There is no doubt that a lot of people are familiar with George Orwell’s famous dystopian novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four” – particularly due to its well-known slogan that is often used these days, “Big Brother is watching you”. But why is this novel considered a classic?
This novel focuses on Airstrip One (previously known as Great Britain) and its state of utter chaos where people suffer under the regime of a totalitarian government and are being watched – literally – by surveillance cameras planted in every corner of the country, and the relationship between the Novel’s two protagonists: Winston Smith and Julia.
One of the features that make “Nineteen Eighty-Four” so engaging is the protagonists themselves, and the way the relationship between the two evolves, causing the reader to be invested in the way this seemingly typical underdog story will play out in the long run. The underpinning social idea of love overcoming all that is present in many novels is truly tested in a manner that leaves readers filled with a dichotomous mix of hope and dread. Can a forbidden love survive and blossom in such an emotionally oppressive society? Orwell’s take on these classic plot devices will surely leave the reader with an indelible mix of emotions that present themselves so rarely in contemporary literature.
Another interesting aspect about the novel is that Orwell has created an immersive world that seems unapologetically ridiculous at face value, but upon delving deeper you see ideas that eerily parallel real world philosophies, although much more extreme. The overly oppressive tone set through much of the novel often left me pondering about the reality we now live in and the possibility of a shift to a world such as the one created in this tale. Some of the events in our history seem to foreshadow some of the main themes of the plot. Additionally, Orwell’s many neologisms that are peppered throughout the story add authenticity to the fictitious world for which they were conceived. Words such as “thoughtcrime” and “doublethink” sound odd out of context, but within the confines of Orwell’s world, fit perfectly to the point that you never question their legitimacy.
Could a world as ideologically oppressive as this ever come to exist in even a fraction of the scale presented in Orwell’s novel? I reassure myself that it couldn’t, but I can’t escape a feeling of plausibility that it presents, and perhaps that is another mark of genius in this novel. “Nineteen Eighty-Four” takes a few pages before it really gets on its feet, almost a victim of the very dull and emotionless atmosphere it works to create. For many readers, this could cause them to stall and may well keep many from ever progressing. It is, however, a great representation of what a thriller should be, imparting tangible suspense while keeping the reader feeling immersed and emotionally invested in the characters throughout the story.
After all is said and done, George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty- Four” will leave you with a plethora of conflicting thoughts and emotions, but most of all, leave you questioning the limits of your humanity, as well as governing authorities.