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Title

Nineteen Eighty-Four



Author

George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair)



First Publication

1949



Date and publisher of this edition

Wolters-Noordhoff, 1998



Library

This is (now) a book of my own.



Explanation of the title

When Orwell wrote the book it was 1948. For him 1984 was just a date in the future, but not so far ahead that the warnings he gave would not be taken seriously. He wanted to show that the threats to freedom were real and that the dangers of a collapse of democracy were imminent.



Setting

The time is 1984, 36 years in the future when Orwell wrote the book. The place is London, now the capital of Airstrip One, the name for England since it became part of Oceania, one of the three states into which planet earth has been divided. All the main characters in the book are Party Members, as in the state of Oceania only Party Members are important.



Main characters

Winston Smith: He is a 39 year old man, who works in the Record Department of Minitrue (Newspeak for "the Ministry of Truth"). He has a varicose ulcer just above his right ankle. He was married to a woman named Katherine for fifteen months. It has been nearly 11 years since they parted.

Julia: She is about 26 years old. She is a bold looking girl with thick dark hair and a freckled face. She works in a special department of Minitrue, which produces cheap pornography for the Proles. She has had dozens of illegal love affairs. She is a simple woman who loves her man and uses sex for fun as well as for rebellion against The Party. She does not trouble herself over things she has no interest in. If Big Brother says two + two = five or three, she has no problem with it. For example when she is listening to Winston reading Emmanuel Goldsteins book, she gets bored and simply falls asleep.



Other important characters

O'Brien: A man who also works at Minitrue. He is a member of the Inner Party. At first, Winston and Julia trust him, as being one of theirs, fighting against Big Brother and for Emmanuel Goldstein. Later, he turns out to be a Thought Police agent, who tortures and brainwashes them.

Mr. Charrington: A Prole, the owner of a small shop where Winston bought his pen, diary and a glass paperweight. Winston rents a backroom at the shop, to meet Julia without the possibility of being seen by a telescreen. He also turns out to be a Thought Police agent. In the room where Winston and Julia spent so many nights together, IS a telescreen, hidden behind a painting.



SUMMARY

It is the year 1984 and Winston Smith, a citizen of London, the capitol of Airstrip One, works at the Ministry of Truth, Minitrue. Airstrip One is England's new name, since it became part of Oceania, one of the three giant states earth is divided in. The Party, the Party of Big Brother, rules Oceania. BB is a fictional person who resembles a president. His face is on millions of posters, which can be found on every corner of every street. His eyes seem to constantly stare at you. The other two states are Eastasia and Eurasia. Oceania is constantly at war with one of them.

Winston works at the Record Department, where he deals with the news, art and entertainment. He has to change newspapers and other paperwork of the past, so they can be used as evidence for what the Party says. E.g., when a newspaper of 1979 says Oceania is at war with Eastasia, but it is at war with Eurasia today, he has to change Eastasia into Eurasia. He gets really pissed off by this idiotic system of deception. One day, he buys a book and a pen in a small proletarian junkshop and starts keeping a diary, which of course is strictly forbidden, it is a thoughtcrime. The Thought Police have been founded to prevent Party Members from committing these crimes. The Thought Police look after the Party Members through telescreens, TVs that also transmit in the other direction. Winston can hide himself from the telescreen in his room on a single spot. That is where he writes his diary.

Winstons neighbours, the Parsons, are the kind of people the Party loves, because they behave really orthodox, they live as they should. Their children betray other, suspicious looking people to the Thought Police, as do all other children who are members of the Spies. At work, Winston fears a woman with dark hair, who later appears to be Julia, a woman he will have sex with on a secret place as a protest against the Party. At first, he thinks of Julia as a Thought Police agent, because she seems to be following him everywhere. Only later, he finds out she's also a rebel against the Party. He also meets a man named O'Brien, a member of the Inner Party that also seems to rebel against BB.

