Book Review

Book Review: Nineteen Eighty-Four

You are being watched and followed! You are not allowed to think or question without a permission. You can’t read the past and you aren’t allowed to predict the future. You are only allowed to live the moment. The ministry of love controls how, when and who you love. The ministry of information controls the dictionary, how you perceives the word, how you understands it and even how you thinks about it. “War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength” these are the constitution of the government.

George Orwell in his novel, 1984, takes you into his prophecy of the future and how the world would look like when it is controlled by totalitarian regime like “Big Brother” which censors everyone’s thoughts and behaviors.  Winston Smith, the main character of the novel, joined a secret group of underground rebels to overthrow Big Brother regime. He meets Julia and they both fall in love and have an affair secretly. In Big Brother’s regime, “sexual intercourse was to be looked on as a slightly disgusting minor operation, like having an enema” Love is considered to be a crime and lovers are sentenced to death. So, between love, fear and sacrifice, Winston has to choose his destiny.

I highly recommend reading this novel with much thoughts and reflection. Many of the points that Orwell makes in the novel are really true in our present. The novel was first published in 1949 so it is marvelous that Orwell was able to draw all these predications from his imagination.

The following selections are from the novel and I would like to share them with you because they gained my attention a lot and they made think and reflect. Please let me know which one of the selection you like the most and why! I spent a lot of my time writing the quotes down from the novel, so I hope you have time to read some of them.

