I just finished reading probably one of the most venerated book of the past century. To put the story into context, 1984 was written in 1948 by George Orwell at the end of the Second World War and in the advent of the Cold War.
In 1984, Winston Smith decides to write illegally a diary where he expresses his thoughts against the regime installed by Big Brother. From the cigarettes to the vigilance cameras installed all over the streets and houses, the place is controlled everywhere with signs reading
“BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU”
as a reminder. Trust is uncertain, and leads him to doubt from everyone including his own neighbors. Working in the Ministry of Truth, he opposes secretly the government in alliance with other people, especially Julia with whom he entertains a romance.
It would be too naive to end the understanding of the book by assuming that Big Brother is a representation of Adolf Hitler and his totalitarian regime. Indeed, I myself have lived in Venezuela where the government of Hugo Chávez has controlled the country and led it to a terrible dictatorship. Following this idea, I consider the book is a general idea and proof of the absurdity of power applicable to any kind of situation. There will always be people that will follow someone’s idea by fear or by ignorance, however, we are the ones who decide if we want to change the path and the repeated mistake citizens have made during history. In the same way, I consider Big Brother can be anyone: from George Orwell “watching us” while we read his novel to make sure we take the time to put a little thinking on it, to a dictator like Adolf Hitler creating a terror state by watching the citizen with the Gestapo and the SS.
In a history class I had in high school about the totalitarian regime of Adolf Hitler, the teacher explained it by using a quote by G. Goebbels
“A lie repeated often enough becomes the truth.”
I am using this quote to illustrate my interpretation of the book –because I consider it deserves more than just a personal opinion. Indeed, the writing is an antithesis of liberty where the writer decided to show the story as the regime tries to convince its citizen of how it is. Citizens live in a controlled parallel truth.
The state watched by Big Brother is described as a peaceful place where the system of omnipresent surveillance and control by the Ministry of Peace, of Love and of Plenty is working perfectly. However, it requires a personal reflexion to interpret the reality. Indeed, the slogan
“WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH,”
can easily resume the absurdity of the Party, and George Orwell knew one more time how to really give an aftermath work to the reading.
George Orwell lies to us, he shows us the world as the slogan does. He created a theory of life, where humans are manipulable and where death is the final end we will all reach no matter what path we decide to follow. This said, I want to applaude him for his incredible way to visualise the world how it could be later with the same dictatorships using technology as a tool of control over people who are too naive to believe there is a way to avoid death. George Orwell portrays and narrates Winston’s path to illustrates his idea, and invites us to remember that anyone can oppose a totalitarian regime.
1984 is a novel that absorbed me by its capacity to make me work on both my ability to imagine the complex operation of the government and to work my ability of deep reflexion after finishing the reading. Indeed, Orwell invites us to interpret his writing and to understand the absurdity not only of the government in place in the world of BIG BROTHER, but also of the human race.
Indeed, one of Winston’s friends, O’Brien, employs the doublethinking where he convinces him that Big Brother will lead him to freedom, that the regime is good. This can be applicable everywhere in our life. With racism for example, to have peace with themselves, white people used to convince themselves that treating a black personas inferior was understandable or forgiveable, when they knew also it wasn’t. In other words, they believed an antagonist idea of another one they know it is true to have peace with themselves. Orwell shows perfectly the absurdity of humans, one more time. At the end, even Winston likes Big Brother, which is against his own opinion represented during his diary.
END OF SPOILER ALERT
As slow as the book can be the first three chapters, it requires patience to be able to discover the incredible philosophical thinking the novel hides behind its pages. It is harder to read than what I expected it to be, but the 653 pages are definitely worth it. The masterpiece is, and I can definitely state it, now part of my favorite books and is a timeless work that should be read by everyone at least once in a life. And as Winston Smith’s diary states,
“For whom […] was he writing this diary? For the future, for the unborn.”
That was me, or hopefully you if you decide to read it.