All entries for Tuesday 11 October 2005

October 11, 2005

Nineteen Eighty Four

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My favourite book is 1984 by George Orwell. When I first read it as a teenager it had a profound impact on me. At the time I was just realising that the world is a pretty screwed up place, all in all, yet my peers and most adults accepted it cheerfully and without question, or at least seemed to. In Winston Smith, the book's protagonist, I found a soul mate – another who knew something was deeply wrong but couldn't express it nor find an ally in his plight.

Particularly profound was when Winston obtains a copy of the banned book The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism by underground resistance leader Emmanuel Goldstein. Just as Winston had found a description of the true nature of reailty in Goldstein's book, so had I in Orwell's book.

I'm older now and naturally no longer have such a messianic opinion of 1984. But I have read it many times and, though I have never studied it formally, have spotted the following apparent flaws and problems:-

  • In the first chapter Winston turns down the volume on the telescreen. Why would he ever have turned it up to need turning down?
  • Why are telescreens unaffected by power cuts?
  • Why do O'Brien and others write the Goldstein book? Is it accurate?
  • Is The Times actually published and printed? If so how can it be constantly rewritten with any credibility?
  • How does Julia obtain real coffee etc? Is it from corrupt inner party members and if so does she sleep with them? – if so why is she interested in pasty outer-party Winston and his itchy ulcer? If she just buys it on the black market then how come Winston never got in on the action with all his visits to prole areas?
  • Is there a genuine affinity between O'Brien and Winston? Does O'Brien take more time and effort over winston than your average subversive?

If anyone has any solutions to these, or any problems of their own with the book, I would be intrigued to hear.

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