Set in the lap of fear and misery, 1984 is the story of a totalitarian society, created by the author George Orwell. Orwell produced this work in lieu of the complete control of governments that he foresaw, as a sort of warning letter to people against the horrendous tragedies that a totalitarian situation would bestow upon them.
Published in 1949, the title is particularly significant in impressing how close the societies in the 1940’s were to reaching a totalitarian state, and in stressing the importance of realization of freedom over one’s own life. Although disturbing with it’s medley of tortures and repression,1984 is a beautiful story for those willing to open their minds to the possibilities of the world described to them by Orwell, and the message and teachings he intends on his readers through his words.
Winston Smith is a lower rung member of the totalitarian political party ruling London at the time. The unjust and repressive ways of the party are a huge cause of discomfort and unhappiness to Winston, and with time he grows to hate ‘The Party’ increasingly more. He is witness to the unhappiness and hopelessness of the people and sympathizes with them, believe that no one should have to live in fear and that people have the right to freedom of their own way of life.
A completely totalitarian organisation, The Party controls every thought and every move of every soul living in the Oceania region. The Party and the Big Brother, who is the ruling leader of the party, instill fear in the minds of the people through constant reminders and vigilance. There are cameras everywhere tracking every individual’s movements, and the horrendous signboards with ‘ Big Brother is Watching You’ printed on them are a constant reminder to the people that they dare not step out of line. ‘Thought Police’ roam the streets to ensure that no one even has ill thoughts against The Party, and arrests those who so much as even twitch at the bestiality of the party and punishes by death anyone who opposes it or plots against it.
People are not allowed to have sex except for the purpose of procreating party members, and the youth are hired into organisations where they are brainwashed into spying on their parents and other people and reporting any wrong doings to the party members. People are tortured both physically and mentally into believing that the party is all powerful and always correct, to the extent that they have an entire department dedicated to rewriting history and newspapers to control the information that people have and sway their beliefs towards a pro-party viewpoint.
The level of oppression carried out by The Party has the masses living in fear and utter misery. Winston is hugely opposed to this, and in an act of rebellion, buys a diary where he begins to write the tale of his hatred towards the party. A pessimistic and fatalistic man, Winston is convinced of his doom from the second he makes his first diary entry against the Big Brother. He believes that no matter what he does, one day the Party will find out of his disloyalty and punish him severely, and this conviction drives his to rebel further against the Party. He meets a beautiful dark-haired girl while working at the party, and they fall in love, sharing a common hatred for the party, albeit for different reasons. They begin a notorious love affair, which of course is completely prohibited by the party, and elaborately plot their plan for keeping their relationship a secret from the Party.
Many a time, Winston has caught a glimpse of what he conceives to be content for the party, on the face of a senior party member named O’Brien. Believing that O’Brien shares his views about the party, Winston has always hoped to be able to speak to him about it, but always backed down out of fear of being caught. He rents a room above the shop where he bought his diary where he can take Julia to spend time with her without being caught by Party. Their love affair continues, until one day, Winston receives a message that he has been long keen on – O’Brien wishes to meet him.
Julia and Winston go to see O’Brien, who seduces their trust with the false acceptance of entry into the ‘Brotherhood’, which was believed to be a secret organisation that worked in rebellion against the party. O’Brien asks them to read a book which is the manifesto of the Brotherhood and it’s teachings, which they do in the quiet privacy of their little room. One day, while resting, they hear a noise behind a painting, following which they are apprehended by the soldiers of the Party. They are seprated from each other and Winston is taken away to a lockup where he discovers that O’Brien is actually a loyal member of the Party who has been watching him for years.
O’Brien mentally and physically tortures a stubborn Winston in an attempt to restructure his thoughts towards the party. He resists at first, but the last strings holding together his integrity and strength are broken when he is sent to the infamous Room 101, where prisoners are made to face their biggest fears. Winston’s biggest fear is rats, and O’Brien ties a mesh to his face, threatening to release rats into the room to feed on Winston’s face. At this point, he snaps, and begs O’Brien to do it to Julia instead. In this moment, his humanity and freedom are lost, and he accepts the Party’s superiority. He is released back into the world, now an avid admirer of the Party and the Big Brother, when he meets Julia once again. He no longer feels love for her and she too admits to having betrayed him.
The story of 1984 vividly describes the situations of the totalitarian state in Oceania through the emotions of his delicately structured characters. Through different characters, he gives his readers a glimpse of the different ways in which different kinds of people would react and respond and behave in a situation such as the one described in Oceania. Whereas Winston approaches the hopelessness cause by the government with more hopelessness and fatalism, Julia is more optimistic, yet selfish. She rebels against the party to gain personal pleasure, whereas Winston is more concerned with social injustice and the unhappiness of all people in general. In a certain sense, both these characters balance out and complete each other, compensating for each other’s shortcomings.
O’Brien is a mysterious character who Orwell keeps in the dark, depriving the readers of any real knowledge or understanding about who he is and his life in general. Although Julia and Winston believe him to be a member of the Brotherhood, in the end it turns out that he is actually a member of the Party, thus implicitly expressing Orwell’s point that in a totalitarian society, the people can never truly understand what information is true and what is actually the propaganda of the government, hence their lives are controlled by what the government ‘allows’ them to know.
Although the story of 1984 is not for the weak hearted, it is a must read for those who love to invoke their social consciousness and open their eyes to not yet existent but potential possibilities. The audiobook of 1984 is narrated perfectly to take it’s listeners into a parallel reality, where the dystopia of totalitarianism is existent in society, and gives them a very vivid taste of the sufferings of the people in a society like that. The story explores the depths of concepts such as the use of physical and mental torture to manipulate people, and the highly disturbing impact a control of language used for manipulation can have on a society.
The persistence and height of oppression described by Orwell unnerves listeners into projecting themselves into that alternate world, creating a self proclaimed opposition to such a society ever coming into existence. Through his life like descriptions of the brutal tortures and the crippling fear of the people in a totalitarian society, Orwell successfully persuades his readers against such a society. Mournful yet gripping, this audiobook is a must have experience for one and all!