Nineteen Eighty-Four is probably the most iconic piece of dystopian fiction to date. Unlike some modern examples of the genre, George Orwell’s classic focusses more on the internal struggles of the protagonist than the external struggles of the people.
We begin our story with protagonist Winston Smith. He is just an average, middle-aged man working in his average, middle-class government job. Except he isn’t average; he’s a thought-criminal. And his average job includes rewriting history to fit the narrative of the dystopian government he works for.
Winston is caught between a rock and a hard place. Does he trust the deep instinctual yearnings in himself that scream at him how things should be different, better? Or does he hide his feelings and try to avoid death and the subsequent destruction of all records of his existence?
Nineteen Eighty-Four does not focus much on the overthrowing of government or ending the dystopian structure in which the protagonist finds itself. Instead, it is grounded far more in reality – which actually makes the world that Orwell imagined a far scarier concept.
If you were stuck in a world where the government controlled every aspect of your life and where Big Brother was constantly watching you, would you really be able to form a rebellion? Would you really risk having your entire existence wiped from history for just a (slim) chance at freedom?
Or would you rather follow the norm? Stay alive and find a way to reconcile the way you live and the doctrines of the Party with what you feel should be the right way of living? In fact, don’t we do that already?
Orwell has found a way to place us all in the shoes of Winston. He has found a way to craft a world so real and believable that it sparked the boom of an entire genre of literature. It is a world that seems so plausible and close to reality that it almost makes your skin crawl when you read it. Despite its short length, it manages to achieve a level of worldbuilding that some fantasy writers fail to do in an entire series.
When I first read this classic piece of dystopian fiction I was captivated with every page. When I finally got to the end of Winston’s journey, I was terrified. For a writer to pull off what Orwell did, despite some of his political ideals, one has to give the highest praise. I highly recommend this book to all readers of dystopian fiction and urge all writers of the genre to study it as deeply as they can!
Who says we have free will, when so much of how we live is dictated by the structure of society? Who says we have privacy when it becomes increasingly easy to spy on someone and track their every move? Who says we have freedom of speech, thought, movement, when at every turn you find censorship, outrage at opinions, and closed borders?
This book serves as both a great story and a grave warning to us Winstons of the modern world.
Writing in the Fast Lane thanks The Writing Raven for writing and sharing their review of Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwel. If you’re on Instagram, be sure to give their account, @the_writing_raven a follow!