George Orwells 1984 is one of the most important pieces of political fiction; it is a timeless political satire that demands to be read to be truly appreciated. Published in 1948, and set 36 years into the future, 1984 eerily depicts where the world is going, where the truth is shunted and lies are promoted by all mainstream media. Perhaps one of the most powerful science fiction novels of the twentieth century, this apocalyptic satire shows with grim conviction how the protagonist Winston Smiths individual personality is wiped and how he is recreated in the Partys image until he does not just obey but loves Big Brother.
Some critics have related Winston Smiths suffering to those Orwell underwent before the writing of 1984. Orwell maintained the idea that the novel was written with the intention to alter other peoples ideas about the society they should strive after. But perhaps, to truly understand the concepts explored and the purpose it was written, we should first consider the historical context of the novel, the period leading up to the writing of 1984 in order to answer just what kind of book he was writing.
One of the things that make 1984 such an important work of political fiction is the fact that it was written in a period of unprecedented political instability. It was the end of the worlds great imperial powers and the rise of a new age of politics. Democracy, fascism and communism were vying for dominance and the outcome of their struggle could not be predicted.
Most people at the time were content to read 1984 as a straightforward allegory of the about the melancholy fate of the Russian revolution. From the minute Big Brothers moustache appears in the second page of the book, people were immediately reminded of Stalin just as how the despised part heretic Emmanuel Goldstein is like Trotsky. This however did not prevent the novel being marketed in the US as an anticommunist tract.
Written in 1948, 1984 arrived in the Mccarthy period where communism was seen as a worldwide menace. The Korean War (1950-53) would soon follow and highlighted the alleged communist practice of ideological enforcement through brainwashing. That something very much like brainwashing happens in 1984, in lengthy and terrifying detail, to its hero, Winston Smith, did not surprise those readers determined to take the novel as a simple condemnation of Stalinist atrocity.
This however was not Orwells intention. Though 1984 gave comfort to generations of anti communist ideologues, its main purpose was to condemn the ill effects of totalitarianism. But to understand what fueled his hatred of totalitarian regimes we must first consider the life George Orwell led and the world at that time.
George Orwell was born Eric Arthur Blair, in India 1903 into a middle class family. The name George Orwell was a pseudonym that he wrote his novels under. He was the son of a British civil servant and was brought to England as a toddler. The boy became aware of the clear class distinctions while attending St Cyprians preparatory school in Sussex where he received a fine education but felt out of place. He was often humiliated and looked down on as he was not from a wealthy family like the others. This experience made him sensitive to the cruelty of social arrogance. As a partial scholarship student whose parents could not afford to pay for his scholarship, Orwell was often reminded of his lowly economic status by the school administrators.
Conditions improved at Eton where he studied next with Aldous Huxley as his French tutor. Later, Orwell wrote of being relatively happy at Eton as the school allowed students much independence. But instead of continuing his university classes, in 1922 Orwell joined the Indian imperial police. Stationed in Burma, his class consciousness intensified as he served as one of the hated policemen enforcing British control of the native population. He was troubled by the caste and racial barriers that had...
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