Tuesday, 10 April 2007

1984

I just finished reading George Orwell’s 1984 and I am speechless when it comes to describing the book in 1 word. Recommended to me around one and half years back it took me a long time to actually read it. The book relates the story of Winston Smith and his moral destruction by the totalitarian state of Oceania of which he is a citizen.
The narration of the story and the unfolding of the plot is brilliant. The characters of Winston, Julia, Mr Charrington, O’Brien, Goldstein and the formiddable Big Brother are well crafted and speaks volumes about the care taken to build the perfect plot. The book as a whole is an exceptional piece of literarary work. However there are a few points and concepts of the book which I found amazing and cannot help but discuss.

  • Totalitarian Governance : The Government of Oceania headed by Big Brother controls every aspect of the life of the party members. The government not only controlled the individuals but also the past and the future. The Ministry of Truth dealt with writing and rewriting history to ensure that it said only what would be beneficial for Big Brother and the party. All books and refrences to the period before 1960 had been scrapped and no written record other than that maintained by the Ministry of Truth existed. Every piece of paper and record which questioned the stand of the Government was put down the memory hole. So is it actually possible to control the future and the past ? After all like mentioned in the book past is not “Happening” somehwere. It exist only in memories and records and if both could be controlled the past itself was being controlled. What happens if the past is altered and retold to us in a different manner ? What if the same happens today ? How would we deal with it ?
  • Thought Crime : As Winston aptly says, “Thought crime does not entail death, Thought Crime IS death” in Oceania. Each individual’s life is kept under strich surveillance and his/her every move is monitored closely. There were telescreens and microphones fitted in every place to monitor the party members and their movement. Even children were taught to report their parents to the Thought Police if they ever saw, overheard or noticed any signs of treachery. Friends, spouses, children no one could be trusted. This was a spine chilling idea. Loss of freedom and policing of the mind could very well lead many of us to prison. After all how many of us have never thought of revolting against the government? Or a thought which made us feel guity later.
  • DoubleThink : The ability to believe in 2 contradictory views at the same time. The mind would say that 2+2=4. However to believe that 2+2=5 simply because the party says so was to doublethink. It was sanity defined all over again. Can truth be altered simply because the majority believe so ? A whole nation of people can believe that the sun rises from th west. So can a entire nation denying the truth actually falsify it ?
  • Newspeak : The new language of the future. The language which would limit vocabulary and eventually curtail all thoughts leading to betrayal and revolution of any sort. It would abolish words which could explain the concept of political freedom. This idea in itself is amazing for the human mind cannot imagine anything which it cannot articulate. It is difficult to present an abstract idea when there are no befitting words. This revelation increases my respect for language tenfold. Not only can language determine what we say now, it can also determine what we think and say much later. It can decide our future and even the future of a nation and maybe the world too.
  • SelfPreservation over Love : Winston’s only claim to being human was his love for Julia and he firmly believed that the Thought Police could never get into his mind and end his love for her. However when he encounters his greatest fear, rats he betrays Julia screaming that she be subjected to that torture and not him. After his release when he encounters her they speak about their betrayal to each other. The song “Under the spreading chestnut tree, I sold you and you sold me” sums up the feeling at that point. So if love can be crushed is love overrated in today’s world ? Is love and romance merely instruments of entertainment? Feeling which can come to an end under severe conditions. Maybe the concept of undying love is a mere poet’s fantasy. Like Utopia, it does not exist yet people dream about it.
  • Sexual Repression : Big Brother’s Government discourages all forms of sexual encounter between man and woman for pleasure. It treats sex as a “Duty to the Party”. It is simply an action for reproduction and nothing more. It believes that there will be no love, except the love of Big Brother. Sexual desire one of the baser instincts of mankind if supressed can only lead to passion spilling out elsewhere. In Hatred and in War. The war between countries which might never end.
  • Proles : When Winston scrawls in his diary “If there is hope... it lies in the proles”. He believes that a revolution will come when the proles will rise and overthrow the government. However the party is sure that the proles will never revolt, never raise their voice against the government. This appears so true in today’s context. No matter how hard the times or how corrupt the government the commmon man has restricted himself to his own life. He will not step out of his small protected world and make any attempt to make a difference.

An extremely thought provoking book which even after almost 60 years is not out of context. It could very well have been written today. A masterpiece in the truest sense of the word.

3 comments:

To be or not to be .. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
To be or not to be .. said...

yesterday, i was thinking for a loooong time to come up with something to comment .. and i cldn .. and so i thought i'll comment that i cldn think of any comment .. lol

September said...

Good words.