1984 Book Review Essay, Research Paper
Through chilling glimpses of a future that could have been, and bleak outlooks at life, George Orwell conveys a message of warning, and of hope, for all the people of the world. 1984 is a perfect example of a negative look at society. It serves as not only a warning to what the future may become, but also as a constant reminder that everything is relative, and when one is left with no comparisons, any situation can seem normal.
If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever
The protagonist in the story is a man by the name of Winston Smith. Starting with his name, it is clear the author planned his character out to the last detail. Take the last name Smith, for example, which is one of the most popular last names in America this allows the reader to relate more to the character. In addition, if you look at his first name, Winston, you would notice that it happens to be the name of a key person from Orwell s time, Winston Churchill. When combined with his last name, the readers are left with the impression of a sort of hero, with a vague relation to themselves. Winston is a sad man, in that he takes things as they come, and does not extract joy or excitement out of any situation. His personality, for lack of a better term, is boring. Everything is plain and ordinary to him. However, deep inside of him is a virtue that shines through as the novel progresses, and that is his human instinct to want to know the truth, and to rise up and live better. It is almost heroic how he silently stands for what he believes in, and knowing the consequences of going against The Party were severe, he still pushed forward. Physically, Winston is about average compared to the others in the novel. He is missing a few teeth, has worn skin, and tired joints. He is a man of around 39 years of age, and is not fat, and not overly skinny. He is a quiet, non-assertive person, and goes along with any Party event, so as not to look suspicious. He is the sympathetic character in the novel, because people can relate to his situations.
The antagonist in the story is a man named simply as O Brien. O Brien, throughout most of the story, was a mysterious fellow, with an old, tired, yet trustworthy face. The reader gets the impression he is a friend to Smith s plot. However, 2/3 of the way through the book, O Brien turns against Smith and Julia and reveals himself as the leader of the thought-police, an organization within the Party responsible for punishing people who thought of, or actually committed crimes. O Brien reflects everything that is hated in modern society, and at the same time he is everything that the Party represents. He is the friend of Winston, but at the same time his enemy. He is the man, beyond everyone else, that strives for power just for the sake of having power. He is also the leader of the Party that Smith actually confronts, and as such is Smith s main conflict.
Some of the supporting characters included an attractive young woman named Julia, who becomes Winston s love interest somewhere before the midpoint of the novel. If Winston is the intellectual rebel against the Party, then Julia is definitely the physical rebel. She does not really think about the rules much, but she knows she likes to do anything possible to break them. Another supporting character is Big Brother himself (or the poster of him that is). The description Orwell gives of the man on the poster would almost give the idea that it was Stalin, and that he had started the whole thing. Big Brother is present in nearly every scene of the novel, and is a key, yet silent, player throughout the entire novel. He is the driving force behind the Party, and its attempts toward absolute power.
The entire story is set to the backdrop of an ongoing war in the mid nineteen eighties. Sometime in the 1950 s, numerous atomic bombs had ripped through most of the America s and European nations, destroying their governments, and sending the world into political and economic turmoil. This setting of despair, and utter hopelessness served as a perfect catalyst for the Party to come to full power. Although the only city the book talks about in any detail is London, it is made clear that other cities must be the same because of the Party s attitudes. London, in 1984, was nothing like it was before the Revolution. It had turned into a dark, desolate place, filled with slums, and overflowing with filth. A few buildings from the past, now changed to be nearly unrecognizable, stood out among the Ministry buildings of the Party. This new world, devastated by nuclear war and poverty, shows the West as a totalitarian government, with an almighty dictator, known simply as Big Brother. A political figure and religious leader all in one, Big Brother’s power is so absolute that some people doubt if he even exists at all. The streets in the slums are hit by rocket bombs at random intervals, sending the people into a frenzy, and making them blame the country they are currently at war with.
Winston Smith becomes a Thought Criminal. An Outer Party member, his job is to actually rewrite the archives of the London Times so that they match current Ingsoc (English Socialism) policy. When Ingsoc changes its alliance with another superpower and begins waging war on its previous ally, Winston’s job is to rewrite all the previous information to show that the old alliance never existed. So confused are the minds of the people he meets that they do not even realize that these changes have been made. However, Winston is a smart enough man to understand the changes being forced on the society.
Due to his thoughts that things might have been better at one time, Winston obtains a copy of a banned revolutionary book by the famous enemy of the Party, Goldstein. Inspired by what he reads, he gets involved in a love affair with a co-worker, Julia, and seems to find a friend in O’Brien, an Inner Party official. Looking for an escape from this terrible world to a better life, he does not even realize that everything has been a set-up. O’Brien is actually the head of the Thought Police, and it is he who actually wrote Goldstein’s book for the purpose of exposing revolutionaries and putting them into the dreaded Room 101 – a torture chamber where a person s worst fears are made real. After his imprisonment at the Ministry of Truth, where he betrayed Julia, Winston, now a totally broken and brainwashed man, is returned to society as another believer of Big Brother. All of Winston s dreams of freedom, and a better life, are permanently taken from his brain, as he becomes another robot in society.
I picked this book not knowing what to expect, since no person I knew had even read it. When I finally put it down, I was left in a state of shock. I would not quite describe myself as angry, but I was definitely frustrated and at the same time worried. The whole time I was reading, I hadn t realized that what Orwell had wrote was coming true more and more every day, just not as drastically as in his novel. In 1984, every house is equipped with a device called a telescreen, which feeds audio and video of you to the government, and allows them to broadcast any message they want to you. This seems to be ridiculous, with no way of becoming reality, but look around. Policemen are already using cameras and microphones so small you cannot detect them, and although it is very limited right now, one day it is possible that it will be widespread. Throughout the book, Orwell depicted a very negative life (a negative utopia, I found out through research) with very few good things in it. The people lived, worked, and died, all for the advancement of the Party. They really were machines working for a bigger machine. I guess what shocked me the most was how much the people s personal freedoms were violated. Not only were they not allowed to do anything they wanted, they could not even think about doing those things. This book leaves the reader with a picture of pure horror. This was definitely one of the best books I have ever read. It had many parallels to Fahrenheit 451, since the past was not allowed in that book either. I have a positive view on this book because I believe it carries a very important message for all of humanity. It is a message of freedom, freedom to think what you want, freedom to act out on those thoughts, and freedom to know that 2 + 2 = 4. The Party s philosophy was that by controlling the mind, one controlled everything, because everything that existed, existed in the mind. They slowly, but surely, took out all thoughts of evil from the people, the most drastic means by reducing the number of words in their language to make negative thought impossible. I could go on for many pages about the ideas presented in this book; there is literally dozens of messages to be had. In the end, Winston Smith became exactly what he fought against, and he could care less. He was no longer a human being in the traditional sense, but a slave.
“The solid world exists, its laws do not change. Stones are hard, water is wet, objects unsupported fall toward the earth’s center. With the feeling that he was speaking to O’Brien, and also that he was setting forth an important axiom, he wrote: Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.”