Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
Since the inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the United States of America, George Orwell’s Classic dystopian novel 1984 has enjoyed something of a renaissance. This follows the moment that Trump’s adviser Kellyanne Conway coined the term “alternative facts”, after being asked to explain why press secretary Sean Spicer made a statement riddled with inaccuracies. A number of journalists seized on this statement and subsequently referred to Ms Conway’s comments, as Orwellian.
Nineteen Eighty-Four is set in Airstrip One (Great Britain), a province of the superstate Oceania in a world of perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance, and public manipulation. The superstate and its residents are dictated to by a political regime euphemistically named English Socialism, shortened to “Ingsoc” in Newspeak, the government’s invented language. The superstate is under the control of the privileged elite of the Inner Party, a party and government that persecutes individualism and independent thinking as “thoughtcrime”, which is enforced by the “Thought Police”.
The tyranny is overseen by Big Brother, the Party leader. They “seek power entirely for its own sake and are not interested in the good of others; The protagonist of the novel, Winston Smith, is a member of the Outer Party, who works for the Ministry of Truth (or Minitrue in Newspeak), which is responsible for propaganda and historical revisionism. His job is to rewrite past newspaper articles, and historical records in a way which supports the party line. These corrections are referred to euphemistically as fixing misquotations and never as what they really are: forgeries and falsifications. A large part of the Ministry also actively destroys all documents that have been edited and do not contain the revisions; in this way, no proof exists that the government is lying.
The novel concerns Winston Smith a diligent and skillful worker who lives on Airstrip one, the remnants of Britain broken down by war, civil conflict, and revolution. He is A member of the middle class Outer Party and works at the Ministry of Truth, or “Minitrue”, as an editor. He is responsible for historical revisionism; he rewrites records and alters photographs to conform to the state’s ever-changing version of history itself, rendering the deleted people “unpersons”; the original documents are destroyed by fire in a “memory hole”. Meanwhile Telescreens in every building, accompanied by secret microphones and cameras, allow the Thought Police to identify anyone who might compromise the Party’s régime. Children are encouraged to inform the officials about potential thought criminals, including their parents.
Despite being good at his job, Winston discovers the real past and secretly tries to get more information about it. he begins writing a journal criticizing the Party and its enigmatic leader, Big Brother. By doing so, he commits a crime that, if discovered by the Thought Police, warrants certain death. Winston then meets Julia, a young woman who maintains the novel-writing machines at the ministry after she surreptitiously hands Winston a note confessing her love for him. Winston and Julia begin an affair after Winston realizes she shares his loathing of the Party, Winston is approached by O’Brien, an Inner Party member who is an agent of the Brotherhood—a secret underground society that intends to destroy the Party. O’Brien gives Winston an illegal copy of “The Book”, The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism by Emmanuel Goldstein, which explains the concept of perpetual war, the true meanings of the slogans “War is peace”, “Freedom is slavery”, and “Ignorance is strength”, and how the Party can be overthrown.
Unfortunately the Thought Police capture Winston and Julia and send them to the Ministry of Love (Miniluv) for interrogation after being reported by his landlord Mr. Charrington, the shopkeeper and O’Brien, who are both in fact Thought Police Agents who are investigating suspected thoughtcriminals. O’Brien Tries to cure Winston of his manifest hatred for the Party and to end his “stubborn, self-willed exile” through re-education, controlled manipulation of perception and torture and tries to get Winston to say something incriminating about Julia. O’Brien then sends Winston to Room 101 for the final stage of re-education, a room which contains each prisoner’s worst nightmare in an effort to stop him thinking for himself and rebelling against Big Brother…