Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Pop History Moment: Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four" Published

On this day in 1949 George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four was published, by London's Secker and Warburg...

PhotobucketReception to the novel was originally cool, but once it started being banned, interest understandably picked up; today it is considered a classic not only of dystopian science fiction but of world literature, having been translated into sixty-two languages. Over the past six decades, many of its terms have entered the public lexicon as well, as has its author's name been adjectivized. So while the world today looks nothing like the world described in the novel, its depiction of media-enforced Fascism as predicted by its author cannot be discounted.

The book follows an ordinary man, Winston Smith, as he attempts to find a glimmer of enjoyment in his highly regimented life; he undertakes a forbidden love affair with a young woman named Julia, but his real crime turns out to be a combination of critical thinking and keeping a diary to record it. Later arrested for thoughtcrime, the Thought Police incarcerate him in the ironically named Ministry of Love, where he is tortured in Room 101.

Given the novel's accurate depiction of the role the media would play in controlling the populace of the future - viewscreens in every room, both visible and audible and entirely unavoidable wherever one goes - the real media has sought to dull some of the book's harsher concepts by turning them into easily mocked television programs, shows whose ubiquity only serves to prove my point. The genuine fear of an overarching dictator such as Big Brother has become a reality show in which yobs and yobettes struggle mightily to reduce the already vile opinion of humans in each others eyes to an even lower ebb; similarly, Room 101 has been reduced from the epitome of horror to a chat show in which celebrities get to indulge in public hating, presided over by the genial (if slightly sinister) Paul Merton.
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1 comment:

Y | O | Y said...

This should be required reading!