In George Orwell’s classic novel, 1984, a dictatorship controls society by controlling its ability to think and perceive reality.
The reader is introduced to The Party and learns of its methods through the eyes of Winston Smith, as he works at his job at The Ministry of Truth. There, he re-writes history to match whatever present claim The Party is making, while simultaneously destroying all evidence that the past has ever been anything but its present version. Orwell makes the point that if history is a lie, than truth cannot exist in the present, and the population will accept whatever it is told. Another character at the Ministry of Truth is systematically altering how people think by eliminating words from the dictionary. If people cannot know the truth, and also lack the ability to find words to express their thoughts, they simply give up.
When we first meet Winston, he has already decided to go against The Party. He has committed a “thought-crime” by buying a diary, and beginning to record his thoughts and the events of his life. This is not allowed, because private citizens are not allowed to record a version of events other than that of The Party. With this act, Winston begins a series of infractions, including entering into a romantic relationship (also forbidden) and finally contacting a member of what he believed to be the opposition.
1984 is not about a revolutionary, it is about a simple man who is distressed by the world in which he lives, and just wants to believe that there is absolute truth in something. When I began reading 1984, I expected it to be sort of like a Will Smith film: a futuristic story of rebellion and technology, but what I realized is that Winston’s life is actually happening to us. Many of us do not look beneath the surface of what we are told, and even more of us lack the words to express our own ideas. How could a government exist that dictates how and what I should think? It may already be here. This book was disturbing while at the same time enlightening.
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