A dystopian society where one is stripped of all pleasures of life and is made to live on the whims of a few in power and information being constantly manipulated for the sake of manipulating the masses, freedom being touted as slavery, war is marketed as peace and ignorance is praised as strength. With every move being monitored and all your actions being closely scrutinized in an omnipresent surveillance environment, historic negation and persecuting people who think differently, how would a society be if there is no difference of opinion allowed to exist? The author George Orwell puts all these factors in an eye opening way in his book 1984. The book tackles a lot of issues in a graphic way but it does get the message across.
Please be aware that there will be spoilers below, you have been warned
The main character is a worker who works in the “department of truth”, whose job is to falsify all the information that is being released to the public, in other words, his job is to write propaganda and rewrite prior information as the situation demands, Winston Smith secretly hates the totalitarian government and the Omni-present face of the party “Big Brother”, He’s a closet rebellious figure but at the same time he’s mindful of his position and keeps a poker face. He desires for the current power dynamic to be overthrown and desires a free place to indulge in his desires.
WAR IS PEACE
The year according to Winston is loosely set around 1984 and their nation of Oceania is at war with two other superpowers and the masses are fed information in such a convenient way that they actively support the war and dissidents are labeled as traitors to their glorious homeland. The situation is so chaotic that a slight disagreement will make a person to be “vaporized”, removed from existence, no traces of them will be left, no one will mention their name or their deeds, it will be as if they never existed, a high price was to be paid for any misdemeanor. Starvation was rampant, there were eyes everywhere, and Winston let out his rebellious spirit in his diary which was his only companion in this godforsaken world.
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
The citizens were devoid of the notion of free will, they had not been exposed a suitable base of living to consider what was called a free life, they had no standards to compare their life to, the men were given subpar quality alcohol and were worked to beyond the point of exhaustion, they were fed information that capitalists would hoard wealth and abuse and their way of life was just where everyone was equal, but what was overlooked by everyone was all of them can be equal in suffering. The family system was completely broken, there was no conventional parent-child bond, the children were made into tools which were tantamount to government agents and would not hesitate to even have their own parents arrested for suspected rebellion.
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH
After a complex chain of events, the main character indulges in adultery with a woman called Julia, she too shares Winston’s belief of being free but disagrees with him in openly rebelling, she believes in enjoying the freedom in a covert way by evading the eyes of the watchful government and living a life indulging in desire by being secretive, even though they had a joyful secretive escapades Winston still desired to be a part of the rumored brotherhood whose objective is to overthrow the government and wanted changes, however, when he met someone from the rumored brotherhood, things didn’t go as planned. He knew too much.
Many ironic things which the novel discusses is the organizational structure, the “Ministry of Truth” dealt in misinformation spreading, the “Ministry of love” was the place which was devoid of love and was the place where torture was carried out in the name of “correction”, the “Ministry of Plenty” might imply they have a surplus of resources and are responsible for rationing food to the masses, the ironic thing here is they keep the masses in poverty and they are convinced the nation is wealthy and are well known to circulate scams to keep the masses in poverty. The “Ministry of Peace” deals with every aspect of the war and are involved in keeping the masses pro war as it is the only way to keep the resources scarce and the masses in line.
Winston gets caught while indulging in one of his scandalous endeavor by someone who he believed to be on his side, he is tortured under the guise of “seeing the error of his ways”, he is broken down completely in a way he can’t heal, he is reprogrammed mentally in a way that he is made to love the power structure he so detests.
The key take away from this novel is that there is no happy ending, there is no grand rebellion where there is an overthrow of the power structure where people live free, though it gets graphic to convey some information, it happens to add to the impact of conveying the message. A lot of qualities of this novel can be attributed to the current happenings in society and how it had played out historically. This book offers a not so tried solution on how to keep the people on a leash without knowing they are on a leash. I feel this is an uncomfortable tale but must be read by everyone.