Seventy years ago, George Orwell published 1984, and it since has had an impressive run as a work of political prophecy – throughout history, readers have been able to draw parallels between the social, political and economics structures found in the book and the ones found in their own lives.
In Orwell’s frightening depiction of the future, the world is divided into three totalitarian inter-continental superstates, Eurasia, Eastasia, and Oceania. The story follows Winston Smith, a citizen of Oceania who works for the Ministry of Truth, where his job is to rewrite historical records to conform to the state’s ever-changing version of history. He secretly opposes the Party’s rule and secretly dreams of rebellion, despite knowing that he’s already a “thoughtcriminal” and will be condemned to die if he’s ever caught. As the book continues, we see Winston rebel further against the Party, as not only does he fall in love with a co-worker named Julia – as love is forbidden, and the only purpose of marriage is to procreate – but he also gets involved with the Brotherhood, a secret organization dedicated to the downfall of Big Brother (Whether or not he is a real person or rather a personification of Oceania such as Uncle Sam is to the US or Britianna is to the UK is unknown).
There are a myriad themes found in 1984 which have retained their relevance even today. From invasive surveillance (Do you know how much personal information Google and Facebook have on you?) to historical negationism (Remember when the president lied about how large the crowd was at his inauguration?) to doublethink (How many people in recent years have you seen utilize fascist tactics in the name of stopping fascism?), George Orwell’s criticisms of a society going in the wrong direction are timeless, and have given readers throughout history the warning signs to watch out for.
1984 has become a classic literary example of political and dystopian fiction, and parallels have been drawn between the novel’s subject matter and real life since its debut, but the novel is a story, not a work of political theory, which is why, in the end, it’s probably why literature people keep reading it. These days, it’s likely that the overt political material is skipped by most readers, which is still okay, because it functions just as well as a story about a man in a dystopian future resisting a totalitarian government. So if you’d rather read an engaging novel rather than a political essay, 1984 is still for you.