Think of a dystopian world where you are constantly under surveillance and there’s only one right side to everything – eerily relatable to the current political scenario of some places? Well, one might ironically feel deja vu when he or she reads George Orwell’s 1984 – one of the definitive texts of modern dystopian literature. To the Party, Orwell wrote, “the very existence of external reality was tacitly denied by their philosophy. The heresy of heresies was common sense”. Orwell portrays the society in a totalitarian state where one is constantly under surveillance. Big Brother is watching you even as you read this.
The novel revolves around Winston, a lower member of the Party who works in the Ministry of Truth. Winston’s work is largely related to tampering with historical information to portray Big Brother and the Party in good light. Winston, however doesn’t believe in the Party’s propaganda and hopes that someday the Party will be exposed by the Brotherhood (an opposition group).
Along the course of time, Winston’s relationship with Julia, his love interest is also described and the incidents they encounter sets the tone for a large chunk of the novel. Together they dream of freedom and secretly carry out their affair in a rented room in a lower class neighbourhood.
Amidst Winston’s personal life, he encounters O’Brien who he believes is a part of the Brotherhood. O’Brien confirms Winston’s suspicions and introduces him to the Brotherhood with their manifesto, a culmination of thoughts related to fascism and totalitarianism. However, as it turns out, O’Brien is a secret spy for the Party. Winston and Julia’s rebellious tendencies are exposed and they are sent to the Ministry of Love to re-indoctrinate them through torture.
In the Ministry of Love, Julia and Winston are taken to separate cells and are subjected to their worst fears. When each of them face death closely, their undying love for each other burns out and each of them ask the Ministry to kill the other and save them.
Towards the fag end of the novel, Orwell describes how Julia and Winston become members of the society again and feel nothing for each other. “Under the spreading Chestnut tree, I sold you and you sold me.”
The political aura of the novel is discomfortingly prescient of something disastrous to come. Alternative truth as suggested by George Orwell, reflects his deep understanding of how the society is gradually digressing from pragmatism to a forcefully restrained mindset. 1984 is a brilliantly written horror, political thriller which taps into the most vulnerable side of human emotion while describing a completely contrasting society which is void of emotions. George Orwell has rightly said, “The best books are…those that tell you what you know already”.
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