George Orwell could predict the future. His book 1984 is set in a dystopian future where every action and thought is controlled by the authority using ‘telescreens’. It resembles the present day too much. Amina Ahmed explains why this book is a must-read
WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH
I didn’t quite understand it when I read it first but as the story unravelled, the meaning of these menacing words became clearer. The amount of times that chills ran down my back while reading 1984, is amazing. Written almost 65 years ago, Orwell managed to predict the future and already I’m afraid.
The world has been divided into three super-states known as Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia who are eternally at war with each other. The book is set in Oceania where we follow the life of Winston Smith. Orwell creates a new language in this book called ‘Newspeak’ where instead of enriching the vocabulary the authorities want to reduce the language to as little as possible to stop people from committing ‘thought crime’. The population is watched over by the use of telescreens – two-way televisions that monitor you while you are awake or asleep to ensure you aren’t doing anything that goes against the ‘Party’ or ‘Big Brother’.
And if you do: well, throughout the book Winston hints at what happens to such a rebel. They are turned into, according to Newspeak, Unpersons. They never existed. Wiped off from records, memory, everywhere. That person is then taken to the Ministry of Peace – one of the four Ministries that govern Oceania – and tortured, at the end of which he/she becomes a true slave of the Party, willingly. Room 101 is also mentioned quite a few times which makes you remember a certain Doctor Who episode. You are told what to think, what to remember and what to know by the Party and not many dare do otherwise. Everyone is suspicious, children are told to rat out their parents if suspected of wrong-doing and the concept of a ‘friend’ doesn’t exist.
Then there’s a twist to the story when Winston falls in love with Julia. The problem here is that in this ugly version of future created by an ingenious author you are not allowed to love, or have sex except to create mini-slaves for the Party a.k.a children, and therefore Winston and Julia find themselves secretly seeing each other, waiting for the moment when they are caught. And so, even though I knew what was coming as I reached the end of this book, it was still shocking when I read the last few words.
My favourite Winston-quote from the book – “How do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable? If both the past and the external worlds exist only in the mind and if the mind itself is controllable, what then?”
I’m currently afraid of having my iPhone on me 24/7 – they resemble telescreens too much.
“Big Brother is watching you.”