Some books need a bit more time and dedication than others. After finishing Animal Farm, I thought diving into Nineteen Eighty-Four would be a breeze. One thing George Orwell’s writing is not is a breeze. It took me most of March to read 1984. I kept trying and trying, but felt behind and couldn’t quite grasp what was going on. I got as far as finishing Chapter 2 (so really not far at all) before I decided dipping in and out of this book was not going to work. At least, not to get it started anyway. I stopped trying to read a couple of pages here and there. Instead, I dedicated a couple of hours (I’ve told you before I’m a slow reader) to reading the first 30+ pages. Once I took the time to do so, I finally got into the story and followed it through to the end. I had the chance to move onto another book before the month was out, but sadly I have not finished it yet so it’ll slip into April’s read list instead.
[SPOILERS ALERT – If you have not read 1984 by George Orwell, please do not read further unless spoilers don’t bother you.]
Whilst I’ve evidently been spending less time reading, for various reasons, I think 1984 being the only book I read in March is completely okay. In light of current world affairs, it was a long overdue and must read. I have no illusions as to why this book is and always will be relevant alongside our societal and governmental structures. After all, in Orwell’s own words, “The best books…are those that tell you what you already know”. I don’t plan on talking endlessly about our political situation, it’s rather a hazy storm. However, I don’t see how you can hide from politics after reading a novel like this one. A novel where the truth is bent, broken and even destroyed, in order to build new truths that suit those in power and keep the lower ranks in their places. Whether it be parties or classes we’re discussing, the similarities are uncanny. If you can’t see them in society, you are the ignorant group. A novel where someone is always watching you. To keep you in your place. Some form of authority is always around the corner waiting to catch you out. If you think you are truly free to do as you please, you are sadly mistaken.
This work of fiction surprised me. I was expecting an overthrow of the power. For Winston to break free and rebel. In hindsight, and with a bit more thought, it’s hardly surprising at all that this wasn’t the case. Really, the events that took place in Animal Farm should have been the biggest clue. Orwell wasn’t trying to show a rising up. His stories weren’t about showing a hero. They were of course written in relation to world events at the time, but I like to think they were more than a reflection of two political events. In my opinion, both novels were a symbolism of how one can try and cling to the truth and their own morals but beat them with enough ideology and psychological damage and the power will still remain in the hands of the leaders. In the rare circumstance of an overthrow of power, the likelihood of the new leader falling into the steps of the old one is high. Power gets to people, and power will make you mad. Trauma can make you submissive and fragile. Trauma can drive someone mad. Power over trauma is when you have the upper hand.
Orwell’s works of fiction impress me for many reasons, high on this list of reasons is his character development. Every time I’m introduced to one of his characters they feel tangible. As if I’ve met them, know them. No character is written haphazardly. Perhaps some are surprising at moments, but their moves and actions all seem fitting. The way Mr Charrington turns out to be a member of the Thought Police. How Julia has no care for freedom, as she believes breaking a few smaller rules is freedom enough. Safe to say, that sort of freedom soon catches up with you. Winston’s eventual acceptance of Big Brother doesn’t come as much of a shock after his trip to Room 101. It’s become common to expect deceit and betrayal from an author. Orwell is different. It’s not about deceiving the reader, it’s about showing the audience how the authorities deceive everyone. Where there is power there is a form of betrayal. A harsh but rather true fact. In the world of 1984, if you become too clever, you will be eradicated. Both your past and your present destroyed. You will be forgotten. As generations die, those who knew you will not speak of you. You will become a figment of the imagination. Does that happen in our world? Who knows? Probably.
Interestingly, I found myself relating Orwell’s work to that of Lauren Oliver’s. Lauren Oliver is the author of the Delirium series, and Before I Fall. I read these books in my early teens, and I still remember them as some of my favourites. In the Delirium series love is considered a disease. At the age of eighteen people receive a ‘cure’ for love, and hope to never feel it. The government police and control the whole population. They monitor everyone and keep them in check. If a person begins to show signs that they are not cured, and fail to recover after further treatment, they are locked up in an asylum. From this short description alone you can probably make some close links between this trilogy and the Orwell’s 1984. Considering I have not read Orwell’s work before, it’s come as a shock to finally be able to link something to Oliver’s work and see where her potential inspiration came from. For all I know, Oliver has never read Orwell’s work, but even so, I think the crossover between the texts is distinctive. So much so that at some stage I hope to reread Oliver’s novels to relive her policed world and compare further.
In a way, it was refreshing to read a novel that pinpoints real life so accurately, and yet so differently. I do not believe we are watched or policed nearly as much as in Nineteen Eighty-Four but there are definitely similarities between Orwell’s fictional world and our own. The characters held different symbolisms; ideologically motivated, deceitful, pragmatic, optimistic, obnoxious, the list goes on. In that world, power remained and still exists somewhere. In our world, let’s banned together to never let it reach these extremities.
Have you read 1984 or the Delirium series? Let me know your thoughts!
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
Find it: 978-0-141-03614-4
Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Find it: 978-0340980934
Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
Find it: 978-1444722963
Requiem by Lauren Oliver
Find it: 978-1444722970