Book - 1984
I actually finished reading this a good few weeks ago, but I've been putting off reviewing it because...well, it's kinda intimidating. OK, so it's "just another classic novel" like several I've already reviewed, without much difficulty. BUT, somehow, 1984 just seems to overshadow all those others. I suppose it's not just the book itself, but the reputation of it.
OK, let's start with the obvious. It's about communism! well, yeah, but there's a but...and here it is: taking onboard how clever 1984 is, I can't help but think that rather than just being clever, Mr. Orwell was a genius, and the idea of 1984 is not just to target communism*, but any kind of totalitarian regime. The book is general enough, that much of it could be applied, in theory, to any totalitarian government you could think of. 1984 makes the point, rather well, though without having to actually signpost it, that when we lose enough of our freedoms, we stop really living. We just "exist", as empty husks. Throughout the book, it manages to crystalise a number of thoughts I know i've had in the past, but never quite managed to put shape to them. This in itself, to me, is a good indication of Orwell's talent. Some of the ideas presented in 1984 are radical yet simple (and will probably have you thinking "of course! that's so bloody obvious!"). Then there's Room 101. On its own, this is a pretty nasty method of breaking someone's spirit. But there's a little more to it
See, part way through the book, we are treated to the realisation that the government's power in 1984 comes from their controlling of the "sexual instinct" of the members of the Party. That's what the book calls it, but you could call it the instinct to reproduce, one of the two most basic of human instincts. Even for all animals. Well, there's survival of the species, being a kinda mixture of these two, but anyway. The other is never actually mentioned, but plays at least as big a role - that of self-survival. It is this second basic instinct that the Party controls again through their entire setup, but ultimately, through Room 101. The idea of Room 101 is to show dissenters that their instinct for self-survival is their strongest instinct. To show them that their loyalties are not unbreakable.
So, the Party controls these two most basic of human instincts, and through this, their control extends logically to all aspects of party members' lives. Of course, it's not a simple matter; every home has a two-way viewscreen, which will be watched at the other end at some point. There's the constant re-writingof past and present news, books, and so on. There's the Thought Police. There's almost no freedom, and there's very little tolerance of individuality, as individuality is dangerous to The Party.
Then there are the "proles" - the non-Party members, making about 75% of the population, these people seem to have it worse off than Party members when we first read about them. But it doesn't take long to realise, they have somewhat more freedom than Party members. It's also somewhat ironic, that Party members are, by and large, prisoners of their own making.
1984 is certainly the most thought-provoking book I've read so far. There are some disconcerting similarities with the Party and...situatinos around the world right now. On the bright side, I think individuality is a good measure of how much freedom you have. As in, the level of diversity of people within a country is a pretty good indication of how totalitarian (or not) its government is. Here, I can only with any degree of certainty speak of this country, England. At the minute, we have a good level of diversity amongst the people living here (despite Charles Clarke's seeming determination to curb our freedoms). And i'm not too stupid to see that without any laws at all, we'd have total freedom - but with it, total chaos. I wouldn't mind watching that from a distance, but I doubt i could handle living it.
Doubtless, there'll be plenty of people out there who read/have read 1984 and have a completely different take on it...
*I'm well aware that ideal communism may not be totalitarian in nature, but the fact is the real-world occurrences have all attempted to be totalitarian