“Who controls the past controls the future”

1984_coverIt was a lively and boisterous discussion when the Brown Baggers met on Thursday, September 21 to discuss George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel 1984.

1984 has been a frequently challenged book and ranks as high as #5 for the most challenged books of all time- it has been challenged and banned in many US schools. During the Cold War, a teacher in Minnesota was fired for refusing to remove 1984 from his reading list. In 1981 it was challenged in Jackson County, Florida for being pro-communism.

1984 follows Winston Smith through his increasing distrust of Big Brother in the country of Oceania. Oceania has a highly structured class system consisting of the Inner Party, the Outer Party, and the Proles. The Inner Party made up the smallest portion of the population and held the power. Winston belonged to the Outer Party where he worked for the government rewriting history and was under constant surveillance, as were all the members of the Outer Party. Winston had grown tired of his life and Big Brother and wanted to join the revolutionary brotherhood to help bring down the government. And, he thought he found a like-minded person in a higher up from the Inner Party, but soon learns that he can’t trust anyone and that going against Big Brother has the harshest of consequences.

Some readers enjoyed the dystopian novel while others had a hard time getting into and finishing the novel. Many of the Brown Baggers had read the novel in high school and noted that rereading it now didn’t hold the same amount of interest that it used to. Several readers mentioned that the themes in the book- censorship, power structure, control of information- weren’t anything new.

Most agreed that the issue of language in the novel held great importance, for if you control language then you can control thought. However, one problem with language is that everyone has different ideas of what words mean, even when hearing something at the same time. Others mentioned that words can limit meanings and also be the “ultimate weapon.”

Overall, readers felt that Winston tried to be a heroic figure in the sense that he wants to topple Big Brother, but in the end he loses the struggle. Some thought that the novel was a warning about the loss of humanity.

Reviews and articles:
By Isaac Asimov
By the New York Times
Biography of George Orwell
Orwell versus Huxley

Read alikes and authors mentioned:
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Sinclair Lewis
The Giver by Lois Lowry
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Red Rising by Pierce Brown

The Brown Baggers will meet again on Thursday, October 19 at noon to discuss A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.

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