Title: Nineteen Eighty-four
Author: George Orwell
Nineteen Eighty-four is a well-known and much-read classic by George Orwell published in 1949. It is a post World War scenario. Life is ruled by poverty, fear and hatred. In reality, the year 1984 has come and gone and we still have the old order of things. Have we actually evaded all the realities faced by the post World War society projected in the novel?
In the novel, as an outcome of the World Wars, the world has been divided into three parts, Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia. Each zone has the same ideology but the ideology is given a different name by the political party that runs the show in that region. To retain power, the three regions always play at being at war. People are obsessed with hating their enemy and bringing them down. Citizens of each zone are kept apart so that none discover that all mankind thinks in the same way.
“Even the official ally of the moment is always regarded with darkest suspicion. War prisoners apart, the average citizen of Oceania never sets eyes on a citizen of either Eurasia or Eastasia, as he is forbidden the knowledge of foriegn languages. If he were allowed contact with foreigners he would discover that they are creatures similar to himself…”
Winston Smith, the protagonist, finds it difficult to conform to the ideology which is summed up in three slogan-like statements:
War is Peace
Freedom is Slavery
Ignorance is Strength
He also commits the error of falling in love with a woman called Julia. The Thought Police tracks them, breaks them up, brainwashes them and kills them at the end. When the prisoners are annihilated in mind and spirit and love only Big Brother, the supreme leader of Oceania, are they allowed freedom through death. Winston’s spirit is finally broken and crushed after years of torture and brainwashing and he looks forward to his annihilation at the end.
It is a society based on ‘hate’. The emotions encouraged by the party are “fear, rage, triumph, and self abasement”. The politicians or the power brokers of the three states encourage these emotions and an endless war to keep people busy so that they can retain their own power, supremacy and wealth. They live in luxurious homes, with cars and servants, whereas the rest live in squalid conditions ruled by terror.
History is re-written to suit the party needs. The past is said to be mutable and is changed often to set up the realities the politicians want to project. Buildings and roads are all re-named beyond recognition. No one knows what happened before the party took command. People have been terrorised into having short-term memories. So, if the enemy switches from Eurasia to Eatasia, all the newspapers and journals of the earlier times are re-written. People suffer from hunger and shortages as during wars. To maintain ‘peace’, a state of war is maintained all the time in all the three regions.
The power brokers of the three regions have given three different names to the same ideology and have created barriers of culture, language and hatred to keep the citizens apart. People of each zone hate the citizens of the other regions and can tear apart their ‘enemies’ with their frenzy of hatred and anger. They celebrate ‘hate’ week. The identity of the enemy is immaterial. They just need someone to vent out their anger born of hunger, frustration and fear.
Children spy on parents. They are bred on violence…their entertainment involves watching people hang, beating up people, betraying adults. Blood and gore and squalid living is the norm of such a society. Beauty and nobility have been eradicated from this society. All history and literature from the past has been wiped out. The fabric of family and decency have been completely demolished. It is in my view a terrifying book. In certain ways, the catharsis we experience after coming to the end of the book, would inspire us on to reaching out for the positives around us. I would say it is a must read in today’s conflict-riddled world.
Sometimes one wonders if the terror which has started invading a large part of the world, our obsession with borders, the flux of refugees, the anger and helplessness of people is bringing Orwell’s nightmarish vision closer home to us…