Nineteen Eighty-four

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Author: George Orwell, pen name of Eric Arthur Blair, was a 20th-century English novelist.
Set in London, in Airstrip One province of Oceania, one of three superstates in the fictitious year 1984, this novel describes the annihilation of individual belief and freedom by the state, represented by the Party and its leader Big Brother. The protagonist Winston Smith, along with his lover Julia, seeks to escape its ubiquitous monitoring, with grim consequences. Written in post-World War II England, the story draws on the inhuman practices of Nazi Germany and Communist Russia, to create the dreadful world of a totalitarian state, today termed ‘Orwellian’.
The year is 1984, but Winston is not sure, as every piece of information is repeatedly altered and the past rewritten or rectified. He works in the Records Department of Minitrue, Ministry of Truth, falsifying news and records, averting contradiction with past predictions or statements, or naming unpersons, people who have been vaporized. Miniluv, Ministry of Love, tortures people; Minipax, Ministry of Peace, wages continuous war; and Miniplenty, Ministry of Plenty for economic affairs, maintains a state of deprivation.
Enormous posters of Big Brother, whom nobody has seen, captioned ‘Big Brother is Watching You’, are everywhere. Party slogans are: War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Ignorance is Strength. Oceania, encompassing roughly erstwhile America, Britain and Australia, runs by principles of INGSOC or English Socialism; Eurasia, encompassing Russia and Europe, by Neo-Bolshevism; and Eastasia, encompassing China, Japan and Korea by Death-Worship meaning Obliteration of Self. Perpetual fighting occurs in the remaining area, mainly Africa and South Asia, which provide the superstates with slaves.
Oceania is alternately at war with one of the superstates and in alliance with the other. Everyone claims that the current enemy has always been the enemy, even if they were allies recently. This is possible by doublethink, the principle of concurrent coexistence of contradictory ideas. Two-way telescreens receiving and transmitting simultaneously monitor every gesture and word. Children spy on their parents and turn them over to the Thought Police.
Oceania has three classes: Outer Party members like Winston; Inner Party members, the select elite like the intriguing O’Brien; and Proles or Proletariat, the masses, who are monitored less. However, Minitrue produces Prolefeed, – low-quality literature, music, films, and news. Julia is a mechanic in Fiction Department in Pornsec manufacturing pornography Prolefeed.
Newspeak is being created to eradicate all undesirable words, a much-reduced grammar-less version of Oldspeak. For instance, since ‘good’ denotes everything compliant with INGSOC ethos, ‘ungood’ denotes everything else. Superlatives like ‘excellent’ or ‘splendid’ are ‘plusgood’ or ‘doubleplusgood’, rendering thousands of words redundant.
Winston surreptitiously commits thoughtcrime, – dissent or dissatisfaction against Big Brother. Daily necessities like razor blades are hard to find. Victory brand coffee, saccharine instead of sugar, and malodourous oily gin, the only available drink, repel him. Party members wear shapeless overalls, blue for Outer and black for Inner Party. Finding an antique shop with oddities like twelve-hour clocks, now replaced by twenty-four hour ones, in the Prole quarter, Winston buys a diary and a pen with real nib, writing ‘Down with Big Brother’ eluding the telescreen. Ink-pencils have replaced pens; one dictates into the speakwrite, throwing scrap papers into memory holes.
Everybody participates in Two Minutes Hate daily, telescreens displaying the Enemy of the People Emmanuel Goldstein. The audience erupts hearing his venomous attacks on Big Brother. Hate Week is organized to foster hate for Goldstein, rumored to have vast underground networks called The Brotherhood, who follow The Book, a compendium of his teachings. Winston suspects O’Brien belongs to The Brotherhood.
Winston’s parents and infant sister disappeared long ago. He is officially married since divorce is not permitted, though separated from his wife for years. Romantic liaison is prohibited, marriage permitted solely for procreation. Julia initiates an affair with Winston taking meticulous precautions against discovery. They communicate during meals or on crowded streets in whispers never looking at each other, travelling separately by circuitous routes to their secluded rendezvous in the country on Sundays.
Winston rents a room above the antique shop from elderly widower Charrington, meeting Julia there regularly, who brings black market coffee, sugar and chocolates. Julia tenaciously discharges her duties in the Junior Anti-Sex League but secretly flouts all its tenets. Julia accompanies Winston when O’Brien invites him home, ostensibly to give Winston the latest edition of Newspeak Dictionary. O’Brien has exclusive privileges like servants, wine, and a telescreen which can be turned off. O’Brien gives Winston Goldstein’s Book.
In their hideout, Winston reads The Book to Julia. It explains the superstates are too well-matched for a conclusive victory, war carried on mainly to utilize surplus production. People are controlled by deliberately distorting reality in the name of loyalty to the Party. Newspeak will ultimately prevent all thoughtcrime, as there will be no words to express forbidden concepts. They are arrested by Charrington, a member of the Thought Police in disguise.
For months In Miniluv, Winston is interrogated by O’Brien, one of the writers of The Book. With no sunlight or clocks in windowless rooms, Winston loses all sense of time. He is starved and mercilessly beaten, and incriminating confession is extracted from him. In the second stage, he is strapped to the bed and electrocuted, till he learns to see five fingers because the Party says so, though he physically counts four. O’Brien shows Winston his broken, withered, hairless, toothless mirror image, but allows Winston food and respite till he recovers. Winston believes he has not betrayed Julia, since he confessed but still loves her, which O’Brien comprehends.
In the third stage, Miniluv cures all rebels and teaches them to love Big Brother. Winston is transported to Room 101, where each convict’s particular phobia, ‘rats’ for Winston, is unleashed. A mask is attached to Winston’s head, with a removable barrier between his face and ravenous rats. Winston finally succumbs, pleading to do it to Julia, not him. On release, Winston gets a cushy assignment. Neither Winston nor Julia, who has lost her attractive figure and attitude, feels any love towards the one they betrayed, but only towards Big Brother.

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