This book ruined my childhood. After hours of plodding through boring chapters where I had no idea what was going on, trying to figure out why the main character was so obnoxious, and reading about disgusting, inappropriate things that would most certainly be rated R if on a show, I decided that this book was probably the worst book I’d ever laid eyes on.
First of all, it was a classical dystopian story which is always a good sign that death, pain, and horrible endings are on their way. Second of all, I had to read it for English class which made the whole thing ten times worse than it’d normally be. And third of all, the storyline was really kind of confusing.
The book follows the life of a man named Winston Smith. Winston lives in a world where the government, known as big brother or the party, tries controls literally every aspect of your life. There are cameras and microphones everywhere, children are allowed and encouraged to spy on their own parents, the party chooses your spouse for you, and chocolate is rationed. Besides that, there are also a couple things known as thought crime and face crime. Basically, if you’re mumbling controversial things in your sleep or your neighbor claims you’ve been having facial expressions that make you look like you’ve been thinking anti-big brother ideas, the thought police will show up at your doorstep and arrest you. So, in order to avoid that, everybody just walks around looking like they have really bad RBF.
Anyway, back to Winston. Winston’s job in society is to change history in a way that favors Big Brother. Every day, he’ll go through newspapers, magazines, and books, and erase anything that Big Brother said in the past that didn’t come true in the future. For an example, Big Brother might have said there would be no chocolate ration in the year 1984. 1984 rolls along and there’s a chocolate ration. What Winston would do at that point, is go through records and change what Big Brother said to what actually came true. That way, even if you remember Big Brother saying there would be no ration, you have no documents to prove it.
However, because he knew that the party was constantly lying through its teeth, Winston was starting to have some not very nice feelings towards Big Brother. In other words, he hated it. So, in order to really prove that, Winston buys a diary (which is illegal) and writes down how much he hates Big Brother in it, out of the view of the camera. This is also illegal and, if caught, is punishable by death. But Winston, being an independent male with a mind and will of his own, doesn’t care. Or not yet at least. He does start to caring when he sees a fairly attractive girl keep looking at him and following him home and whatnot. Scared out of his mind that she’s with the thought police, Winston contemplates suicide but then decides he’s too lazy and goes home and has a drink instead. This works out well for him as it turns out the girl was actually not with the thought police and just wanted to slip him a note saying she loves him and thus mercifully ends chapter one which, by the way, is a hundred and four pages long.
So, Winston and his girl, Julia, have a little quality time together (which is illegal) and then decide they want some more quality time and promptly rent a room that seems to lack a camera and a microphone (also illegal). During some of those moments, Julia tells Winston that she’s slept around with a whole bunch of guys since she was sixteen. Instead of being disgusted and dumping her, Winston is even more attracted to her because not only did she disobey the party, she did so multiple times. He tells her that he hates purity, he hates chastity, and the more she goes out with other men the more he’s going to love her.
But their happy moment ends when while they were sharing time in their rented room, a picture falls off the wall to reveal a hidden camera. Surprise! Big Brother was watching them all along and probably saw all that sex and heard all those illegal discussions. Also during that scene, O’Brien, a man whom Winston previously felt confident had similar views on the party as him, reveals himself to be secretly working with thought police. So, Winston and Julia totally get arrested and are, of course, put in separate cells. At this point, the reader has absolutely no idea what’s going on with Julia and can only see what’s happening to Winston.
Winston gets tortured. Okay, so this was the part of the story that I simply could not stand. It wasn’t so much about how they tortured him as it was the discussion that was held they did. O’Brien, who held the discussion, nearly convinced Winston that the Party was always right no matter what Winston remembered or believed. O’Brien always seemed to know what Winston was thinking, when he was lying, and exactly what was going through his head. It even got so bad that Winston honestly believed that O’Brien was holding up five fingers when in reality he was only holding up four. However, Winston eventually snapped out of it, still hating Big Brother with all his heart.
Because of his hatred, Winston is taken to a place that all the prisoners have a chronic fear of: Room 101. There the Party plays with his fear of rats. They attach a metal cage to face, filled with rodents and threaten to open the cage and let the rats chew his face off. Hysterical, Winston tells them to let him go and do it to Julia instead. Boom. Instant effect. Both Julia and Winston are free to free. However, Winston knows eventually both of them would be killed off, but he’s cool with this because during his torture time he learned to love Big Brother.
Feeling full of bubbly, happy emotions yet? Me either. I think the main reason why I didn’t like the book was due to the ending. See, I prefer endings that have a sense of resolution or hope. 1984 didn’t have either of those. It left me feeling depressed and hating the world around me. Still, even that I would have been willing to overlook if the book had a really powerful message that was relevant to everyday life. It didn’t. Anybody who knows anything about history, knows that 1984 was a vision off what would happen if communism became a thing.
Only problem is communism isn’t as big of an issue as it was when this book was written. It was hard to appreciate the message of the book when we’re not dealing with it too much anymore. Besides that, there were also way too disturbing scenes in the book that seriously bothered me and disrupted my peace of mind. Other than that, it was fantastic.