  • War is peace, freedom is salvery, ignorance is strength.
  • Either the future would resemble the present, in which case it would not listen to him:or it would be different from it, and his predicament would be meaningless.
  • How could you make appeal to the future when not a trace of you, not even an anonymous word scribbled on a piece of paper, could physically survive?
  • His mind slid away into the labyrinthine world of doublethink. To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully-constructed lies, to hold simulateneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them; to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the party was the guardian of democracy; to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into the memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget again: and above all, to apply the same process itself. That was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to be become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the world
  • To the future or to the past, to a time when thought is free, when men are different from one another and don’t live alone to a time when truth exists and what is done, to a time when truth exists and what is done cannot be undone.
  • Thoughtcrime does not entail death: thoughtcrime is death
  • He was out in the light and air while they were being sucked down to death, and they were down there because he was up here. He knew it and they knew it, and he could see the knowledge in their faces. There was no reproach either in their faces or in their hearts, only the knowledge that they must die in order that he might remain alive, and that was part of the unavoidable order of things ‘doublethink’ involved the use of doublethink.
  • For how could you establish even the most obvious fact when there existed no record outside your own memory?
  • After all, what justification is there for a word which is simply the opposite of some other word? A word contains its opposite in itself. Take “good”, for instance. if you have a word like “good”, what need is there for a word like “bad”? “ungood” will do just as well-better, because it’s an exact opposite, which the other is not. Or again, if you want a stronger version of “good”, what sense is there in having a whole string of vague useless words like “excellent” and “splendid” and all the rest of them? “plusgood” covers the meaning; or “doubleplusgood” if you want something stronger still.
  • Orthodoxy means not thinking- not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.
  • ‘there is a word in Newspeak’ said Syme, ‘ I don’t know whether you know it: Duckspeak, to quack like a duck. It is one of those interesting words that have two contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it is abuse; applied to someone you agree with, it is praise’
  • Was he, then, alone in the possession of a memory?
  • It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wonder when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. the smallest thing could give you away.
  • your worse enemy, he reflected, was your own nervous system. At any moment of tension inside you was liable to translate itself into some visible symptom.
  • the only recognized purpose of marriage was to beget children of the service of the Party. Sexual intercourse was to be looked on as a slightly disgusting minor operation, like having an enema.
  • the party was trying to kill the sex instinct, or if it could not be killed, then to distort it and dirty it. He didn’t know why this was so, but it seemed natural that it should be so.
  • until the become conscious, they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled, they cannot become conscious.
  • It struck him that the truly characteristic thing about modern life was not its cruelty and insecurity, but simply its bareness, its dinginess, its listlessness.
  • Everything faded into mist. The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth. Just once in his life he had possessed after the event: that was what counted- concrete, unmistakable evidence of an act of falsification.
  • The immediate advantages of falsifying the past were obvious, but the ultimate motive was mysterious. He took up his pen again and wrote: I understand HOW: I don’t understand WHY.
  • Perhaps a lunatic was simply a minority of one. At one time it had been a sign of madness to believe that the earth goes round the sun: today, to believe that the past is unalterable. He might be alone in holding that belief., and if alone, then a lunatic. But the thought of being a lunatic did not greatly trouble him: the horror was that he might also be wrong.
  • Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.
  • To do anything that suggested a taste for solitude, even to go for a walk by yourself, was always slightly dangerous. There was a word for it in Newspeak: own life, it was called, meaning individualism and eccentricity.
  • ‘if there is hope,’ he had written in the diary, ‘it  lies in the proles.’ The word kept coming back to him, statement of a mystical truth and a palpable absurdity.
  • when you put it in words it sounded reasonable: it was when you looked at the human beings passing you on the pavement that it became an act of faith.
  • It was precisely against suicidal impulses of this kind that he had hoped to guard himself by openning the diary.
  • Many of the disappearances were suicides. But it needed desperate courage to kill yourself in a world where firearms, or any quick and certain poison, were completely unprocurable. He thought with a kind of astonishment of biological uselessness of pain and fear, the treachery of the human body which always freezes into inertia at exactly the moment when a special effort is needed.
  • It struck him that in moments of crisis one is never fighting against an external enemy, but always against one’s own body.
  • Life is a moment to moment struggle against huger or cold or sleeplessness, against a sour stomach or an aching tooth.
  • Why was it not possible to cut a few days or weeks out of your life? Nobody ever escaped detection, and nobody ever failed to confess.
  • His whole mind and body seemed to be afflicted with an unbearable sensitivity, a sort of transparency, which made every movement, every sound, every contact, every word that he had to speak or listen to, an agony.
  • ‘I hate purity, I hate goodness! I don’t want any virtue to exist anywhere. I want everyone to be corrupt to the bones’
  • That was above all what he wanted to hear. Not merely the love one person, but the animal instinct, the simple undifferentiated desire: that was the force that would tear the party to pieces.
  • In the old days, he thought, a man looked at a girl’s body and saw that it was desirable, and that was the end of the story. But you couldn’t have pure love or pure lust nowadays. No emotion was pure, because everything was mixed up with fear and hatred. Their embrace had been a battle, the climax a victory.
  • She didn’t much care for reading’, she said. Books were just a commodity that had to be produced, like jam or bootlaces.
  • ‘When you make love you’re using up energy; and afterward you feel happy and don’t give a damn for anything. They can’t bear you to feel like that. They want you to be bursting with energy all the time. all this marching up and down and cheering and waving flags is simply sex gone sour.
  • There was a direct, intimate connection between chastity and political  orthodoxy.
  • She believed that it was somehow possible to construct a secret world in which you could live as you chose. All you needed was luck and cunning and boldness. She didn’t understand that there was no such thing as happiness, that the only victory lay in the far future, long after you were dead, that from the moment of declaring war on the party it was better to think of yourself as a corpse.
  • So long as human beings stay human, death and life are the same thing.
  • I am not interested in the next generation, dear, I am interested in us.
  • the smell of her hair, the taste of her mouth, the feeling of her skin seemed to have got inside him, or into the air all round him. She had become a physical necessity, something that he not only wanted but felt that he had right to.
  • talking to her, he realized how easy it was to present an appearance of orthodoxy while having no grasp whatever of what orthodoxy meant.
  • By lack of understanding, they remained sane.
  • I don’t mean confessing. Confession is not betrayal. What you say or do doesn’t matter: only feelings matter. If they could make me stop loving you- that would be the real betrayal.
  • The war, therefore, if we judge it by the standards of previous wars, is merely an imposture. It is like the battles between certain ruminant animals whose horns are set at such an angle that they are incapable of hurting one another. But though it is unreal it is not meaningless. It eats up the surplus of consumable goods, and it helps to preserve the special mental atmosphere that a hierarchical society needs.
  • The best books, he perceived, are those that tell you what you know already.
