Room 101; ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ by George Orwell [1948]

ne4Dystopian fiction; either it is something prevalent beyond the time in which it is set, or it is too limited, out of touch, or ridiculous, and is forgotten. Dystopians are such, as a comment on society and its failings, that to be significant beyond the period in which it is written is to reflect how politics never really changes. Doctrines alter, people rebel; inherently we will all end concluding Politics and Government have run us into the ground.

Nineteen Eighty-Four will forever remain a novel prevalent to its time of reading, irregardless of personal political leaning; however, I found it a real struggle.

Written in 1948, 1984 was George Orwell’s chilling prophecy about the future. And while the year 1984 has come and gone, Orwell’s narrative is timelier than ever. 1984 presents a startling and haunting vision of the world, so powerful that it is completely convincing from start to finish. No one can deny the power of this novel, its hold on the imaginations of multiple generations of readers, or the resiliency of its admonitions. A legacy that seems only to grow with the passage of time.Synopsis from GoodReads

I would say that until Part 3, I was reading 1984 because I felt I should, not because I wanted to. As my friend Sophie rather humorously tweeted me, “1984 is the cabbage of books: you read it because it is good for you, not because you enjoy it.” While the History of the world was interesting, it felt as if I had to read for intelligence purposes, rather than wanting to read for the sheer enjoyment.

1984 is written beautifully; Orwell was clearly incredibly intellectual and very in tune with political flow, however, I found his representation of women frustrating. Immediately women are seen as weak, easily susceptible to propaganda and swallowers of party doctrine with little to no questioning of logic. Outside of the party, Prole women are resigned to the role of cook, fighting over saucepans and other rare utensils in the market.Page 81

‘Julia was twenty-six years old. She lived in a hostel with thirty other girls (“Always in the stink of women! How I hate women!” she said parenthetically).’

Our protagonist Winston Smith is a fascinating, multi-faceted character, however, the same can not be said for his female companion Julia; a two dimensional aggravation. Her appearance, sexuality and confidence all reflect elements of masculinity; she is not a feminine creature. At points she attempts to become feminine, wearing make up or desiring to wear dresses, but it is for the sake of a misunderstood convention, reflecting the past traditions Big Brother rejects, rather than expressing her female side. Whether this is Julia adapting to her patriarchal environment, or a reflection of Orwell’s attitude towards women, I do not know.

Youthful and rigidly liberal, Julia is undeveloped; she does not see, or try to understand, the wider political scope Winston observes. Where Winston deconstructs Big Brother’s ideology, Julia, like a teenager rebelling from her parents, is merely fighting rules she does not comprehend. By the end, I felt Julia had served merely as a plot device to further Winston’s journey; a dystopian manic pixie girl.

I won’t go on to describe Part Three of the novel, because like cabbage, you need to consume it. However, I can say that the philosophy was marvellous; makes me want to open my old University books to try and counter Big Brother’s methodology.

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3 Comments on "Room 101; ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ by George Orwell [1948]"

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Kya
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I want to read this book. It is disappointing that women are represented in that way. I guess it could be because of the time or like you said his personal views. Dystopian worlds really interest me, especially in fiction because you can see more interesting characters dealing with much more complicated scenarios. If they are written well. :P

Charlie
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There is definitely a difference. I know you might not be referring to YAs as such, but whilst there are messages there, there is so much emphasis on love that those messages get forgotten. And it’s hard to believe they were a focus. I haven’t read it yet, and it’s interesting to read about the female characters. Weird in a way, because whilst it might make sense that given his era Orwell didn’t see women the same way as us, you’d think perhaps he would include empowered women in his idea of a dystopia, whether because he would think it… Read more »
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