Orwell, George - Nineteen Eighty-Four

George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Book Report, Background, Personal evaluation, Creative Task change of perspective, Referat, Hausaufgabe, Orwell, George - Nineteen Eighty-Four
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Book Report

George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

Nineteen Eighty-Four was originally published in 1949 by Secker & Warburg in London. The book describes the life of the protagonist Winston Smith in a totalitarian world. It is often called a “dystopian novel” because it describes a very negative future in which the government controls everything and everybody is under permanent surveillance.

Background information

The real name of George Orwell was Eric Arthur Blair and he was born in 1903 in British India. Four years later his family returns to England and he attends the Eton College from 1917 to ’21. Eton is one of the most famous and expensive British colleges and he could study there only through a scholarship. Afterwards he went to the Indian Imperial Police for five years because his family couldn’t afford a place at the university. But there he just learned to hate imperialism. Back in England he decided to become a writer and in 1933 he published his first book Down and Out in Paris and London. 16 years later Nineteen Eighty-Four was his last book. Originally he wanted to name it The Last Man in Europe, but his publisher preferred Nineteen Eighty-Four. George Orwell died one year later of tuberculosis in 1950 in London.

Synopsis of the context

Winston Smith lives in the destroyed London of the year 1984 and his country, Oceania, is at war. Oceania is one of the three superpowers which rule the world; the other two are Eurasia and Eastasia. These three countries are always at war, but this is only what the government, the “party”, claims. Winston works at the Ministry of Truth where old newspaper articles are changed so that the past is always as the party wants it, the party can hereby change the past.

But Winston starts to stand up against the system by writing a diary that makes his memories less likely to be changed. Everywhere in his world are so called Telescreens”, some sort of TV with a build in surveillance camera. From them and from the fact that the leader of the party is called “Big Brother” comes the famous term “Big Brother is watching you”.

Later Winston meets Julia, his new girlfriend with who he has forbidden sex and who is an accomplice in his fight against the party. He also meets the party member O’Brien who seems to be an accomplice, too, but later turns out to be the enemy. Both meetings have to take place secretly because any suspicious behaviour might be reported to the police and result in arrest. O’Brien seemingly makes Winston and Julia members of the “Brotherhood”, an antigovernment organisation under the lead of Emmanuel Goldstein. Soon afterwards Winston and Julia are arrested.

In prison Winston is tortured and confesses all sorts of crimes. But this is not the aim of the torturer, O’Brien. He wants to “cure” Winston and make him believe everything the party says. After Winston is tortured in “Room 101” with the thing he fears most, rats, he surrenders and now loves Big Brother.

Personal evaluation

Why I chose the book: Everybody knows the term “Big Brother is watching you” and you here “Orwellian state” quite often, too. So I wanted to find out if there are any more interesting facts in this book which seems to have so much influence on our daily language. Additional we are coming closer to a state of total surveillance and I was curious how people thought about this almost 60 years ago.

Why I don’t like the form but really like the content of the book: All the time I read Nineteen Eighty-Four I thought of the GDR and the Nazism. There are so many similarities; there is for example a very rigid police, Thought Police and Gestapo and SS; all opponents of the government are chased and eventually tortured; and the government tells lies all the times. Orwell might have known the structure of the Nazism, but he surely hasn’t known the structure in the GDR. Nevertheless his descriptions would fit perfectly. I think they would fit to almost every totalitarian country in the world. This is the fascinating part of Nineteen Eighty-Four, it shows that every totalitarian regime seems to act in the same scheme. Even if Winston eventually looses the book is kind of a warning to everybody that we should
definitely fight against totalitarianism.

The problem with the book is that it’s boring, maybe because it’s so old. But most of the time it tells you nothing at all. The plot and the message could have been perfectly summarized in a dozen pages. Of course you can do this with most other books to, but they normally have side stories and are filled with thrilling elements. Nineteen Eighty-Four has none of those, especially in the middle it becomes extremely boring: Winston reads a book from Goldstein, and on fully forty pages you only read this book with him. There is only one short interception and on the rest of those forty pages is not one single spoken word, no change of perspective, and not even something new is mentioned. During this passage I stopped reading for many weeks because this part is so useless to the book and was so boring to read.

Why I would not recommend it to my friends but to the Kultusministerium: As I mentioned above, if you just want to know the message of the book, it’s much more efficient to read a summary. This book is not entertaining. Long parts of it are more like a manual to build your own totalitarian state. But it would fit perfectly in school, and not only to one subject but at least to English, History and Social Studies. It could be read in English class and in History could the past be studied while in Social Studies you could have a look at the present situation. Then you would have the needed motivation to read the book and you would get the right connections to past and present totalitarian countries in the real life.

Creative Task – change of perspective

He was lying on something that felt like a camp bed, except that it was higher off the ground and that he was fixed down in some way so that he could not move. Light that seemed stronger than usual was falling on his face. O'Brien was standing at his side, looking down at him intently. At the other side of him stood a man in a white coat, holding a hypodermic syringe. Even after his eyes were open he took in his surroundings only gradually. He had the impression of swimming up into this room from some quite different world, a sort of underwater world far beneath it. How long he had been down there he did not know. Since the moment when they arrested him he had not seen darkness or daylight.

The perspective of O’Brien:

Smith was lying on some sort of a camp bed, just a little bit higher off. He was fixed to it with straps. The light in the room was very strong to distract him. I was standing besides him, looking down at him. Opposite of me stood the doctor, holding a hypodermic syringe. Smith’s eyes were open, but he didn’t seem fully aware of his environment. Instead he seemed to be confused; he must have lost all sense of time. Since the moment he was arrested he hasn’t seen any natural light, neither from the sun, nor from the moon.

George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four. Penguin Student Edition, London 2000

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