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Once Upon A Bookshelf

Where Fiction and Reality Meet


Title: 1984
Genre: Speculative Fiction

Originally Published: 1949
Edition Courtney Read Published: 2011
Format: ebook
Publisher: Wildside Press

The Story

1984From the Scribd book page:

As literary political fiction, 1984 is considered a classic novel of the social science fiction subgenre. Since its publication in 1949, many of its terms and concepts, such as Big Brother, doublethink, thoughtcrime, Newspeak, and Memory hole, have become contemporary vernacular. In addition, the novel popularised the adjective Orwellian, which refers to lies, surveillance, and manipulation of the past in the service of a totalitarian agenda. In 1998, the Modern Library ranked 1984 13th on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. This edition includes footnotes, Appendix, and a new introduction.

The Response

Unlike most people I know, I didn’t read this book in high school. Most of the grade 10 English classes at my school did, but for some reason ours didn’t. I really wish it had. This is one of those books that everyone always assumes everyone else has read. And there is so much in it that has become a part of our culture – from references to Big Brother, to how this book has really influenced other dystopian novels. It really does seem to be everywhere, and there are some things that I understand the significance behind better now that I’ve actually read 1984.

If you forget that this book is supposed to have taken place in a certain year, everything that happens still seems like it could one day happen. One day soon. It’s a toss up – whether this is more likely, or whether Brave New World is more likely. (John constantly talks about how we’re actually living in Brave New World, which in itself is quite a chilling thought.) It actually makes me wonder why these books seem more realistic than, say, The Hunger Games, Divergent, or any other number of other dystopians that have been recently published. I think perhaps it’s because in those dystopians there seems to be a happy ending for it all, whereas these other classics, the world isn’t saved by the end of the story. It all just goes on as it did before…

One of the things that struck me the most when reading this is how much Orwell’s words was similar to the world created by Alan Moore in V for Vendetta, though again there’s the difference in that by the end of V we see a little glimmer of hope, whereas in 1984 there was no hope that a rebellion could take down the Party leading civilization. It would be interesting to reread V and do a more thorough comparison.

While I thoroughly enjoyed 1984, I have to say that I really didn’t care for any of the main characters. At all. For someone who doesn’t like books when she doesn’t like the characters, this is surprising. Yes, we get to see them grow, and yes we can completely understand why they have changed into what they become… but it rather felt like there wasn’t as much depth to them as I would normally enjoy. I suppose that could be looked upon as a byproduct of the society that they live in – the people are supposed to automatically believe anything the Party tells them without questioning anything. And I suppose in the case of our main characters, they had the opposite of character development happen – they had been questioning and rebelling against what the Party dictated, and by the end of the novel they were blindly following the Party. Rather disturbing actually.

The Bottom Line

I’m glad I have finally read this book. Things make much more sense now. And, since this was my first Orwell, I think I may need to go out in search of some of his other books as well.

Posted by Courtney Wilson @ 7:15 am January 9, 2015.
Category: Speculative Fiction
Book Author(s):

  • Natalie McKay

    YEAH! I’m sooo glad you finally read it! I agree the characters were not my favourite either, but given the setting they grew up in, I forgive the lack of character depth. I always thought V for Vendetta was created in response to 1984, as I agree they follow the same themes. I too will be trying to pick up more Orwellian books to read in the future.