Monday, August 1, 2016

Review: "1984"

1984 by George Orwell
2 out of 5 stars

This is another one of those classics that I really could have used an English teacher to interpret and explain the themes for me. I don't know how high school kids read some of these books and get any kind of personal meaning out of them. I know I had read this previously but I don't remember when or what I thought of it at the time. I just know I didn't like it this time around, as an adult. As always, my reviews for classic books will have spoilers throughout, so be warned.

Winston stopped reading, chiefly in order to appreciate the fact that he was reading, in comfort and safety. It was bliss, it was eternity. Suddenly, as one sometimes does with a book of which one knows that one will ultimately read and reread every word, he opened it at a different place and found himself at the third chapter.

Yes, I think this book is important, in the same way that The Handmaid's Tale was. Interestingly, both books were set sorry Handmaid's Tale was written in the mid-1980s and also terrifyingly, both could still happen today. These things could still happen. Certain presidential candidates could make these things happen. How scary is that? So yes, people should be reading this book. Or at least discussing it, comparing it to their own lives. The themes (the ones I could decipher, at least) are still prevalent, 60+ years after Orwell wrote it. But does that make it a good book? Not necessarily.

We are led to believe we should feel pity for Winston Smith, the main character, but it's hard to. He's a pretty boring guy. And it's not his fault, he can't really do anything interesting without Big Brother watching. His biggest coup is sitting in the alcove of his apartment where the cameras can't see him and writing in his secret diary. (Insert your own Lord Voldemort joke here.) He knows he should stand up to Big Brother, speak out, make a change, but he doesn't know how or have the courage really.

He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.

Then he meets the lovely Julia and feels the first stirrings of hope. Going back and rereading passages for this review has made me realize that I actually really enjoyed the first half of the book. I liked Winston & Julia's relationship, their secret meetings and clandestine talks, when they get the private room above the antique shop. It's when Winston gets the book that it all goes downhill for me. Pages and pages and pages of doublespeak and political ire that I could just not wrap my head around. And then when they are captured and we get 65 pages of Winston being tortured, well it's all just too much. And for what purpose? We know the government can be evil. But what is the real purpose of Big Brother? What are they thinking, who is running it all and why? We need that back story to make this a truly good book, otherwise it's just an overly long political essay.
(images found on Pinterest, if you don't want yours shown, let me know)

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