Doubleplusungood – 1984 by George Orwell

I do regularly write for my school newspaper, and recently I drew up an article on 1984 by George Orwell. To cure my blogging slump, I’ve now translated that article into English with some minor changes and decided to share it with you. Do enjoy.

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The Second World War had just ended when in 1949, George Orwell published his last novel. In a world crumbling of post-war-atmosphere and a dawning Cold War, Orwell tried a look at the year 1984, distant future to him. Considering the world around him, it’s no wonder that got rather pessimistic.

In his worldwide renowned dystopia, Orwell conjures a world separated into three superstates instead of numerous smaller ones; Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia. The three are constantly at war, a war whose fronts and alliances are as changeable as it’s goal is unclear.

Through the eyes of his protagonist Winston Smith, Orwell describes life in Oceania, the allegory of a totalitarian state. Every aspect of everyday life is meticulously controlled by “The Party”, lead by the mysterious “Big Brother”.

This Big Brother and the regularly cited sentence “big brother is watching you” have found their way not only into reality television, but also political debates.

After all, Orwell confronts the reader with the perfect surveillance state. Omnipresent, so-called telescreens watch the civilians at all times, from waking up to going to bed, while sleeping, eating, dressing, working and even spending their scarce freetime. Even critical thoughts concerning the political system are condemned as crimes (“crimethink”) and the Party is working at establishing a new language (“Newspeak”), that makes them literally impossible.

Winston, employed at the “Ministry of Truth”, describes his surroundings with mild disgust, but also the knowledge of absolute powerlessness. Only slowly does he find ways of silent resistance, for example by documenting the actual course of events in a diary. And then, he meets Julia, with whom he starts an affair. Bolder and bolder they try to find niches in a system of absolute control.

Orwell’s novel isn’t comfortable. It’s captivating, but also aggrieving, so terrifying the society he creates, so total the powerlessness of the individual.

Still, “1984” is more than worth the read. Not only is it gripping to the last page, it also palpably illustrates, why it is so important to defend freedom and privacy against pretended safety in times of terrorism and mass data collection. Because total surveillance would be disastrous for all of us. Or, to say it in Newspeak, doubleplusungood.

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