Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
It is nineteen forty-eight and George Orwell sits at his desk, putting to paper his premonition of what life will be like in the year nineteen eighty-four. Censorship, thought-control, totalitarianism and inequality define life in Orwell’s late twentieth-century world as he paints a bleak picture of an extreme actualisation of one of humankind’s inherent fears: loss of control, power gone awry and dependent thought.
It is now two thousand and twelve and while our living rooms may not feature intercoms connected to Big Brother, the basic sentiment of Orwell’s political satyr has come to a degree of realization. Walk down a London street and you can almost guarantee that some part of you is being watched, or at least recorded, by one of the countless closed-circuit television cameras that pepper the streets, the buildings and the underground of England’s capital. No one would deny the very real threat of terrorism and the need to actively protect ourselves against it (except maybe, a terrorist). No one would deny the benefits of capturing theft and thuggery on camera and thereby actively combating crime in our cities (except maybe, a criminal). But how do you feel about having your every move monitored by you-don’t-know-who? How do you feel about having your face plastered across a screen monitored by someone you will never meet? While it may not be your greatest concern in life, I would be very surprised if it didn’t leave you with at least the faintest trace of uneasiness. The twenty-first century world is a far cry from what it used to be.
George Orwell’s novel is a poignant depiction of censorship and thought-control, as pointedly satirical as his political novella, Animal Farm. With his deliciously good grammar and powerful command of the English language, Orwell tells a very human tale set in a very inhuman world and provokes a train of serious thought as to the nature of human society. You don’t need to like politics to appreciate the blatant themes of Nineteen Eighty-Four. You simply need to be human, to have an interest in your own way of life and to consider for a moment what it might be like if humankind’s hunger for power and dominance one day wins.
It scared me.