A Classic for a Reason: 1984 Has Come and Gone, but the Book Remains Relevant to This Day

4.5/5 Falcons

Alma Barak, Contributing Writer

At first glance, 1984 is a slim, plain, 10-dollar book.: George Orwell’s masterpiece is not much to look at. But inside, a whole universe awaits. Inspired by World War II, the book uses Winston Smith, the main character, to guide readers through the creation of a powerful political regime known as “the Party”. While Orwell does make a few choices that fall flat, overall, the book is brilliant. 1984 gives one the awe-stricken feel of talking to someone much smarter than you, and having the world suddenly make sense.

Inside, a whole universe awaits.

The story begins with a description of the daily “Two Minutes Hate,” during which Party members scream at broadcasts of Goldstein, a convicted political criminal, and the Eurasian army, whom the Party is at war with. Even for Winston, a man decidedly against Party doctrine, “the thought or even sight of Goldstein produced fear and anger automatically.” The hate was ingrained in Winston’s unconscious mind.

This is a known phenomenon, and one that autocracies around the world attempt to foster. Orwell explores this idea further, theorizing through Julia, another character, that this fanaticism is due to a lack of love. The Party has cut the bond between a parent and child through a system of reporting on relatives. They’ve cut the bond between lovers by arranging marriages and teaching rigid chastity. They must do this, Julia explains, otherwise, “if you’re happy inside yourself, why should you get excited about… the Two Minutes Hate and all the rest of their bloody rot?” It is astute questions like these that make the book a pleasure to read, each word a new revelation.

Orwell’s other gift lies in prose—sentences like “gelatinous with fatigue” and “the smoke of a rubbish fire” light up the writing with imagery. Characters too, are quickly created. In only three words, Orwell paints an image of Mrs. Parsons, the “colorless, crushed-looking woman,” who lives next door to Winston. Who doesn’t have a Mrs. Parsons in their life? The rest of the characters follow the same mold, each swiftly familiar, comforting readers with the idea that even in the midst of such horror, the habits of humanity continue.

However, the book does have its downfalls, albeit few. The pure effort that the regime takes in monitoring each citizen is astonishing. The Thought Police will sometimes spend “over seven years” carefully manipulating people they’ve already determined to be criminals, waiting until just the right moment to finally imprison them. Given the number of citizens jailed every day–– even a single thought, or twitch of the lip, can cause arrest––it doesn’t seem feasible that the Party would have the resources for precision of this scale.

Yet, such minor flaws fade in the face of 1984‘s enormous political clarity. 1984 is the sort of rare gem that shifts your worldview entirely: in a time where so often we talk about censorship and “fake news,” Orwell instead flips the accusation on its head, telling us that “reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else.” He asks us if truth exists, and at some point in the book, his question becomes difficult to answer. For these reasons, I rate 1984 a 4.5 out of 5 Falcons, and I strongly recommend others to give this truly life-changing novel a try.