I’ve already finished my second book this year! I just had to tell someone. While it wasn’t at the level of George Orwell’s “1984,” and while it took me a little bit to REALLY get into it, my second book was still highly enjoyable. It was an easier read, but it was “Batman: Knightfall” written by Dennis O’Neil I know it seems childish, but this novel was adapted directly from the comics and (at the time, in 1993 to 1994) was the first book adapted from the comics. This story arc directly influenced the Dark Knight trilogy, specifically the final movie.
There are so many other topics to write about from all of this, but I want to focus on more of the symbolism from “1984” and how it relates to our current world. It’s been a little over one week since I finished the book, but I still remember quite a bit.
SPOILER ALERT – I plan on diving deeper into this book than the previous column, where I gave a summary on key elements to the book, so if you’re interested in reading the book for yourself then you will want to come back to this column afterwards.
As you’re reading “1984,” you have mostly Winston’s perspective on things. What I love most about this book is how the author purposely misguides you in order to make you believe that there are only one or two possibilities to what might be happening, only for the author to throw a curveball at you. It’s a classic move in writing, but Orwell does it with such fluidity, convincing you entirely by captivating you in Winston’s paranoia, that you still wouldn’t expect it.
One example to this is when Winston meets Julia. Winston is in his middle-to-late 30s while Julia is in her mid 20s. First she appears by sitting directly behind him during “2 minutes of hate,” then she appears once more (for the life of me I can’t remember), and then again while Winston is visiting this quaint shop with old and often historical artifacts. Before meeting Julia, Winston had visited this shop for his first time and bought a journal of sorts.
This being Winston’s second visit, Julia happens to walk by, stop outside of the shop, looks directly at Winston, smiles, then carries on. This freaks Winston out, understandably so. What if she’s with the thought-police? What if she’s a spy for them? It’s too much of a coincidence for it to be simply a coincidence, how often their paths crossed.
Winston first thought about raping her then murdering her for his first course of actions. This was a knee-jerk response to his paranoia, but also to the violent culture of Oceania. Violence was everywhere. Seeing missing limbs or appendages on the street would normally freak us out, but it’s common in Oceania (and “1984”) and people simply kick it aside.
There was another time they met. It was in front of a Big Brother screen, which is just about everywhere. She dropped a piece of paper into his hand this time, seemingly unnoticed by Big Brother. He opened the note while at work and the note simply read, “I love you.” What a twist! She wasn’t a spy or anything that Winston thought. He never would have conceived that she loved him.
They were able to meet, discuss ideas; it was as if they were a genuine couple. After meeting in various places, Winston rents a room in the upper level of the shop he visited, now visiting often.
Another example to the author’s purposefully misguiding of his audience was a man called O’Brien. Winston met this man in front of a Big Brother screen, similar to meeting Julia. Later, he brings Julia to meet O’Brien at O’Brien’s residence. He also got an inside look at how the Inner Party lived, O’Brien being a member of the party and fellow rebel.
The meeting seemed to go perfectly. Winston is fully pursing the idea of rebelling against Big Brother, ready to join the rebel organization and to do whatever is necessary. He receives a book and begins to read it in his rented space at the store.
Here comes the spoiler and inconceivable twist! Winston reads this book to Julia before they’re interrupted … The shop is a front for the thought-police!
We’re taken through all of the pain and torture Winston goes through, but never what Julia goes through once they’re separated. Stuck in a holding cell awaiting transfer, starving, thirsty, anxious, and surrounded by others who aren’t of any focus to the thought-police save for one or two occasionally brought in. Winston grasps at possibilities for getting out, finding none, before O’Brien shows up. Surely he can escape with his help.
Except O’Brien is actually one of the torturers for the thought-police. What a series of twists we’ve undergone in such a short time! We learn that O’Brien, the thought-police, and Big Brother have formed a fake rebellion (basically) in order to draw out those who are susceptible to committing a thought-crime. In other words, those who are capable of independent thinking, those pursing to further their knowledge beyond what is approved of by Big Brother, are snuffed out entirely! A world without any free-thinkers!
What’s worse? Their form of torture always wins. As you read, you might think that love will prevail. Winston suffers quite a bit of torture for a significant chunk of time, never seeing Julia and wondering about her. He’s convinced himself that he loves her now, realizing it after denying himself that luxury while they were together. Just as he’s realizing this, he’s sent to room 101. Everybody fears room 101.
The author did well to let you know Winston’s greatest fear in the most natural of settings. Big Brother knew everything, we learn. They had tabs on both Winston and Julia the entire time. They knew when they met, footage of them in their rented space — everything! It’s in room 101 that Winston finally sells out. O’Brien brings a cage with a starved rat, the very thing Winston is afraid of. He’s about to be eaten alive by this rat, face first … unless … Yes, Winston thought of the one person who could save him from this fear. “Anything but this,” were the types of thoughts he had. Who could save him from this? Julia. He told O’Brien to do it to Julia. He sold out. Even he sold out.
That’s the real fear from this book. The end sees a bullet to the back of Winston’s head, just shortly after his final and only meeting with Julia after all that happened. We’re left with a slew of questions like what happened to Julia? You get a sense from their conversation, but nothing is certain. Just like that, the thoughts of hope and love, anything that would normally save any of us, are eradicated. Just like that, Big Brother is back to normal.
There is still SO much more to this book than even my summary. There are a lot of similarities to this with our current world. Education isn’t considered important nor necessary, people blindly believing whatever propaganda is thrown their way, never doubting, never second-guessing. Discussions are one-sided. Wars are fought simply for resources, only to squander them and leave those “lower” in society to get by on scraps while the Inner Party has MUCH more than they need.
I really hope you’ll take the time to read this book. Having conservative or liberal values isn’t of importance because the book’s purpose seems more inclined to teach you the importance of what it means to be human. The Arts (music, writing, painting, drawing, etc.) are what allow us to have free thought and to pursue our curiosity. This book represents the worst of humanity and expresses the importance of the best of humanity.