Story Spotlight: 1984 – George Orwell

How can you not love this book? It’s one of the best novels I’ve ever read. The style draws you in immediately–it instantly makes you a part of this bleak world. The pace keeps you wondering, thinking, guessing, though it isn’t particularly tricky. The twists aren’t hard to foresee, but that seems to be the point–it’s obvious what’s coming, and there isn’t any way the characters can avoid it. The terror is surreal, and yet strangely stark. Nothing about this story is charming, but everything strikes home.

This book doesn’t do much. If you’re expecting a summer blockbuster, then you don’t know Orwell (or my taste in a good read). Even modern works of fiction that have attempted to replicate certain facets have fallen short by trying to go too large. Works that come to mind include The Matrix, Equilibrium, V for VendettaThe Hunger Games, Snowpiercer … snoooore … sorry, fell asleep there. Suffice it to say, there have been many imitations and derivative works (1984 was derivative of other works, of course, but was perhaps the first famous novel to explore this topic and setting). But each copy has attempted to make a key plot element the overthrow of that corrupt, totalitarian system.

1984 never bothers. It focuses simply on the struggles of a man and a woman (though primarily the man) in such a society. It focuses on how much one has to set aside their beliefs and common sense in order to toe the line of what government and society-at-large rabidly demands. It focuses on the efforts of our protagonist couple to simply live a life of quiet romance in the face of such overwhelming tyranny. Then it explores their subsequent capture, torture, and adaptation to said society. Masterfully done. And horrifyingly so.

This book might have done more to shape our understanding of what we fear about the government than any other piece of Anglo-American culture. And in spite of that, we’ve still marched inexorably toward that alternate reality. So I have to ask, with all that this story warned of in 1949, why do we have such a close approximation to Big Brother in American politics today? Shouldn’t we have heeded the warnings? Shouldn’t we be resisting it, removing powers of the government at every turn, and giving those back to the people? Perhaps the most chilling aspect of 1984 is that it predicted a total inability and unwillingness to do so, and we’ve fallen in line. Creepy.

 

5 out of 5 stars

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