My Top Five Books #3: “Nineteen-Eighty Four” by George Orwell
My teacher told me not to read this book. Back in 1990, we were studying the Michael Radford movie “1984” starring John Hurt, for an exam, and he didn’t want us to get confused. So I read the book. Just as well. The question was “Compare the same narrative in two or more media.” Phew!
The story is about a man called Winston Smith who lives under a totalitarian regime. He senses the truth behind all the propaganda the state hurls at them, and knows he will be punished for it.
Ok, so it doesn’t sound like much of a storyline. And not terribly cheery. But that’s it.
“Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two equals four. If that is granted, all else follows.”
He wasn’t asking much – but the state denied him this right.
Reading “Nineteen-Eighty-Four” has always made me question the news I hear. It makes me aware of governments using scapegoats to keep people in fear. It made me aware of the relationship between politics and language. It has made me value the freedom to hold to logical truth.
Winston Smith thought:
“If there is hope, it lies in the proles…”
He needed the ordinary people to become conscious of their own strength, to realise the absurdity of the government’s claims and to stand up for truth. But they didn’t.
I wonder what Orwell would think of all the middle-eastern political unrest these days.
Was it media studies you were taking? To be honest, even if it was, I’m appalled that a teacher would tell you not to read a book – and oh, the irony of it being that book!
It was a media option within the English exam. We did Macbeth and The Great Gatsby as well. No poetry though.
In senior year of high school we read 1984 revisited, that was in 1985. I remember, well not that much about it. It was depressing and that’s about it. It was more of a sense of overblown expectations and then a that’s it? Interesting about the teacher not wanting you to be confused by the director’s interpretation and your own.
Good review. Loved the book, read it quite late. So much in it.