Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Summer Reading Challenge: 1984 by George Orwell

I've been meaning to read this book for sooo many years and finally I've got around to it. And I liked it I did, but it's not my favourite dystopian read I have to admit. Please, before crucifying read the rest of this for my reasoning!

There are lots of aspects about this book that I really like and I obviously completely get why it is such a well known and referenced thing. When I was reading this there were so many aspects that I already knew about; Big Brother is watching you, Room 101, Newspeak etc. In a way, that might be why I feel like I enjoyed other dystopian books (such as Brave New World and We) because this book is so well known. I enjoyed learning more about the society but there was a lot that I already knew about it just because it is so well referenced in our society. I can understand how when it was first published it would have been amazing and mind blowing, but to me it was very expected. I wasn't particularly shocked by the society because it fulfilled my expectations. I also found the plot rather predictable, again because it is by now not so original. Guy lives in so-called 'perfect' society, guy develops doubts about society, meets a girl, becomes actively engaged in rebellion against said society, it doesn't end particularly well. Both We and Brave New World feature similar plots, but ultimately I found their worlds more engaging. 

That's not to say that I was completely familiar with everything about the book before I started. I had misinterpreted Room 101 due to the fact that my only experience of hearing about it was the TV show and a speaking and listening assignment at GCSE. I definitely cringed when reading about Winston's experiences there! Additionally, I really liked the meeting between Winston and Julia at the end. I think it showed how unconquerable their society is, in the end everyone will give in to Room 101. However, I don't feel like 1984 has that much of a plot. It's strength lies in the qualities of the ideas that it explores. My favourite moments were when Winston is reading the manifesto as I liked learning more about the history of the system. Without sounding macabre, I also really liked the parts where he is in the Ministry of Love as it was the section that was genuinely new to me. 

Ultimately, while I enjoyed this book I much prefer Brave New World. I just find the conflicting modes of viewing the world, one very scientific and one based on the morals of Shakespearean plays, very interesting. Whilst I found the world of 1984 interesting, I found that Brave New World did more with the society. I enjoyed the exploration of morality and I felt like it took the challenge to the society further than 1984. It moved past the stage of 'man is dissatisfied with society, meets woman, it goes well for a bit then ends badly'. It spend more time exploring the effect of the conflict of views which I found interesting. Whilst Brave New World is my favourite, I also find I prefer We to 1984. Firstly, I enjoy the slightly more science fictiony elements to We, as well as the storyline involving the society on the other side of the wall. I think ultimately that the thing I like about both of the other books is the way they create a counter point to the 'perfect' society as it really opens both ways of living up to debate. Whilst the society in Brave New World isn't perfect, neither is living life with only Shakespeare to influence your moral decisions. So although I like 1984, I doubt I will re-read it as it doesn't have a plot that I find particularly compelling. I know the society now, and have all the information I need from it. And yes, it is a scary society, and yes it is interesting to compare it to how we live life now. But ultimately, for me, the scariest society is the one cultivated in Brave New World. 1984 punishes those who think unapproved thoughts or read banned books, but Brave New World presents a society where people don't even want to do those things. They don't have to burn books to stop people reading them because people just aren't interested in them in the first place. In a way it is much more frightening to see a society where people just allow themselves to be ruled because they don't care, rather than one where the government is trying to oppress those who disagree. That being said, I wouldn't exactly be thrilled to find myself being led toward Room 101...

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