I started to read this a few months ago, but I just couldn’t get into it in the first few pages. Setting it aside was apparently the right thing to do because when I read it this time I enjoyed everything about it (with the exception of the ending). 1984 counts for both my 2012 Back to the Classics Challenge (20th Century Classic) and The Classics Club.
Once again, as it seems happens more and more frequently, I’m at a loss of how to respond to a novel. I both loved and hated 1984. I thought the ending was a bit tough to get through, but once you got through it the middle of the novel was amazing and kept me wanting to know what happened, but then the ending was let down, even though I get it.
I want to talk a bit more about the ending. I mean I get why it happened the way it did and I think Orwell was right in doing what he did. Part of this books charm/draw is that for 99% of the book Orwell keeps you interested and hopeful that Winston will break the trend, will do what no one else (that we know of) will be able to do. Even at the end of the novel you think – this is it, he’s going to break free, but then Orwell shuts you down and you, the reader, begin to feel the helplessness and despair that the party members of Oceania must feel.
Regardless of whether this was Orwell’s intention, it hit me hard. I’d invested so much in my hope for Winston that even the little let-downs and major revelations leading up to the ending weren’t enough to fully shake my belief that Winston would prevail and then Orwell crushed my hopes with the last two sentences of the novel.
Aside from the ending, the what really stood out to me was Orwell’s imagination of the depths a totalitarian government would go to in order to restrain the population. The entire premise of the Ministry of Truth simultaneously fascinated and terrified me. To think that every piece of history could be altered or edited to conform to current belief/current thought/current time is horrifying. I’d like to think people would push back and realize that this was happening, but let’s face it, especially with the way the world and technology are moving, this becomes easier and easier to see as a potential future every day. A very small example is all of the Photoshopped/faked photos of the disaster recently caused by Sandy in the Northeast. The number of people who shared the photos was disheartening, specifically because people didn’t take the few minutes to trace down the photo to see if it was legitimate, but rather propagated the idea that it was real.
Recommendation: READ IT. This book deserves to be read and I cannot believe it took me this long to read it, but at the same time I’m glad I didn’t read it any earlier because I would not have appreciated it as much. I’ve decided to stick it on my permanent shelf and I hope I do re-read it in the near future.
Opening Line: “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”
Closing Line: “He loved Big Brother.” (Whited out.)
Additional Quotes from 1984
“The preparations for Hate Week were in full swing, and the staff of all the Ministries were working overtime. Processions, meetings, military parades, lectures, waxwork displays, film shows, telescreen programs all had to be organized; stands had to be erected, effigies built, slogans coined, songs written, rumors circulated, photographs faked.” (148)
“One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.” (263)