You have read 1984 before, most likely in grade school or high school. If you’re anything like me you read it as fast as possible and checked it off your summer reading list. I didn’t really think about the book as a larger piece of the world, or why it had been assigned to me. I didn’t realize that a book written almost 70 years ago could still remain relevant today. But it does.
1984, in the end, is a story about people. People who dare to keep their soul alive while the world turns soulless around them. To keep it alive when the very act of doing so is a crime. The main character, Winston Smith, decides he is not like the world around him, and decides to change it.
In the world of 1984, a dystopian England run by Ingsoc (English Socialist Party), it is a crime to want to change your circumstance. Everybody is being monitored at all times. Every conversation, every glance, every thought, all monitored. If these thoughts are found to be against the party, that person tends to disappear. Despite all this Winston, an ordinary man, decides to do what he can to fight against it. He finds a sliver of freedom, he finds love, and he starts to see hope. This flickering light of a better light is snuffed out by the totalitarian regime soon enough. Winston gets tortured but resits giving in, for a time. When he finally folds under the torture he is once again completely brainwashed member of the Ingsoc party.
The hive mind of the ruling party and it’s members eliminated free thought, free speech, and the other tenets of a free society. Without these the people became mindless cogs in a machine, a machine designed to do evil. They believe whatever information is fed to them despite the fact it differs from what they see on a day to day basis.
It isn’t a happy ending.
George Orwell made sure there would not be one. He wrote this book while men like Hitler and Stalin were running rampant through Europe. Creating hell on Earth. Their totalitarian regimes didn’t allow for happy endings, and Orwell wanted to make sure that all who were reading understood that. These were the most evil of men and they created the most evil of governments. This was and still remains an amazing critique of a totalitarian regime.
The book has become popular again because of certain stories in the news, things like increased monitoring by police agencies, “fake news”, and things of that nature. Regardless of your political standings it is easy to agree that 1984 shows the downsides of limiting free speech, free thought, and the core beliefs of a free society. It shows that language has great power, and that the power of an idea can make a difference.
It is a must read for every man. If you missed it in March’s Culture Carton shipment you can pick it up in our store. Click here to check it out.