1984 by George Owell

1984

I know, most people read this novel in High School, but hey… some of us slip through the cracks. 1984 was chosen as the first read in a new book club that I am in, and I was so excited! The first dystopian novel, that also just so happens to be at the top of every “Best Novels of All-TIme” list? Sold. Done. Give it to me now.

Now I am just confused. So confused. To start off, let’s get into a little summary of the book itself. Take it away Amazon:

Winston Smith lives in a society where the government controls people’s lives every second of the day. Alone in his small, one-room apartment, Winston dreams of a better life. Is freedom from this life of suffering possible? There must be something that the Party cannot control something like love, perhaps?

Short and sweet. Just enough to get you hooked, right? Wrong. More like just enough to trap you into reading it and second guessing your decision from the first repetitive chapter.

I didn’t love this book. Like, at all. Also fair warning, this is going to get a spoilery. But it was written in 1948ish, so if you haven’t read it yet you can’t really get that upset about it, k?

I think that the easiest and most concise way to deal with my issues with this book is to just straight up list my grievances to save you all from a novella length rant.

1. Can we all agree that Julia is the worst character ever? She literally falls asleep when every time WInston is talking to her. Not to mention that she has slept with basically everyone. One second she is all about just being a revolutionary “from the waist down” and playing the Party’s games everyday, but never really realizing that she is being brainwashed with doublethink and not really caring. Then BAM she is all, I will do anything that you want me too. Sure, let’s go to Obrien’s house and tell him we would throw amonia and acid in children’s faces if they asked us too because we are so committed to the resistence. C’mon Orwell, that was the least convincing instance of insta-love I have ever read.

2. We get it. Please stop explaining the same exact things over and over and over again. Just when I thought we were done getting pounded with the same information, there is 25 pages of the ‘book’ that just retold us everything we already knew, but threw in about a 3 sentence paragraph explaining how the different regions were formed.

Don’t get me wrong, I realize that with this being one of the first dystopian novels, he really wanted to make sure that the reader understood the concept. But at some point you have to give credit to your reader as well. If I feel like I am being explained something like I am a child in a book, I get actually offended. I can’t help it. The only reason I kept going was because it is such a classic and I really hoped it would get better.

3. The whole first half of the novel deals with the whole idea of thoughtcrime. Winston is in a state of constant terror, afraid that even his facial expressions will give him away and he will be shot walking up the street. All you have to do is have one thought that they don’t agree with and that’s it. You’re dead.

Then he doesn’t even get arrested until he has been knee deep in this affair for months. O’Brien does this whole elaborate charade to get him to commit the thoughtcrime in the first place. Like, a seven year long charade. They know that the affair with Julia is happening basically as soon as it starts, lure him into the apartment above the shop, and then trick him into going to O’Brien’s house, getting some fake book two weeks later, and only after he reads it they show up. Seriously? There has to be some twist here, right?

Then when O’Brien starts torturing him I was like, alright, I get where this is going. This is going to be some V for Vendetta shit right here, and he is just breaking him mentally and physically so that he will be able to do his job better for the Brotherhood.

Wrong. O’Brien really does work for the Party.

And now I don’t take the first half of the book seriously at all. The whole fear aspect is gone. If they are willing to take that much time just to set someone up to be a thoughtcriminal, they aren’t some government masterminds. They are just power-hungry assholes. Which in my mind, are way less scary and government masterminds.

4. Room 101. This was seriously my biggest issue with this book. For chapters we are teased with what is in Room 101. The guy in the holding room said that he would rather  watch his wife and children get their throats slit than to go into Room 101.

Alright, I’m intrigued. What’s in Room 101?

Rats.

ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME.

Okay, for Winston it was rats. For someone else it could be something completely different. The whole idea is that Room 101 contains the one thing that is unendurable for the person being brought into it. It is the room where they finally break you. They put you face to face with the one thing that you cannot endure, and make you give up the last thing you are holding onto. For Winston, it was his “love” for Julia. Yeah, I put that in quotes. Here’s why:

He would rather her get her face chewed off by rats than for himself to get his face chewed off by rats.

That is the most ridiculous thing that I have ever heard. If someone asked me what is the one thing that I would consider unendurable, it would probably be something along the lines of, seeing someone that I love die, or being responsible for a loved ones death, or something along those lines.

I’m terrified of scorpions. I would not be within a mile of one if I could make that possible. Unfortunately I live in Utah, so basically my only defense is ignorance to the fact that they even exist. If someone told me that I was going to either have to die by a billion scorpion stings, with them crawling all over me, or I could put someone I love in my place, it would be death by scorpions for me.

Every single time.

