I know a lot of people are going to be astounded when I saw this, but I’ve never read Nineteen Eighty-Four, mainly because when I took in English in High School, I switched constantly between Honors and Regular, meaning I missed out on certain books and re-read ones I had already read before. (Still don’t understand how high schoolers don’t like Shakespeare. Always liked that.) Either way, I just started it now, and I like it so far.
My general impression is not so much happening action wise, but a lot of world and character building. I’m only on page 36, so it may be too soon to make any general comments, but I feel like this book is more on an author exploration of a what-if we lived in a totalitarianism society? The comments are really deep and exploratory, really diving into the character’s conscious and thoughts, and what really brings these pages to life are the parts exploring humans social behavior.
Orwell has really delved into bringing some of the psychology of these governments to life.
In a lucid moment Winston found that he was shouting with the others and kicking his heel violently against the rung of his chair. The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds any pretense was always unnecessary. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture… (Orwell 14)
I really liked how this discussed the theory of mob think, Even though I have not taken psychology, I have heard of this before, and in my mind this made sense and sounded like an exact description. Even though the character did not feel like they have to act, because of the feeling of the crowd, he was ‘forced’ to participate. To me, this felt very realistic and truthful, and I loved the character’s reaction to it:
Winston’s entrails seemed to grow cold. In the Two Minutes Hate he could not help sharing in the general delirium, but this subhuman chanting of “B-B!…B-B!” always filled him with horror. Of course he chanted with the rest: it was impossible to do otherwise. (Orwell 17)
This above only stated how Winston feels, and although it doesn’t give us any new information besides this character’s single reaction, and it was a very strong paragraph. And to be fair, even though nothing of particular interest has happened in the book yet (besides writing in a diary), this book has kept me caught just because of the character’s reactions and reflections on his memory and of current society.
I think this is Orwell’s strength so far: Writing about feelings. I don’t know whether he has explored human nature or social behavior, but I feel like what he writes is very truthful and observant and makes some wonderful comments on how we behave.
TLDR: Orwell’s 1984 book is good so far, and his strength is writing about the social behaviors of people in a totalitarian society.
Orwell, George. Nineteen Eighty-Four. Centennial ed. New York, NY: Penguin Group, 2003. Print.