  • Throughout recorded time, and probably since the end of the Neolithic Age, there have been three kinds of people in the world, the high, the middle and the low. They have been subdivided in many ways, they have borne countless different names, and their relative numbers, as well as their attitude toward one another, have varied from age to age: but the essential structure of society has never alerted. Even after enormous upheavals and seemingly irrevocable changes, the same pattern has always reasserted itself, just as a gyroscope will always return to equilibrium.
  • The aims of these three groups are entirely irreconcilable. The aim of the High is to remain where they are.   The aim of the Middle is to change places with the High. The aim of the low, when they have an aim- for it is an abiding characteristic of the low that they are too much crushed by drudgery to be more than intermittently conscious of anything outside their daily lives- is to abolish all distinctions and create a society in which all men shall be equal. Thus throughout history a struggle which is the same n its main outlines recurs over and over again.
  • For long periods the High seem to be securely in power, but sooner or later there always comes a moment when they lose either their belief in themselves or their capacity to govern efficiently, or both. They are then overthrown by the Middle, who enlist the Low on their side by pretending to them that they are fighting for liberty and justice. As soon as they have reached their objective, the Middle thrust the Low back into their old position of servitude, and themselves become the High. Presently a new Middle group splits off from one of the other groups, or from both of them, and the struggle begins over again. Of the three groups, only the Low are never even temporarily successful in achieving their aims. It would be an exaggeration to say that throughout history there has been no progress of a material kind. Even today, in a period of decline, the average human being is physically better  off than he was a few centuries ago. But no advance in wealth, no softening of manners, no reform or revolution has ever brought human equality a millimeter nearer. From the point of view of the Low, no historic change has ever meant much more than a change in the name of their masters.
  • The cyclical movement of history was now intelligible, or appeared to be so; and if it was intelligible, then it was alterable.
  • The invention of print, however, made it easier to manipulate public opinion, and the film and the radio carried the process further.
  • It had long been realized that the  only secure basis for oligarchy  is collectivism.
  • Wealth and privilege are most easily defended when they are possessed jointly.
  • Human equality was no longer an ideal to be striven after, but a danger to be averted.
  • To make sure that all written records agree with the orthodoxy of the moment is merely a mechanical act. But it is also necessary to remember that events happened in the desired manner. And if it is necessary to re-arrange one’s memories or to tamper with written records, then it is necessary to forget that one has done so. The trick of doing this can be learned like any other mental technique.
  • Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. The party intellectual knows in which direction his memories must be alerted; he therefore knows that he is playing tricks with reality; but by the exercise of doublethink he also satisfies himself that reality is not violated. The process has to be conscious, or it would not be carried out with sufficient precision, but it also has to be unconscious, or it would bring with it a feeling of falsity and hence guilt.
  • To tell deliberate lies with genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the  reality which one denies- all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tempering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth.
  • If one is to rule, and to continue ruling, one must be able to dislocate the sense of reality. For the secret of rulership is to combine a belief in one’s own infallibility with the power to learn from past mistakes.
  • In general, the greater the understanding, the greater the delusion: the more intelligent, the less sane.
  • the problem, that is to say; is educational. It is a problem of continuously moulding the consciousness both of the directing group and the larger executive group that lies immediately below it. The consciousness of the masses needs only to be influenced in a negative way….”
  • One clear illustration of this is the fact that war hysteria increases in intensity as one rises in social scale. Those whose attitude toward the war is most nearly rational are the subject peoples of the disputed territories. To these people the war is simply a continuous calamity which sweeps too and fro over their bodies like a tidal wave. Which side is winning is a matter of complete indifference to them. They are aware that a change of overlordship means simply that they will be doing the same work as before for new masters who treat them in the same manner as the old ones. The slightly more favored workers whom we call “the proles” are only intermittently conscious of the war. When it is necessary they can be prodded into frenzies of fear and hatred, but when left to themselves they are capable of forgetting for long periods that the war is happening. It is in the ranks of the Party, and above all of the Inner Party, that the true war enthusiasm is found. World-conquest is believed in most firmly by those who know it to be impossible. This peculiar linking-together of opposites–knowledge with ignorance, cynicism with fanaticism–is one of the chief distinguishing marks of Oceanic society
  • The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, the Ministry of Truth with lies, the Ministry of Love with torture and the Ministry of Plenty with starvation. These contradictions are not accidental, nor do they result from ordinary hypocrisy; they are deliberate exercises in doublethink.
  • But there is one question which until this moment we have almost ignored. It is: why should human equality be averted? supposing that the machines of the process have been rightly described, what is the motive for this huge, accurately planned effort to freeze history at a particular moment of time?
  • Winston became aware of silence, as one becomes aware of a new sound.
  • In no other way could the ancient cycle be broken. If human equality is to be for ever averted – if the High, as we have called them, are to keep their places permanently – then the prevailing mental condition must be controlled insanity.
  • “And the people under the sky were also very much the same…everywhere, all over the world, hundreds or thousands of millions of people just like this, people ignorant of one another’s existence, held apart by walls of hatred and lies, and yet almost exactly the same — people who had never learned to think but were storing up in their hearts and bellies and muscles the power that would one day overturn the world.
  • He moved himself mentally from place to a place, and tried to determine by the feeling of his body whether he was perched high in the air or buried deep underground.
  • Besides, was it possible, when you were actually suffering it, to wish for any reason whatever that your own pain should increase?
  • Everything was all right, there was no more pain, the last detail of his life was laid bare, understood, forgiven.
  • You preferred to be a lunatic, a minority of one. Only disciplined mind can see reality, Winston. You believe that reality is something objective, external, existing in its own right. You also believe that the nature of reality is self-evident. When you delude yourself into thinking that you see something, you assume that everyone else sees the same thing as you. But I tell you, Winston, that reality is not external. Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else. Not in the individual mind, which can make mistakes and in any case soon perishes: only in the mind of the Party, which is collective and immortal.
  • Perhaps one did not want to be loved as much as to be understood.
  • What most oppressed him was the consciousness of his own intellectual inferiority.
  • Never again will you be capable of ordinary human feeling. Everything will be dead inside you. Never again will you be capable of love, or friendship, or joy of living, or laughter, or curiosity, or courage, or integrity. You will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty and then we shall fill you with ourselves.
  • Do you remember writing in your diary, “I understand how: I do not understand why”? It was when you thought about “why” that you doubted your own sanity.
  • The individual only has power in so far as he ceases to be an individual.
  • But the world itself is only a speak of dust, And man is tiny-helpless! How long has he been in existence.
  • ‘How does one man assert his power over another, Winston?’ Winston thought. ‘by making him suffer,’ he said.
  • Stupidity was as necessary as intelligence, and as difficult to attain.
  • The one certain thing was that death never come at an expected moment.
  • She had seemed to be not merely with him, but inside him.
  • For the first time he perceived that if you want to keep a secret you must also hide it from yourself. You must know all the while that it is there, but until it is needed you must never let it emerge into your consciousness in any shape that could be given a name.

