1984, a novel based on a dystopian future, is about the everyday life of Winston Smith, his internal struggle, fear, his search for truth and the dire consequences it would bring. It talks about a world where there is no privacy, no freedom and which demands absolute loyalty and blind zeal.
It is interesting to note that what Orwell talks about is perfectly possible. And what he talks about reflects upon human nature perfectly. Most of what Orwell says is psychological insight that only a cynic would be able to think of. And it would be most appealing to a cynic indeed. To a man immersed in routine and consumerism, it might sound stupid or in the worst case, hysterical. And a man immersed in the lurid lights of consumerism cannot understand the bleakness of what Orwell describes.
While I was reading this book, a few questions kept nagging at me. Is man so fragile minded as to accept fanaticism rather than to rebel against it? If so, what would be the extent of such fanaticism and what would the fate of such a society be? Coincidentally, I happened to read “Persepolis” later, which dealt with the exact same question. Persepolis is all about fanaticism, zeal and how it crippled the people of a country and most importantly, how most of them accepted it willingly. Here was proof in the present.
Orwell tries to paint the fate of such a society and to some extent, succeeds. He does paint a bleak picture of the fatality of such society and how utterly devastating it would be to the society as well as the individual. But, he does so at the expense of the story. Quite frankly, as a novel, it is bland. As a device for a message, which it is, it's shattering. The first half is all detail and no story. To add to that, it reads like a diary rather than a story. It takes much patience to wade through all the detail at the start but in the last third, it does get better. The atmosphere is bleak, but repetition mars whatever emotional pull it might have on the reader. The bland characters are in no way helpful either. It makes up for a great essay or a propaganda. But as a novel, it falls short in many places. Orwell is a good philosopher. Not a novelist.
Some good quotes:
“He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”
“Until they became conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.”
"If you kept the small rules, you could break the big ones."
“The party was trying to kill the sex instinct, or, if it could not be killed, then to distort it and dirty it.”
“She knew when to cheer and when to boo and that was all one needed.”
“By lack of understanding they remained sane.”
“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face
“The choice for mankind lies between freedom and happiness and for the great bulk of mankind, happiness is better.”
“The object of terrorism is terrorism. The object of oppression is oppression. The object of torture is torture. The object of murder is murder. The object of power is power. “
“The past is whatever the records and the memories agree upon.”