1984. Power and Repression, by Eloísa Bellón Marco (Avanzado 2, 2008-2009) - Spoiler alert!!
1984 is one of the most important books of contemporary literature. It was written by George Orwell in 1948 and first published in 1949.
The novel belongs to the dystopian fiction genre. The term dystopia is the opposite of utopia. A less formal expression for it is black utopia. A dystopia depicts a nightmare world where utopian ideals have been subverted. It explores social and political structures. Dystopia and utopia are usually combined in novels. In 1984 dystopia is symbolized by power-holder Big Brother and utopia by Winston and Julia, the main characters.
The story is about a virtual future in the year 1984 and the action is set in England. Everything is controlled by Big Brother, who is the President, but also a god and a judge. People are oppressed and all their actions, feelings and thoughts are registered and controlled by four Ministries: the Ministry of Love, the Ministry of Peace, the Ministry of Truth and the Ministry of Plenty. The protagonist, Winston Smith, works at the Ministry of Truth. He meets another worker, Julia, and they try to escape Big Brother's surveillance. The ending is definitely devastating, because they are found, Winston is tortured and he is finally brainwashed to accept the system.
The way Orwell uses adjectives in the novel creates a very oppressive atmosphere and helps you feel you are in the story. The descriptions are very realistic and you can imagine perfectly well what that futuristic England is like. In this novel, Orwell also created Newspeak,* an artificial language created by Big Brother to alienate people.
There are a great deal of connections between the novel and totalitarian regimes such as those generated by Communism and Fascism. Actually, Big Brother's description coincides with that of Stalin's. Orwell was accused of wild criticism against Socialism, but he claimed that he only wanted to reflect the perversions of totalitarian regimes.
1984 is one of my favourite novels because I think it shows us how power can control society by using fear, language and surveillance. But it also scares me deeply, because it makes me wonder if one day our world could get to be like that.
If you enjoy this novel, I would also recommend A Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley and Farenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury, which are also about dystopia, utopia and power.
Check out our George Orwell webpage, which includes YouTube videos on Orwell and links to his books.
* Orwell has a lot to do with Lexical Creativity. He used the English resources for Word Formation to create Newspeak. He knew about how important language is to shape thoughts and the way we relate in society. One of the most important words he created was "doublethink": Doublethink is the act of simultaneously accepting as correct two mutually contradictory beliefs. It is related to, but distinct from, hypocrisy and neutrality.
Here are some useful links if you are interested in the topic.
The Principles of Newspeak (broken link)