9 thoughts on “Book Review: Nineteen Eighty-Four”

  1. I read this book before, just last year in my English class. It was alright in my opinion. Orwell is certainly one of my favorite authors, but his legacy seems to be a bit too far-fetched. I understand 1984 couldn’t possibly be accurate in terms of realism, but I think the message is a bit overzealous. I mean, what are the chances of a totalitarian-type society taking over the world? I doubt people will be as oppressed as they are in the book.

    The closest example we have to compare to 1984 is of course, Nazi Germany, which wasn’t as oppressive as 1984’s atmosphere was. Rather than brainwashing people into believing, they eliminated anyone who opposed them. Torture was used to get Watson to reluctantly adore Big Brother, but in real life it wouldn’t happen that way. People will simply kill you if you’re indifferent to beliefs. There is no psychological torture unless they’re pressing you for information. The human will is a incredibly hard thing to break, so it’s better to put a bullet in someone’s head than to change their minds.

  2. What a coincidence! I just started reading this book a couple days ago! I’ll bookmark this post and read it after I’m done. 😀

  3. This is one of the books that stays on my bedroom bookshelf and gets pulled out every couple years. I read it the first time in 1976 and it instantly became part of me and the way I think about and see things – not in a paranoid sense, but in an awareness sense, especially when it comes to “doublespeak”. I’m glad you’re reading this book, Murtadha, and I’ll be curious to see how it comes to influence how you see the world around us.

