Book - Nineteen Eighty Four

1984

Steve Taylor-Bryant takes a look inside the Orwellian world of 1984 or Nineteen Eighty Four, he doesn't really know the correct way of writing the title...

Nineteen Eighty Four is a special book. It is so ahead of its time with its predictions of what might happen in the future, but it’s often forgotten that Nineteen Eighty Four is also very much of its time.

Hidden away in the Record Department of the sprawling Ministry of Truth, Winston Smith skilfully rewrites the past to suit the needs of the Party. Yet inwardly he rebels against the totalitarian world he lives in, which demands absolute obedience and controls him through the all-seeing tele screens and the watchful eye of Big Brother, symbolic head of the Party. In his longing for truth and liberty, Smith begins a secret love affair with a fellow-worker, Julia, but soon discovers the true price of freedom is betrayal.

Eric Arthur Blair, using the pen name George Orwell, changed the face of Twentieth Century literature first with Animal Farm and then Nineteen Eighty Four and sold more copies of those two titles than any other Twentieth century author. It was perhaps his upbringing and early employment that freed his mind to explore subject matter that hadn’t really been touched upon before, and I am positive that working in propaganda for the BBC and his time as a journalist allowed him to consider the actions of parties and people with more insight than many other writer could have managed. That is what Nineteen Eighty Four is for me. It is propaganda at play. Yes, there was an awful lot of events and terms that Orwell foresaw that make Nineteen Eighty Four such an essential read, Big Brother, Newspeak, Room 101 and the like have seeped into both popular culture and the modern day English language, but Orwell wrote Nineteen Eighty Four just after the Second World War had ended and much of the novel is an exaggeration of events that happened, on both sides of the conflict, and is more a look at would could have been.

The break-up of the world into regions, whilst considered a futuristic idea that eventually happened with the European Union, is more a comment on what would inevitability of happened had the Germans or Russians won the war. The Party as it is described is more Nazi party than any government of future times, and the totalitarian regime they lord over is very reminiscent of the way Adolf Hitler ran Germany in the build up to war, with endless propaganda campaigns exciting a nation of smart but desperate people until they all towed the line and became mindless servants and those with dissenting voices were punished. The Spies in the novel of young children beholden to Big Brother's beliefs are terrifying. The thought that your own children would be the downfall of your fellow man, or worse, turn you in to the Thought Police is a very scary proposition and yet doesn’t seem that much different to the Hitler Youth of the 1930’s, a fact that Orwell would have known about and used to great effect. Even the uniformity of the dress is very much of its day with everyone wearing their overalls, but let’s not forget that man, woman, and child wore some kind of uniform on both sides during the war whether fighting or just helping the war effort.

Nineteen Eighty Four is a glimpse at the life we could have lived had historical events happened differently. Yes the future showed Orwell right on many occasions, no more so than with the importance of a Tele Screen as we may not be watched by it but let’s face it if you have a television then it has some element of control over you, and the paranoia of constantly being watched by our governments is almost at genius levels spot-on. Regimes will always have wars, it is what power dictates, whether we dress it up as freedom fighting and spreading democracy or not, a government must have a war. The role the media play seems to come across in modern society as something new, but the propaganda campaigns of the early Twentieth century through to what Winston does for Big Brother and the Party in the book, is just what we know now as ‘Spin’. Spin and the role of the media is another exaggeration in Nineteen Eighty Four but the warning is there for all to see that the levels of distrust you should have in what you read will only get worse if it doesn’t receive some kind of checks and balance.

Important novel? Yes! But more than that Nineteen Eighty Four is doubleplusgood.

Image - Amazon.