Orwell’s world is in a post WWIII dystopia. There are three world superpowers, and all 3 are totalitarian communist regimes that control about 90% of the Earth. The rest of the Earth is a bufferzone between the three superpowers that is fought for in an endless stalemate. The protagonist is someone who realizes that the world he lives in is god-forsaken, and there is literally nothing he could do about it. He goes about living, starts breaking some rules, gets caught, has problems, and the book ends with an equally dystopian world as in the beginning.
In other words, the novel was great. Sad, pitiful, and unbelievably pessimistic I found this book to be one of the best I’ve ever read. It deals with a number of philosophical elements – mainly dealing with the lack of freedom in society and the concept of “doublethink”. This is a word I’ve used a bit so far and will continue to use. Basically, the idea of “doublethink” is to believe in two contradictory statements simultaneously. I once read about a survey in which most Americans thought a nuclear war was inevitable, but that more nukes should be built anyways. That would be an example of doublethink, and every person of that world uses it in their everyday lives. ‘WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, and IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH,” a common motto of the people goes.
There is another theme that deals with the control of knowledge. The superpower the protagonist lives in, Oceania, controls all learning of history. In other words, they make history out to whatever they want to be and come a new generation, and no one knows what happened in the past at all. Soon, no one will even know that history was changed (not even the people at the very top of the government), because history was made to not say that. “He who controls the past controls the future, and he who controls the present controls the past,” a government motto goes.
Probably the most major theme of the book has to do with the lack of freedom. The protagonist is watched from television monitors that are basically everywhere, even in his house. He cannot trust anyone, even his own wife (who the government chose for him). Later in the novel, we find out that technology has come to the point where even his mind can be read. The sanctity of our universal human rights (I’ll talk about this term one day and how most of us have no idea what it means and just spout the concept because we’ve been taught to spout it).The lack of freedom in this society makes life completely meaningless for the protagonist – who cannot pursue any sort of happiness or pleasure (be it physical, emotional, academic…). In other words, a lack of freedom is a lack of purpose in life.
The biggest theme for me, though, was something I don’t think most people catch on too. It was basically the fact that in this world, no one was happy. There was no sole dictator at the top of the bureaucratic chain, and even the people up there are not happy. No one liked the society how it was, as it ruined everything for absolutely everyone. And yet, nothing could be done about it. For one purpose to revolt the system means for others to have him done away with. The others that do away with him do it solely because if they don’t, they’ll be done away with. And so on, you have a society that continuously destroys itself because people will never completely join together – because of the invisible hand we will call “fear”. people realize it, too, but there is always the fear that your peers may not realize it, which is far too risky. The structure of the society is made so that it will literally last forever.The three superpowers are in an endless stalemate, and there is no chance of revolution inside each one. Likewise, there is a perfect balance between population and resources that will last forever in an eternal structure with no happiness or joy amongst anyone. Beautiful.