There is no way that I would tell them to do that to my husband, or my mom, or my brother, or anyone that I love. No way. I can’t imagine anyone who truly loves someone would make any other choice.

Okay, rant over.

There were some very interesting things about the book though. The whole idea that reality only exists in our own consciousness, and that that consciousness can be controlled and distorted by things like doublethink is very interesting. Terrifying, but interesting. Other than that I didn’t really think it was anything special. Sure, there were a lot of pretty little lines in there, eloquently written and instantly quotable. But it’s Orwell we are talking about here, we all know the man knows how to write a line.

What I would have loved to have read, was a book from Goldstein’s perspective, if he was even real. Going on espionage adventures to actually fight back against Big Brother and liberate the proles and the Outer-Party. That would have been badass. Fanfiction writers, can you get on that please?

Sorry to those who adore this book, I know there are many of you out there who are just shaking your heads at me right now. Maybe it just wasn’t my thing. Or maybe I just missed the whole point? Am I not hipster enough to get it?

Maybe. But probably not.

***

Find all of the quotes that I loved from the book here!

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13 thoughts on “1984 by George Owell

  1. I love that you hated this book. So many people love it just because it’s a classic (I was in a writing course with so many of those people and I hated them).

    That being said, I loved 1984. Don’t get me wrong, Julia pissed me off too. She was such a total bitch. It’s like “Dude, wake up to yourself! She’s not worth it.” And the ending was like.SERIOUSLY? AFTER ALL THAT, YOU GIVE US AN ENDING LIKE *THAT*???

    I feel like I may have to find a copy of 1984 and re-read it, because you brought up some good points. The only thing I’ll say is that as the first dystopian novel (which I totally didn’t know it was, I just thought it was ONE of the first), info-dumping is to be expected. Dracula was full of it because it was the first vampire novel. You just kinda have to go along with it. Which is incredibly difficult to do, seeing as we have been exposed to dystopia and vampires for decades now.

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    • Exactly! I am aware that I have had full expose to dystopia, but how do you take that back ya know? How do I erase all of that from my memory? I really tried, I just couldn’t do it.

      That makes total sense, because I also disliked Dracula. And Frankenstein.

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      • You can’t. I managed to make myself laugh. Like…”how did people not know what was going to happen?”
        A bit of literary snobbery, there….

        I HATED Frankenstein. But that’s because Victor Frankenstein was a weak, weak character that would not stop WHINING. I will always hate Frankenstein

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      • I haven’t attempted Anna Karenina. I had enough trouble with keeping the names straight in the Millennium trilogy. I don’t know if I could so it while battling through classic prose….

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      • It’s terrible. I think a lot gets lost in translation from the original Russian, but Anna’s character is just awful. The most selfish character I have ever read!

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  2. hahahaha – it’s been years – and even more years – since I’ve read it. I think I was in my 20’s, and I remember having high hopes and then being really, really disappointed. I wasn’t willing to re-read the book, so I was happy when you said you were going to read it! The “idea” of this book is so much better than the book itself.

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    • That is so spot-on! The ‘idea’ is definitely better than the book itself. It is a really interesting premise, he just didn’t really do much with it other than let us down.

      But for some reason people seem to absolutely love it! To each their own I suppose. Maybe it holds more meaning to certain people or something. I am just not one of them!

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  3. I’m so glad I’m not the only one! First off, I definitely hated Julia! My number one issue with the book was the terrible “love” story that took up such a large portion of it. And then the fact that it had some really intriguing ideas that never really got fleshed out because of said stupid “love” story taking up so many valuable pages. Winston was definitely not a likable character either; I never really did feel all that sorry for him. I did really find the last part with the interrogation very intriguing though.

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    • I am so glad I am not the only one! I just feel like Orwell could have done it so much better. Really, he could have done without the love story all together. Winston was more than willing to commit thoughtcrime before he even met Julia. For a while, I thought maybe she really was a member of the Thought Police. Like, an undercover agent or something. Even that would have made it more interesting, and explained how crappy her character was!

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  4. Pingback: Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell revisited – Part I | if all else fails…use a hammer

  5. I had to study 1984 for A level english lit and write a comparison essay on it along with Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale- I much preferred 1984 over THT, but I still didn’t enjoy it. I found the love story annoying and pointless, along with Julia like you say, being horribly selfish a lot of the time.

    1984, I think, is hailed as the granddaddy of dystopian literature, being one of the firsts to come up with such disturbing themes, some of which came true (CCTV: the UK is the most CCTV’d country in Europe)… but it isn’t perfect and you know that it’s got to be quite bad when the english teacher actually tells students to just skip an entire section of the book (the “handbook” part) because they found it easier to just sum it up in a two paragraph summary page. Haha

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