    Might I also recommend Lord of the Flies, if you’ve not read it. Another insightful book.

    As I tell my own kids, there’s a reason these books are called classic lol.

    Great job of pulling out the heart passages of 1984 – thanks for reminding me of so many wise thoughts!

    Lori @ SGIME

  4. Orthodoxy means not thinking- not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.

    This passage stands out the most for me as being the most universal.

    1984 is a bracket to Animal Farm–twin writings on totalitarianisms, the one fascist, and the other communist. Eventually all totalitarianisms use similar strategies, and have similar results.

    There is an interesting new book on the relationship of Hitler and Stalin, basically stating that Hitler’s atrocities are better known in the West, but Stalin’s are comparable if not worse.

    Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder

    George Orwell lived and responded to these great conflicts between fascism and communism during the Spanish Civil War and WWII.

    Thought provoking post as usual!

  5. I find that 1984 IS more accurate than most want to believe. I had to do an extensive research paper on the ways in which people’s privacy is violated.. They just aren’t aware of it as they are in the book, and of course there’s not as blatant mind control (although there is ‘truth-serum’)… I don’t think it’s overrated, just a little bit overanalyzed in high school; u are told what everything means and symbolizes (ironically) to the point that, once finished, you put it in ur mental ‘done with that’ category. I would like to read it again someday..
    Blah blah blah.. I need to do hw! but murt, u should read the prophet (if u like poetry). I think u are like him in that you share ur thoughts with people. I feel like one of the townspeople waiting for ur next words of wisdom.
    What Else.. Kite runner. ‘Where the red fern grows’ ( the first book I can remember making me cry, but I guess u have to like dogs.. It’s kinda dry and old-fashioned). Intensity(omfg! So scary! But really really gross& the bad guy is a total freakshow). Shining (scary, but more like ghost-scary). The gunslinger is crazy sci-fi/western but catchy too.
    Those are most of the (not insightful) books I can think of; Im apparently in a weird-book mood lol. The amazon was some cool stuff too, about the explorers who went up the river and found all these tribes; each group saw the other as alien-like. That’s a true one tho. God, starbucks makes me type insane amts. Must stop here.
    Are you going to write books?

  6. I don’t have much to add to the comments about 1984, but I would suggest that those who haven’t read it already should pick up a copy of ‘Brave New World’. It is also a vision of a totalitarian future. Some parts of it are a bit dated but it is worth it.

  7. Brilliant selections from the book…

    Words have such power, such power that people aren’t even aware of how even the English language has changed over the past 35 years or so in the USA. Words like Grande to mean small and so much much more… Newspeak lives…

  8. i just finished reading the book a couple a days ago, and i rlly apreciated it. great book review, especially the quotes, i strongly recommend this book.

  9. According to me the novel “Nineteen-Eigthy Four” goes on about a lot more than just politics, throughout this novel it is seen that the protagonist Winston is used by Mrs. Parsons (unclogging the kitchen-sink of her family), tried, by (at least) two other men for razor blades, which are occassionally rare in that society, and by the Party, he’s not only used and tried, he’s also humiliated that by party-people, a first example in the novel is the physical jerks instructress, because ‘he wasn’t trying enough’, than after he was arrested by the (Inner) Party people, the lesson I take from this novel is: Winston is an occassionally ‘nice’ guy, on whom you can occassionally rely with regards to certain tasks, you can also try and see if he’s ready to give or lend something away which is occassionally rare in society, and when you are standing ‘bureaucratically’ above him you can humiliate him, one lesson I take from this novel is, you only ‘(ab)use, try and humiliate persons with whom you can get away with it, the other lesson is: when Winston is taken away from society by the Party or when he’s dead, whether psychologically or ‘real’ you can not ‘use’ him anymore, at least not for tasks like amateur-plumbing, amateur-masonry, he believes for example that 2 + 2 = 5 and what kind of use regarding such tasks can you have of such a man, so I take it as this when, a man (yes, the’re usually men) as Winston is away, your on your own!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s