Book Review: 1984 by George Orwell

Friday, April 17th, 2015 at 10:26 am

Who isn’t familiar with the phrase “Big Brother is always watching”?

It’s a phrase that’s entered into common parlance, quoted by people from all across the political spectrum. Actually, one thing ties together the frequent quoters – they’re generally Chicken Littles.

Okay, okay. That’s maybe a bit extreme. But the doomsday nature of those who quote Orwell’s famous slogan made me apprehensive as I started reading this novel. I continued on with this apprehensiveness for about the first third of the book. I love Orwell’s writing, loved how the story was drawing me in, loved his dystopia. And I thought, “How will I ever be able to discuss this with anyone? This is going to bring every ‘America is going to hell in a handbasket’ out of the woodwork.”

Then the story progressed and I lost myself into it, devouring it in just a few days.

It was an engaging story. I felt for Winston, the main character. I felt betrayed, heartbroken at the twist at the end. I contemplated the dreariness, not just of life under a completely totalitarian regime, but of life without Truth (with a capital T). You see, Winston dreamed of love and of freedom – both wonderful things, bits of eternity set within our heart. But the biggest hole in Winston’s life, the chasm so large he couldn’t even peer into its depths, was his lack of God.

Big Brother wanted to narrow his perspective. They wanted to narrow language so he couldn’t think anything they didn’t want him to think, wanted to narrow his dreams so that he wouldn’t look to anything beyond the now. They wanted to channel all his emotion into one thing and one thing only – love for Big Brother and hate for whoever was the enemy at the time (and had always been the enemy).

In a way, Big Brother succeeded, even while Winston was dreaming of love (and carrying on an affair), even while Winston was dreaming of freedom (and joining a revolutionary society). Winston wasn’t so narrowed that he could not dream of life outside of Big Brother’s control – but he was so narrowed that he never even dreamed of a Life (with a capital L) that could make him free even under Big Brother’s eye.

I’m still apprehensive about discussing 1984, still fear the doomsdayers. Truth is, this nation, just like every other nation has ebbs and flows. Freedom never lasts long, and even while it lasts, it is often more illusory than we make it out to be. And political freedom, as much as I love it and desire it and want to fight for it, is only one small thing.

One can be politically free, can be free from the “thought police”, can be able to live one’s life in peace and still have just as empty a life as Winston Smith. And one can be politically bound, can be under physical and emotional and mental persecution because of one’s beliefs, can be tortured in this life and still be absolutely free.

Because freedom isn’t political, it’s spiritual. And God is bigger than every Big Brother.

That’s what I came out of 1984 with – a conviction that the solution to totalitarianism is not democracy or republicanism (neither in the party sense or the form of government sense), the solution to totalitarianism is Christ.


Rating: 5 stars
Category: Dystopian fiction
Synopsis: Winston Smith dreams of a life outside of Big Brother’s totalitarian regime – and tries find it.
Recommendation: Engaging, thought-provoking, and on every reading list in the country (for good reason).

I read this as a part of Carrie’s Reading to Know Classic Bookclub.


Reader Comments (2):

  1. Joyful says:

    I am not a fan of dystopia…but I read 1984 because it was a classic on my list! I think that one you posted 100 Must Read books…
    I didn’t care for it. Mostly I guess because it was depressing. I haven’t ready anymore like it since. I hope there aren’t anymore on this list you posted a couple years ago…:)

  2. Thanks for reading along. I really liked your thoughts on how Big Brother succeeded with Winston.

    This one took me a while to get into, but I’m grateful for having read it.

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