To read George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984 has been on my bucket list since forever, and I’m not even sure why. I suppose it’s because these two books are iconic and they are referenced quite often. This is especially true for 1984. Who hasn’t heard/used the phrase “be careful, Big Brother is watching you” or something similar? I read Animal Farm last year, and I’m glad to finally have read 1984 as well. I also have a vain reason why I really wanted to read 1984: it’s the year I was born.
Having read Animal Farm before and heard a lot about 1984, I had a general idea what I was going to be reading as I started the book. But even that didn’t prepare me for the actual world described in the book, and the complete, palpable horror I felt at some points in reading it.
The first time I felt this horror was when I was reading the part where the main character, Winston Smith, was reading another book (whoa, book inception!). The book he was reading was supposedly a manual for rebels, and the parts he read was explaining the world they were living in and why it’s the way it is. The horror was that it felt like I was reading an actual non-fiction work describing OUR world! *shivers*
Then there are the plot twists, which were insane, but supposedly expected in this kind of work. I must’ve been reading too many YA-romances and otherwise happy-ending-stories that for a moment there I thought this book was going to be about Winston rising above the horrific situation all in the name of love. And I thought they would succeed and live happily ever after. At the risk of spoiling this to those who haven’t read the book: nope.
It’s a good thing that the copy I owned had an afterword because otherwise I don’t know how I would feel after this book. It felt good to be reminded by Erich Fromm that this book was supposed to be a warning, and luckily things haven’t gotten as bad as Orwell expected it to be, although one wonders if maybe it will happen in the future still. And yet, and yet, as Erich Fromm also notes, there’s a sort of hope that we all share, a hope in humanity, a hope that people won’t succumb to being turned into loveless, thoughtless creatures. They didn’t back in 1984, we haven’t now in 2014, and hopefully it still will be just a horror story and not reality in 2084 and beyond.