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Nineteen Eighty-Four Hardcover – November 3, 1992
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“Nineteen Eighty-Four is a remarkable book; as a virtuoso literary performance it has a sustained brilliance that has rarely been matched in other works of its genre…It is as timely as the label on a poison bottle.” –New York Herald Tribune
“A profound, terrifying, and wholly fascinating book…Orwell’s theory of power is developed brilliantly.” –The New Yorker
“A book that goes through the reader like an east wind, cracking the skin…Such are the originality, the suspense, the speed of writing, and withering indignation that it is impossible to put the book down.” –V. S. Pritchett
“Orwell’s novel escorts us so quietly, so directly, and so dramatically from our own day to the fate which may be ours in the future, that the experience is a blood-chilling one.” –Saturday Review
From the Back Cover
While the totalitarianism that provoked George Orwell into writing 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' seems to be passing into oblivion, his harrowing, cautionary tale of a man trapped in a political nightmare has had the opposite fate, and its relevance and power to disturb our complacency seem to grow decade by decade.
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Another worthwhile book is "A Nation of Sheep" by William J. Lederer
1984 is an amazing book. If you enjoy thinking about something for a while and having your mind blown once every few pages, read this book now. It doesn’t start blowing your mind from the beginning, but it still helps you get a grasp of these ideas, and then George Orwell decides “you’ve had enough fun now, how about I explode your brain a few times?” He takes these concepts from a one to a one-hundred in an instant and it just makes the book that much better. Orwell does this in such a fashion that after he breaks your brain, you think about everything that’s happened in the book so far, and you realize what’s been really going on under the surface all this time, and it gives you a greater appreciation for the rest of the book. Orwell’s 1984, which is about a society without free thought, gives us so much to think about, and keeps the reader thinking about it for weeks on end until they start to question their own reality and realize that maybe they’re taking the concept a little too far. The book does get a little sexual at times, so this book may not be great for everyone, but I recommend this book for anyone over the age of 13 (maybe with parent’s permission).
***That concludes the spoiler free part of my review, so if you have not yet read 1984, DO NOT READ PAST THIS POINT. You have been warned.***
In this part of my review, I would like to talk about the ending. I feel that many people didn’t like the ending because they didn’t go on some sort of grand adventure and overthrow the government and go on to live happily ever after. However, I’m happy that the ending didn’t go that way because a happy ending would have ruined the whole point of the book. The whole book is about how hopeless everything is and that everyone’s being brainwashed and there’s no way to escape. If they went on to overthrow the government, then all of that would be pointless, all of the brainwashing and themes throughout the book would become pointless and we would feel empty. We wouldn’t have had any appreciation of the entire rest of the book because it would have simply been overridden. The ending was created perfectly so that instead of nullifying the rest of the book it enforced it and gave us a much greater appreciation of what happened. It also just exploded our concept of all reality and everything we thought we knew about fact and fiction while this one man’s entire past is erased by one relatively quick succession of events. The ending really just drove the book home, and it wouldn’t be the same amazing story without it.
But this superficial reading of the book, whereby we comfort ourselves with the fact that we drink Bombay Sapphire rather than Victory Gin, is tragically naive and misguided. In fact every basic concept, every philosophical and political development Orwell addressed in his book has come to pass almost exactly as described.
Orwell analyzed the way people driven by the need for power actually think. This is the most useful insight in his book, delivered by the Grand Inquisitor O’Brien:
“The Party seeks power entirely for it’s own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury, or long life or happiness: only power, pure power … We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship to safeguard a revolution; one makes a revolution to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture … How does one man assert his power over another? … By making him suffer. Obedience is not enough. Unless he is suffering how can you be sure he is obeying your will and not his own? Power is in inflicting pain and humiliation. Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.”
To this bleak vision the battered and terrified Winston Smith has one reply: “Somehow you will fail. Something will defeat you. Life will defeat you.”
Of course in the novel it is Winston Smith who is defeated and obliterated, after learning to love Big Brother. The story is unrelenting, a harsh tragedy in which the human spirit is crushed, and the future is too horrible to contemplate. The good guys lose. They are forced to betray their deepest beliefs and emotions, gutted of their souls and left to wander the streets like hollow eyed ghosts. Evil wins, over and over again, with a shriek of glee and blare of military music. The book ought to be profoundly depressing
And yet it isn’t. Just the opposite: it’s uplifting, thrilling. It’s a form of meta-text: the fact that you are reading the book at all, the fact that the book was written and published, confounds the darkness of its message. Winston Smith knows no one will ever read his journal … but people will be reading the novel that contains it for as long as books exist. The authors of the Newspeak dictionary exult in the destruction of language; the mandarins of the inner Party continuously dismantle all passion and morality and truth. But the novel itself, with its vivid prose and ferocious probity creates an exhilaration, a giddy hope in the reader that its characters can never share. A masterpiece. Read it. If you've already read it, read it again.