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Review George Orwell 1984

George Orwell’s 1984 is certainly a classic that has made its way into pop culture. Whenever I read political news about novel surveillance acts, their proposal or implementation, be it from the Five Eyes, China, Germany or some other state, I read at least one comment that compares the news to George Orwell’s 1984 – which, when that happens, is called Arken’s law (similar to Godwin’s law). The reasons for all these references is the dystopian society that Orwell depicts in his story, consisting of extreme surveillance, propaganda, and violence if a person deviates from the established ideology; and political critics seeing similar issues arising with contemporary policies on state surveillance, e.g. CCTV and others. As such, Orwell, in the year 1949, has modelled a world that is still relevant today, which manifests itself in various awards, e.g. from Time magazine or BBC, critical acclaim, and the mentioned references in popular culture.

However, this review does not only deal with the novel’s popularity, but it considers the plot and character development, that is the quality of the novel itself. Disclaimer: I read a translation and not the original version. The novel starts of well to introduce the main character and the world, so immersing yourself into the world is solely a matter of your imagination. Unfortunately, when developing details of the world, in particular the relationship between the two main protagonists, the quality of the plot falls short. Although, the idea of developing the relationship for the further purpose of the plot makes perfect sense in hindsight, it was executed poorly. In the middle part, where this development happens, the plot drags on and on - tedious - without much happening. Instead of feeling the characters, feeling the world, the reader is more likely to rationalize why this development needs to happen, for it is the necessary epitasis, the rising action, to the climax that the readers will find in the last third of the story. Contrary, the last third is very tense and makes up for the dull middle. It really gets under your skin and lets you wonder until the very last moment how the plot will wrap up – a nail biter, so I could not stop reading during the last 100 pages!

Interesting side note, my opinion aligns with C. S. Lewis’ criticism, “claiming that the relationship of Julia and Winston, and especially the Party’s view on sex, lacked credibility, and that the setting was ‘odious rather than tragic’” – which I found on Wikipedia while researching details on the book.

Summarising, this book is an entertaining read with some tedious moments in the middle. Given its popularity, it definitely makes sense to read it. Due to its relevance and original plot it gets one extra point that makes up for the literary shortcomings.