• SumoMe

George Orwell’s “1984” is likely one of those books you read in high school but weren’t old enough to appreciate yet (much like The Great Gatsby). If this is the case, you should revisit this extremely fascinating and inspiring novel about a man named Winston who struggles with the conflict between his inner thoughts and outer actions–worshiping “Big Brother” while at the same time detesting the figure and regime attached to him. Winston works for The Ministry of Truth, whose job it is to go back and rewrite history to make it fit the current social narrative and ethos. While working there, Winston meets a woman who he otherwise assumed was a fanatical Big Brother follower but turns out to hate him just as much as he does, and they fall in love. Will they escape the shackles of dogma and tyranny? Will the Thought Police capture them and cure their “illness?” Will they continue on as usual without ever saying a word? You’ll have to read it to find out.

Without giving too much away, the book remains popular today because of its ability to eerily predict the future of modern society. While we don’t have two-way televisions that the government uses to watch our every move (or so we think!), there are some remnants of 1984 lodged in society today, particularly nationalism, surveillance, and censorship. Whether or not these themes are as strident in the real world as the fictional Orwellian society is up for debate at another time in another place. However, modern Supreme Court rulings on the 1st and 4th Amendments only fuel this fire.

The work as a whole, like most Orwell novels, is full of double meanings and provides for deeper discussions (like when you found out Animal Farm isn’t just a fun story about talking animals). What exactly these double meanings are depends wholly on the reader, although Orwell does a nice job of setting up his meanings. When you read this book, think of how the government plays a role in your life–both positive and negative–and compare it to Orwell’s worst case scenario: how applicable is it? What can you do about it? What role has technology played in the increase in surveillance and decrease in privacy? How should we strike a balance between those two extremes?

These are worthwhile questions that all men should consider when trying to evaluate the world around them, and 1984 will surely provide a great starting point for these discussions. This book is great for people who like distopians and science fiction.

Have you read 1984? What are your thoughts? English class is in session in the comments below.