on the planet. He loves the people of Oceania and makes merciless decisions to safeguard people’s interests. In Oceania, there’s absolutely no freedom as we perceive it to be in the 21st Century. Every aspect of human life, from the food they eat to the clothes they wear, is state-controlled. And that too, in the name of the “betterment of the people of Oceania”.
Big Brother controls Oceania with the help of four ministries – the Ministry of Love, the Ministry of Peace, the Ministry of Plenty, and the Ministry of Truth. Each of these ministries does exactly the opposite of what its name suggests. For instance, the Ministry of Truth continuously alters history according to whatever suits the Party’s present narrative. They control the past by fabricating books, newspapers, and magazines, retrospectively and altering the past statements made by the Party to portray its intelligence as infallible.
Reflection of a Human Mind
The depiction of the evil that a human mind is capable of is simply phenomenal and makes us question each and everything that we see around us in this day and age. The Party controls the mind of the people so much that every single person is continuously spying on others, with even children ready to give in to their parents on the slightest suspicion.
1984 can be best described as a portrayal of what the human life could become if fascism takes over the world. All in all, it is a book that every individual must read, irrespective of personal ideological inclinations.
However, the book can be too much for a new reader, as it drags on many occasions for several pages. This can not only make it uninteresting to read, but also quite tricky. Considering the strong and humourless language, you won’t come across a single moment to laugh or even giggle a wee bit. It is quite astonishing how George Orwell could write something that bears resemblance even today.
I can only imagine what the author must have witnessed in the life that made him create such a dark, evil, hopeless, cruel, and yet, truthful depiction of human life. Undisputedly, George Orwell’s ‘1984’ is the epitome of dystopian novels ever written.
1984 – George Orwell – Book Review | Bombay Reads
Noman Shaikh is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Bombay Reads. He grew up in Mumbai, a city he loves more than any other, and currently works as a content consultant. His expertise lies in creating high-quality academic and marketing content in the form of blogs, articles, op-eds, etc. Noman has worked with reputed brands, including Economic Times (through Spiral Media), Coinbase (through MattsenKumar), AdEngage, Della Group, GBIM Technologies, VAP Group, etc. For his published portfolio, click here. Contact Noman on noman@bombayreads for engagement.