Later, after Winston left a pub in the Proles-area, he enters the old junkshop again, buys a glass paperweight he likes and then the owner, Mr. Charrington, shows him a backroom Winston could rent. Leaving the shop, Winston sees the girl with the dark hair again and wants to smash her head with the paperweight, but decides not to. Now he is convinced she is a Thought Police spy. When a few days later he sees her walking down the hall of Minitrue and sees her fall, he helps her up and she secretly passes him a note. At his office, he reads it. It says 'I love you'. They arrange a meeting at Victoria Square, a crowded place with no telescreens. Julia tells Winston where they can meet next Sunday. That Sunday, they make love.

Winston rents the room above the junkshop, so he and Julia can meet there with no telescreens for miles around and have sex, talk about their hate for the Party and do whatever they like. Important detail: a RAT Winston sees in the room terrifies him.

Later, O'Brien meets Winston at Minitrue and tells him to come to his house together with Julia. They go there and find out O'Brian is a member of the Brotherhood, led by Emmanuel Goldstein, the Party's greatest enemy. They learn that they will receive a book, written by EG, that contains an explanation of the way the world is ruled. Winston reads it to Julia in their room above the junkshop, but she's not interested and falls asleep. Winston also goes asleep. When they wake up the next morning, a picture falls from the wall and Winston sees the telescreen behind it. Thought Police agents rush in and beat them up. Julia is taken away, and Mr. Charrington enters. He is a Thought Police agent too.

Winston is being arrested and (probably) taken to the Ministry of Love (Miniluv), where he is put in a cell with four telescreens watching him. Other prisoners are brought in. One of them is Parsons, who is betrayed by one of his children. He is proud of them. O'Brien enters the cell, and Winston finds out O'Brien is not a prisoner, but the chief torturer. O'Brien, who wants to teach Winston doublethink, to be able to reintegrate him in the society later, tortures him. He even wants Winston to live BB. Eventually, Winston agrees to everything and gives the answers O'Brien expects, just to stop the pain, but, he has not betrayed his beloved Julia (yet).

After a short period without torture (Winston does not know how long, there are no clocks and there is no light from outside), O'Brien wants to know how Winston thinks of Big Brother. Winston tells him he hates BB, and he is taken to the notorious room 101, for the final step before reintegration. O'Brien tells Winston that this is the room where his worst nightmare will come true, and shows him a cage of rats. The cage is fitted around his head, and Winston sees the rats, which are hungry and want to eat him. Then Winston yells: "Do it to Julia, don't do it to me, do it to her!". That was the ultimate betrayal of her and himself and he is immediately released from his imprisonment. When Winston returns to the world, he is a physical and psychological wreck. He does not do anything but drinking, playing chess and working a little. He meets Julia, and they both confess they have betrayed each other in room 101. Later, back in the Chestnut Tree Café, he realises that he loves BIG BROTHER.



THE END




Atmosphere of the book

It is a sad, strange world Winston lives in. It is nothing like the world we live in today.



Genre

Anti-utopia.



Storyteller

The writer, George Orwell.



Favourite characters of the writer

None, he does not describe anyone, he does not make anyone look like the hero or the villain.



The Author

George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair) was born in India, in 1903. His father worked for the Civil Service. He went to the famous school of Eton, and wrote articles for college magazines. He died in 1950, after having written several books. He sold over two million copies of 1984 and his other famous novel, Animal farm. He wrote this book because of his repulsion from fascism and communism. He shows how the dominance of any ideology will result in totalitarianism, which means the enslavement and dehumanisation of man. His book was at the time a warning against fascism and communism.



My own opinion

I liked the book, because it was not very hard to read and it was really intriguing. It was very special to read, also a bit funny, because what Orwell wrote was how he saw the future. Now, we know something like this could never happen to this world. I am not able to compare this book to any other I have read. This book is one of a kind. I also do not recognise myself in any of the characters; they are too fictional to be able to even exist in our world.
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