George Orwell’s classic book, 1984, was originally written by him in 1948, before being published in 1949. The novel covers a lot of the fears which Orwell and others had about the presence of totalitarian states at that time, and what it may mean for the UK to enter into totalitarianism.
The story follows the protagonist Winston Smith and shows a part of his life when he comes to realise just how corrupt the state is, and his beginning to rebel against it, before being utterly broken by the state in the end. The story takes place in Oceania, one of the three super-states which the world is divided into, with all three states being in perpetual war. The novel is set in London, which has been renamed to ‘chief city of Airstrip One’, helping set the tone for the ugly naming themes that were popular to totalitarian states at that time. Smith himself is employed at the Ministry of Truth as an editor, whose job it is to change old newspaper articles to contain up-to-date ‘true’ information, while in reality, it is merely the state changing history to fit the lies that they need to tell. Smith is well aware of what he is doing, as shown throughout the story, but he is constantly reminded of his powerlessness in the situation to change anything. The story borrows from many real-life events that were happening during the Soviet Union at that time, such as someone becoming an unperson, someone who has not only been killed but removed from all historical documents and photographs.
The novel covers themes of love and fear and is considered by many to be a highly politicised book. While there are parallels with the Soviet Union, Orwell was careful not to draw too many similarities, as he wanted to ensure that the reader was aware that life could very well be worse than the Soviet Union, if the UK were to follow the same road.
Reviews of 1984 are generally always positive, and the book remains on nearly every must-read list, particularly in academic circles. The book has won numerous accolades and is regularly listed on ‘best novel’ lists, being listed on Time magazine’s 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005. It is undoubtedly a must-read for anyone looking for dystopian novels.