Author: George Orwell
Category: 41. Read a book that has been on your to read list for more than a year
Date Started: January 30th 2017
Date Finished: February 5th 2017
In all honesty, I started reading this one a really long time ago, straight out of high school and trying to read the classics. I made it 30 pages in (maybe) before giving up on it. The writing style wasn’t for me, the story was boring and nothing was really happening. In the back of my mind I’ve always intended to go back to it and now seemed like the perfect time.
You may or may not have noticed that lately 1984 has made it into the news and back onto bestseller lists (part of what prompted me to pick it back up). In the wake of Trump’s inauguration people have turned to 1984 to make sense of the world. Indeed it’s not hard to find an article that compares the current state of affairs in America with Orwell’s classic. But is that actually an accurate depiction of the book?
I would argue, no, it’s not. While there’s certainly some similarities there are also fundamental differences. While it’s true that we’ve seen the truth twisted slightly by Trump we have yet to see the past erased, and there are still those who feel free to speak out against what they see, one would not have dared to do such a thing in Orwell’s world, even in the privacy of their own home.
1984 paints a much bleaker picture of life than what many of us could imagine, a world where food is bland and scarce, work hours are long, you are watched constantly, everybody wears the same clothes and goes to the same community events after work and believes the same propaganda because there is no other alternative. History books and newspapers are revised with the latest version of the truth so that the all knowing, all seeing Big Brother is always correct. People are erased from history if they step out of line. There is a lottery but never a winner, only small prizes to appease to poorest citizens. Your own children would happily turn you into the Thought Police. Love is not allowed, sex is for procreation only and not to be enjoyed.
He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past. – George Orwell
Perhaps this picture of life is even bleaker than Orwell imagined it to be in a world that has changed since the writing of the book. Today it is creativity and individualism that the world values, slogans like ‘be yourself’ are everywhere, this was slightly less of a focus in the post World Ward II society.
Ultimately, I think the connections between Trump and 1984 have been greatly overstated but if you haven’t read it already then 1984 is still definitely worth a read. It’s a little slow to get going which appears to be a deliberate choice by Orwell to truly immerse you in the world he created. The prose is not what I would usually enjoy and the plot somewhat bland if you’ve grown up reading the likes of JK Rowling and Michael Crichton, but Orwell’s world is both terrifying and immersive enough to make up for it.