Book Review: 1984, and Truth against totalitarianism

I just finished reading 1984 by George Orwell for the first time. Somehow, this book was not part of my high school reading curriculum. I feel like my high school English class had a huge reading list, and each class read only a selection — friends of mine read 1984, and my class read Brave New World, which I loved.

This book is a must-read for anyone who feels compelled to understand the psyche of fascism and totalitarianism.

If a reader comes to this book looking for character development, reasonable plot pacing, or much scene work beyond didactic dialogue, they will not find it. They will also be missing the point. From a story perspective, I really enjoyed the section focusing on Winston and Julia’s relationship, even if their time together ended rather abruptly.

Orwell’s story is a mechanism to explain the idea that totalitarianism seeks control as an end itself. The ideology doesn’t matter. Control over every aspect of life – even over thought, if it can be achieved – is the entire aim of the totalitarian system. To gain power over people and keep it is the only goal.

This book is a product of its time and timeless, as applicable a warning against fascism now as it was seventy years ago. As a lover of history, I was interested in the alternative rendering of the post-WW2 order, but I know there are likely other stories where this is the focal point, rather than the exposition dump Orwell uses. This section was particularly frightening to me as the end of the book drew near, as it provided a view into a world where Truth does not matter – even upon learning the truth about your reality, a totalitarian system’s entire existence is predicated on controlling you in spite of it.

Steve D