Eric Arthur Blair (June 25, 1903 to January 21, 1950), known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English novelist and essayist, journalist and critic, whose work is characterized by lucid prose, his critique of social injustice, an opposition to  totalitarianism, and an outspoken support of democratic socialism.

As a writer, Orwell was renowned for his contribution to literary criticism and poetry, fiction and polemical journalism; and is best known for the allegorical novella Animal Farm (1945) and the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949). His non-fiction works, including The Road to Wigan Pier (1937), documenting his experience of the working-class life in the north of England, and Homage to Catalonia (1938), which is an account of his experiences soldiering for the Republican faction during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), are as critically acclaimed as his essays on politics and literature, language and culture. In 2008, The Times ranked George Orwell second among “The 50 greatest British writers, since 1945”.


1984 is a dystopian novella by George Orwell published in 1949, which follows the life of Winston Smith, a low-ranking member of ‘the Party’, who is frustrated by the omnipresent eyes of the party, and its ominous ruler Big Brother.

Big Brother is Watching You.

‘Big Brother’ controls every aspect of people’s lives. It has invented the language ‘Newspeak’ in an attempt to completely eliminate political rebellion; created ‘Thoughtcrimes’ to stop people from even thinking of things regarded as rebellious. The party controls what people read, speak, say and do, with the threat that, if they disobey, they will be sent to the dreaded Room 101 as a looming punishment.

The landscape of the dystopia George Orwell created in 1949 exists in the minds of even those who’ve never picked up the novel. It has become a shorthand for totalitarianism, for the surveillance state, for the power of the mass media to manipulate public opinion, history and even the truth.

An excerpt from 'Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984)' by George Orwell

The protagonist, Winston Smith, begins a subtle rebellion against the party by keeping a diary of his secret thoughts, which is a deadly thoughtcrime. With his lover Julia, he begins a foreordained fight for freedom and justice, in a world where no one else appears to see, or dislike, the oppression the protagonist opposes.

Orwell effectively explores the themes of mass media control, government surveillance, totalitarianism and how a dictator can manipulate and control history, thoughts, and lives in such a way that no one can escape it. He warns against the dangers of authoritarianism. His dystopian state offers a horrifyingly realistic and devastating view of a society wherein one does not have the freedom to say what one thinks. The population must slavishly believe in a single party and a single ideology, where language is degraded to such a state that it serves only the government. And the silent masses are the backdrop to this work. The book is brilliantly written with a searing conscience – combining the illumination of an intriguing idea and the narration of a cracking story.

Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.

The book does have a bit of a reputation (read notoriety) for being a bit pedantic, and that’s not inaccurate; there are entire chapters in the book that are chapters from a political book within the book explaining the basis of the society.  Some readers might consider those chapters to be some of the best in the book – a lot of detail laid out quite concisely, while others may look at it as just a long political discussion. However, what truly holds everyone is the fate of its protagonist, Winston Smith, his lover Julia, and their doomed attempt to taste freedom. The book succeeds because it is no manifesto, but an absorbing, deeply affecting story. All characters are well written and plausible, if not likable.

Ameya Rating:

In a nutshell, the novel creates a world so imaginable, so complete that to read it is to experience another world. And fiction cannot achieve a higher goal, which earns it a rating of 4.3 out of 5. A mix of romance, suspense and dystopia, Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) is based on two simple words – “What if?” and is a must read for everyone.

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