‘1984’ by George Orwell is a grim but truthful prediction of how everyday life will become in the future, and to some extend already has. A world in which our every move is monitored, watched and eavesdropped upon by ‘Big Brother’. Where language has been reduced to only a few hundred words to eliminate creativity, where ‘Thought Police’ can take you away and subject you to unimaginable terror for simply thinking an original thought, where sexual pleasure no longer exists if not to procreate on very regulated basis.
This book was written so skilfully from start to finish that I was enthralled by every page, each chapter presented more mystery and was narrated so convincingly that I could truly feel the paranoia that the protagonist felt. The opening line is commended as one of the greatest in literary history, “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen”. We are instantly drawn into the story, and the life of the protagonist in the opening lines of this book. They set the tone for the rest of the novel impeccably, a scene filled with grit, harshness, poverty and cold. It seems so bleak and controlled from the very beginning that it immediately arouses the readers lust for rebellion.
The plot is based upon a romantic relationship between the central character, Winston, and a co-worker of his named Julia, and how they formed a bond under such a tyrannical regime where everything seemed to go against them. This plot develops quite slowly with Winston believing for the first few chapters that Julia is a member of the Thought Police, watching him. They do not even exchange words until Part 2 of the novel, in which their meetings must be random and hurried and the slightest hint of physical intimacy fills them with adrenaline and desire. You would think that the slow pace of this romantic plot would bore the reader, or force them to lose interest, but Orwell builds such tension in the chapters preceding their meetings that you almost feel as if you are engaged in their flirtatious secretive game, like children passing notes in class.
The characters in this novel are also brilliantly described and developed. Winston is given certain personality traits in the story that are so consistent you feel as if you know him, and all of his habits and fixations. His every gesture is verbalised in the novel, creating such a bond between the emotions of the character and those of the reader, as they are perfectly fitting of the mood he is in and therefore very relatable. He is also described physically in such detail, right down to his varicose ulcer above his ankle and the frailty of his figure, which really gives the reader a sense of his lifestyle and disposition as well as a clear image of the character in their minds. Julia was also described beautifully, though there is more of an air of mystery about her character.
The dialogue was for the most part very believable, but not exactly natural. It is believable in the context that the story is supposed to be in, as the world has become a completely totalitarian and regimented place in which the masses are forced to conform completely and speak to each other in a robotic way, completely devoid of ideas. You can sense a coldness in every characters tone when there is dialogue. I am certain this was intentional, though I would have expected it to be warmer and more exciting between Winston and Julia. However this book makes a very clear statement which is that if the world does become this way there will be no life in our words, or sentiment in our verbal exchanges. So in fact, the coldness of the dialogue between Winston and Julia only makes it even clearer how unnatural Orwell is trying to depict this Big Brother state to be. The dialogue was well utilised, but not abused in this novel. What I mean by this is that the writer did not take the simple route and explain the entire plot through the words of the characters, he used it to give the story a personal edge.
The novel ends in the most poignant way, and perhaps only way it ever could have ended if it wanted to achieve its message, with Winston bowing down and finally embracing Big Brother. It is quite a shocking end to the book, as we are all wishing for the fairytale ending in which Winston will somehow overthrow the state and reform the government, and make everyone live happily ever after. But that is what makes this book great, it takes exactly what you want to happen and won’t give it to you at any cost, because by the end of the book you are made to feel as if Big Brother wrote it himself and that even our protagonist who is generally supposed to be a hero, cannot overthrow the system because no efforts ever will. The work finished in the perfect way, at the perfect time. The reader is as weary from the struggle, deceit and terror that Winston has suffered as he is and the ending is the last nail in the coffin, an open end to a story that feels less and less fictional every day.