GEORGE ORWELL 1984 (1949) Penguin Books.
The best and starkest of all Dystopian visions of a totalitarian future. 1984 resonates with prophetic warnings as much today as before it’s prophetic date was reached. The danger of excessive state control, zero privacy and intolerance to all social freedoms remains all the higher a concern than ever in the wake of 9/11. The book was written in 1948, and Orwell was concerned to show what could happen had a nazi style regime, or a dark form of Soviet Stalinist oppression taken over the World. And Orwell chose the date merely by switching round the last two digits of the year he penned the story. It was published the following year. It tells the grim story of Winston Smith, a menial worker in a futuristic fascist regime where every move is monitored by sophisticated technology, and no one can be trusted. The World is at war, in an equally balanced struggle between three superpowers. Smith hears constant propaganda announcing the latest victories of his own regime. He finds that even the ability to think is suppressed. The government, constantly calling itself the Big Brother who watches over everyone like a malignant nanny state official, has been systematically cutting down the size of the English dictionary. The less words there are, the less creative thought and intellectual dissent can arise. The vocabulary is shrinking under a practice known as Newspeak. Everything is reduced to brutally puritanical shorthand that strips the world of poetry or song. Something isn’t twice as good as something else, art is just Doubleplusgood! Smith, like other proles and menial workers gets to join in communal aggression sessions known as the three-minute hate period. His increasing dissatisfaction leads him to dangerous daydreams. He remembers snatches of an old nursery rhyme, Oranges And Lemons. He makes the fatal decision to try to find the rest of the verse, and in the quest, he falls in love with another dissident. The pair is quickly arrested by the terrifying Thought Police, the Gestapo of the Big Brother Regime. Smith is taken to Room 101, which he has only heard of. Here the torturous interrogations are said to focus on one’s worst phobias. The room is a place of whatever you consider the worst in the entire World. Smith is known to have a morbid phobia about rats, and in Room 101, he is forced to wear a large cage-mask with a rat init, separated from his face by a series of traps, which are slowly released to let the hungry rodent get closer to him. Smith screams for the torture to be stopped and applied to the girl he admired instead… He has been broken. The final pages of the book show the State winning its war over the other two superpowers, and Smith is seen to be clearly patriotic and proud, in his new indoctrination and brainwashing. A grim humorous vision of what could yet come to pass, and may in fact already is upon us.
See also George Orwell - Animal Farm.
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