100 Book Project: 1984

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Book Title: 1984

 
Author: George Orwell

 
Number in #100bookproject: 9

 
Level of Recommendation: Extremely High

 
Favourite Quote: “But if the object was not to stay alive, but to stay human, what difference did it ultimately make? They could not alter your feelings; for that matter you could not alter them yourself, even if you wanted to. They could lay bare in the utmost detail everything that you have done or said or thought: but the inner heart, whose workings were mysterious even to yourself, remained impregnable.”

 
Tied with –

 
“ ‘At the time when it happens,’ she had said ‘You do mean it.’ He had meant it. He had not merely said it, he had wished it. He had wished that she and not he should be delivered over to the –

Something changed in the music that trickled from the telescreen. A cracked and jeering note, a yellow note came into it. And then – perhaps it was not happening, perhaps it was only a memory taking on the semblance of a sound – a voice was singing
                                                                                              ‘Under the spreading chestnut tree
                                                                                                 I sold you and you sold me.’”
Review: In short 1984 is one of the best, if not the best, dystopian novel you will ever read. George Orwell was a writer who thrived on creating essays, and novels that focused on political criticism and exposing the injustices of his day. 1984 is the pinnacle of Orwell’s fears, beliefs and political agenda. 1984 is so influential and was so ahead of its time (it was originally published in 1949) that certain modern day terms like Big Brother, thoughtcrime, telescreen, Newspeak and Orwellian (referring to official deception, secret surveillance and manipulation of recorded history by a totalitarian or authoritarian state) spawned from it.

 
1984 is set in a dystopian future where multiple wars have divided the world into three superpowers, one of them being Oceania, which is the combination of countries formerly known as Great Britain and The United States. Winston, the main character of the tale, lives in London, which is the capital of Air Strip One (a.k.a former Great Britain). 1984 is told primarily through Winston’s perspective – apart from a few pages that a presented in the form of another book that Winston is reading. Therefore, everything we know about the party and Big Brother is given to us by Winston. There are so many great twists and turns in 1984 that I don’t want to give away any of the plot (if you haven’t ready it already).

 
So here is a short summary – Winston works for the party in the Ministry of Truth, his job is to alter books and newspapers so they reflect the Party’s version of history. He is a middle-aged man with ailing health who secretly hates the Party. This, of course, is dangerous because the Thought Police are constantly seeking out those disloyal to the party. Yet Winston cannot help his growing disdain for his situation and through a series of events he begins to become more and more rebellious; he begins to write in a diary, starts an affair with a young woman named Julia, and eventually attempts to join a resistance against the party.

 
For the rest of the story, you’ll have to read it for yourself. But to continue the review, in my opinion there are two things that make 1984 a masterpiece. One – Orwell’s ability to predict a future that in many ways is coming true and his skill in presenting the reader with a world that you not only absolutely believe in, but at the same time manages to eerily mirror the terrors of our own.
In 1949 computers were barely a concept yet Orwell managed to see a world where computers and screens (what he called telescreens) were such an integral part of everyday life that they were used to monitor and control citizens. Of course when the actual year 1984 rolled around Orwell’s vision was still a little far off, but if we compare it to now, when everyone has multiple screens in their homes and mini screens in the form of cell phones constantly on their bodies we see the truth in Orwell’s predictions.

 

 

Additionally, in 1984 these telescreens are used to spy on citizens of Oceania and motivate them to be what the government wants them to be (for example in 1984 a women appears on the screen every morning to conduct an exercise class and if citizens didn’t participate the camera in those telescreens would report that to the Thought Police, who would in turn see that as disloyalty.) Does a government agency spying on us through technology in our homes sound at all familiar to our modern world? Patriot Act anyone? Not to mention our constant saturation of media outlets and social media outlets telling us what we need to look like, sound like and act like in order to be acceptable to society.

 
Somehow seventy years ago Orwell saw elements of this in our future and more than that saw the danger in it. And as the popular saying goes ‘Big Brother is always watching’. Orwell made that theology possible, before that technology to make Big Brother a reality was even remotely close to being created.

 
Lastly, in regards to point number one it has to be said that there is a section of 1984 where Winston is reading a book that explains the origins of the party and the ‘necessity’ of it. I won’t go into details, but the amount of political intellect that Orwell crams into maybe ten or twenty pages is stunning. And this political examination not only fits into the world of 1984 it easily fits into Orwell’s world of the 1940’s and our modern day world.

 
That to me is an insane genius, but maybe that’s just me.

 
Now for Two – Orwell’s mastery of pace and language is incredible. Orwell’s vivid descriptions move with the tone and progression of the characters. For example in the beginning Winston’s world is very cold, grey and sterile yet as he begins to develop a sense of who he is and a desire to rebel he begins to see beauty, colors, sounds and sensations that are vivid and succulent.

 
Orwell’s subtle change in language to signify character development is brilliant as well. For example, about two-thirds into the story (after Winston has been sleeping with Julia for a while and has made moves to move towards becoming a rebel agent) he uses the word ‘gelatinous’ to describe how he feels in the morning and then goes on to think about why he chose that word. In the context of Winston’s world, that is a monumental thought – the kind of the thought that could get him caught by the Thought Police. But you see that’s the beauty of Orwell choosing to use that word. By placing such a lavish word in Winston’s vocabulary, he is showing how much Winston has grown and how ready he is to take on the party, simply by thinking a certain word.

