One of my goals I’ve set is to read at least one book per month. That’s really not a daunting task at all. I went to the library and checked out three books. I hadn’t the time to read the other two, though if I dedicated as much time to reading as I have these past 10 days, I’m sure I could tackle them both quickly enough. I’m being a little ambitious, I know.
The very first book I’ve completed of 2018 was “1984” by George Orwell. Quite the book to start the year off, that’s for sure. It was in the Young Adult section of the library, rightfully so! What an important book this is. To me, reading it felt like a piece of art. There’s always something raw about art, especially when done right. Of course, each platform speaks different languages in their own respective rights (a song is different from a book is different from a painting, though they all have something to say).
I’m going to try my hardest not to spoil anything about the book. I haven’t been able to talk to my wife about it because she’s next to read it, once it arrives. Yeah, I ordered my first book of the year too.
I had the privilege to read a foreword before diving into the book, which gave really detailed insight into what George Orwell was thinking. George Orwell is actually his pen name! His real name is Eric Arthur Blair.
His wife died in 1945 and he has an adopted son, Richard Horatio Blair, who was born in 1944. This is important information by itself. It tells us that Orwell (I’ll keep to his pen name) had experienced World War II in full as well as the atomic bombs dropped in Japan. He also grew up and around, fully submerged, in poverty.
Oddly enough and according to the book, Winston (main character of “1984”) was born around 1944 or 1945. You see, there isn’t any real date or time to reference in their universe. It’s set in 1984, or around that time anyways. The foreword implied that Orwell wrote “1984” as a kind of forewarning to the possible future his son would grow up in. Not just the political climate, but the most real, most serious threat to humanity.
In the book, Winston lives in a world where everything is practically dumbed down. That’s a harsh way of putting it, but the book itself states just how important stupidity is to have in that world. Stupidity is just as important as intelligence, if you had intelligence anyways. How else would you be able to mindlessly obey a power that constantly oppresses you?
It goes beyond just that. The dystopia that is “1984” would drive you mad should you be thrust in it! War is peace, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength. At least, that’s the rule of their universe. It’s a concept called doublethink, coined by the book. It’s also a part of a whole language within the book called Newspeak. It’s quite a mind twist. The things that would ordinarily contract themselves are also seen as simultaneously as one. “War is peace,” or the book uses other things during an interrogation (I can’t say more than that because “spoilers”). Like good is evil and evil is good or 2+2=5 (though this is simply because “Big Brother” says so).
Big Brother is the “government” that rules the people. It’s one person, though it’s never known truly whether or not that person even exists, much less if “Big Brother” is alive or dead. It’s not even known if it is truly one person. What we do know is that people fall into three categories here: the Inner Party, the Outer Party, and the Proles.
I’m not going to spend this whole column explaining (though I could easily write about this for weeks on end). For now, I’ll hope that it’s enough for you to understand the general idea and philosophy of the book. The Proles make up 85 percent of the population and mostly work manual labor jobs. Africa has become a country made up primarily of slaves used by Oceania.
Oceania is a country or continent (I can’t remember, but you get the idea). There are two others: Eastasia and Eurasia. Oceania is always at war with Eurasia and always has been … until it’s at war with Eastasia and always has been. Are you picking up what I’m putting down?
By constantly being at war, they have a reason to destroy the surplus of goods that those in the Outer Party and the Proles could benefit from. Both are constantly left in a state of poverty, but always with just enough to get by. Everything they owned and consumed was cheap. Their cigarettes for example, Victory Cigarettes as they’re called; half of the tobacco would fall out as you attempt to light it.
However, the other two countries must be in on the same type of control over their people just as well, because Oceania is always at war with Eurasia … until it’s always at war with Eastasia, then back again to Eurasia. Who’s to say Eurasia and Eastasia even exists? Not a point made in the book, but a valid question untouched by the book (I’ve only read it once, so I could be wrong).
For most of the population in the Outer Party and the Proles, they’re mindless so long as they have an enemy to shout at. They have their 2 minutes of hate (something like that), which is part of a social ritual. There’s a certain way to behave and act at all times, for Big Brother is always watching. You never knew if anybody else would sell you out, either. Orwell created this universe to intentionally make you feel like you have no one to trust. Being too intelligent meant your death. They called it vaporization. It’s more than death; it’s a process. They break you down in every way possible, then rebuild you how they see fit.
Then send you back into society, simultaneously hating and loving Big Brother at the same time after the torture (genuine torture) that you’re subjected to. I believe that those who would be vaporized (completely erased from all records and existence, literally) are symbols that Big Brother uses to serve as an example to the others, especially those that might commit a thoughtcrime (in Newspeak).
There is so much more to this book than the explanation that I’ve already given. I would love to elaborate on it in the next column. There is all of the different ministries, the characters, and still even how important the context of when this was written and why. Maybe this was enough to pique your interest and you want to read the book for yourself, so you’d rather I move on from the topic. Either way, feel free to let me know.