What I’m reading: “1984”

Back in July, I wrote about how I had ordered “Hillbilly Elegy” since it had become a consistent title on the non-fiction bestsellers list. In that same order, I also bought George Orwell’s “1984.”

1984You would have thought I’d have read something by Orwell in school, but you’d have been wrong. I did read “Animal Farm” on my own the summer before college, but it wasn’t until now I picked up a copy of “1984.”

After Donald Trump was elected, “1984” and “The Handmaiden’s Tale” are titles that were thrown around a lot. Having read neither, I thought I should figure out what they were talking about and discover for myself if it was a reasonable comparison.

Well, before I got around to reading it, my husband picked it up to read.

I think we both came to the same conclusion – it had a rather unsatisfying ending. But perhaps that’s just because it’s not a happy ending.

There are definitely comparisons to present day. (As an owner of an Echo Dot, the convenience/creepiness of the telescreen both being watched and surveilling is not lost on me.)

But the book seems to imply that it’s pointless to even try and rebel against perceived injustice and that totalitarian regimes cannot fail. That in the end, rebellion won’t matter at all. At least, that seems to be the case for Winston and Julia.

Certainly, totalitarian regimes are dangerous and likely happen slowly before people realize what freedoms they’ve relinquished. And once installed, an entire government/social system isn’t going to fall overnight. But they can be brought down. As history has shown, totalitarian regimes can and do fail when enough people rise up against them.

Maybe Orwell isn’t such a pessimist and someone else in his imagined world will be able to accomplish what Winston and Julia couldn’t, but I still don’t think it ended well.

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