 
In a similar fashion after some very intense stuff goes down – stuff that makes Winston and Julia’s relationship impossible to regain – Winston sees Julia. They talk and he thinks about wanting her, but throughout their interaction Winston refers to her only as ‘she.’ This is a subtle craft technique, but by choosing to refer to Julia as ‘she’ Orwell is showing that Winston has evolved again and a woman he once so desperately loved is now no more than a thing to him.
I could go on and on about all things I love about 1984 including how Orwell gives the reader an ending that they don’t want but is so poignant and in turn serves as a warning for not only the future but the fragility of the human soul.

 
But – I won’t do that. Instead I will leave you with this, if you’ve been reading/watching dystopian literature/movies and thinking well these are predictable, have the same characters and same plot, etc. – then 1984 is for you.

 
If you have any interest in political criticism and satire – 1984 is for you.

 
If you have any interest in works about the future that lean towards science fiction – 1984 is for you.

 
If you want to be challenged, and made to think about the state of the world like never before – 1984 is for you.

 
If you want to be riveted and thoroughly engrossed in a book – 1984 is for you.

 
If you can read – 1984 is for you.

 

Next Up: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

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The Wonders of the Desert

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Over these past couple of months, I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to travel quite a bit. In July I went to Montreal with my big sister, Naomi and about a week ago I got back from a trip where I went to see friends in Albuquerque, NM and Denver, CO. Spending time in New Mexico was particularly interesting to me as I’ve never been in the South West before and the culture, landscape, and people out there are perhaps some of the most unique I’ve experienced in the states.

Spending time in the desert was a treasured experience and I loved the subtlety of it. I would wake up and there would be a cool breeze. I’d get ready, eat breakfast on my friends porch then we’d head out for the day. My first day in Albuquerque my friend insisted I take a bottle of water with me on our travels. I didn’t think I needed it, but desert heat is different to tropical heat (I do live in Florida after all). It sneaks up on you. You start off thinking ‘oh, this is nice. There’s no heat’ then four hours later your throat is dry as hell, you’re sweating and you’re struggling to breathe. That water bottle comes in mighty hand at that point. The heat crept up on me. It wasn’t direct or in my face, no it was slow, steady and almost secretive. After spending a few days out there, I could see how being stranded in the desert could be torturous. But it also gave me this incredible appreciation for the life that managed to survive out there. Small patches of plants and wildlife flourished, and that was intriguing to me.

I left the desert for the green mountains of Colorado and didn’t really think about surviving in the desert again until the Sunday I got back from my trip. My mother’s church had a guest speaker from England, and the pastor (a long time family friend) insisted we attend the service. So my entire family dragged ourselves out of bed and attended the service. During worship, I felt the presence of God and became emotional (as I sometimes do ). And during that time I began to write. Now, there have been many times in my life when I feel the presence of God and I just start writing. I’m usually half crying through it and can’t understand what I’m writing. As silly as this might sound to some people, I know the thoughts that pour out of me during that state are not my own. I truly believe they come from God, and when I finished writing and read what I’d written, I was amazed to see it was about the desert.

A subject that in the Bible is often used to represent a time of hardship or seeking, but somehow as taken on a new meaning for me after actually experiencing the desert. To me, it’s more about appreciating what the desert can teach you and make you appreciate. Anyway, I think this particular combination of words is meant for more than just me. So before I share a little of what it means to me, here it is:

And if I tell you to move

It’s not to set against you or to hurt you

I know there are things that you desire

Things you don’t understand why they are being denied to you

But have you stopped to consider the wonder of the desert

There is a way to be made; an endurance to be created

Since while it may seem all-consuming at this moment, your life, your work is vast and there is a time I must bring you through

A time where you are seemingly denied every desire of your flesh

But my dear it’s only a time, only a moment in our love story

And I know you resent me, I know there is pain but I’m still here. I am still loving you even though it seems I couldn’t be further away

This is not a punishment or an unasked for sacrifice. It’s a time for me to stretch your heart little by little

And if you have to weep, if you have to crawl through the pain and heartache know that I am walking beside you, wiping the sweat from your brow and ready to carry you if need be

But you’re my daughter of Zion and you are stronger than you think. So focus on this, focus on the green pasture, just over there

Over the next hurdle. It’s right there and I promise it’ll be more than you can imagine if you can make it through this desert with me at your side.

 

For me, this word came at a time when I’ve felt a little lost and confused. I’ve always had specific dreams but since graduating from college it seems like the struggle just to live and take care of my responsibilities has overshadowed those dreams. I’ve also had some things that I really wanted denied to me, and right now it hurts. But in the long term it may turn out to be something that makes me stronger and more of the woman God wants me to be. In short this word reminded me that I know what I want; I just have to be faithful enough to fight for it.

And being in the desert for a week showed me that although it can be exhausting, there is a real beauty in the act of walking through a desert and choosing to see the life that grows where nothing is supposed to. If fields of sunflowers can bloom in the desert heat, then I can endure and I can make it to whatever lays beyond the next hurdle.

I hope it inspires you too.

Until next time,

Be Blessed,

Grace