NINETEEN EIGHTY - FOUR George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair) was born in 1903 in India. In 1907 he came to England with his parents. From 1922 to 1927 he served with the Indian Imperial Police in Burma and wrote his first novel "Burmese Days" in 1934. Then he worked as a teacher and bookshop assistant and after he had seen the mass unemployment in Lancashire and Yorkshire he wrote "The Road to Wigan Pier" where he used his experiences. In the end of 1936 he went to Spain to fight for the Republicans and was wounded. Later he wrote the book "Homage to Catalonia" about the Spanish civil war. From 1941 to 1943 he worked for the BBC Eastern Service and then he wrote for several newspapers (Tribune, Observer, Manchester Evening News). In 1945 "Animal Farm" was published and in 1949 "Nineteen Eighty - Four" followed. These two books brought Orwell world-wide fame. In January 1950 he died in London. To understand the story it is necessary to know something about the country (and its political system) where it takes place. In the year 1984 the world is split up among three superpowers: Oceania (which consists of America and England), Eurasia and Eastasia. These countries are constantly at war with one another. This story takes place in London, in Oceania which is under total control of the English Socialist Party (called Ingsoc) and is lead by a fictive person that is shown on all coins, posters, ... (called Big Brother). On top of the society stands the Inner Party, whose members control everything, followed by the rather poor members of the Outer Party, who have jobs in party organisations and have to be completely obedient. Except for these groups of party members there is the huge mass of proles, who have no rights but are not controlled as strict as the Outer Party members. The language of Oceania - which is of course English - shall be reformed to a simplified form, called Newspeak. The aim is to reduce the number of words and to make it impossible to express feelings or own opinions. Nearly all organisations of the party have Newspeak names: e.g. Ingsoc, Minitrue (Ministry of Truth). In each flat there is a telescreen, a device to receive the party’s propaganda programs that can’t be switched off. It has also the function to watch the people in their flats. This control is done by the Thought Police that takes "thought criminals" (people who think differently than the party, this is the worst crime in Oceania) to the Ministry of Love (Miniluv) where they are imprisoned and tortured. There are also lots of party organisations, for example the Spies, a youth organisation. The members are taught to find "thought criminals" among their relatives, also their parents, their friends, neighbours, ... and denounce them to the Thought Police. Oceania has one declared enemy: Emmanuel Goldstein. In a daily "Two Minutes Hate" and a "Hate Week" every year the people of Oceania are told about him and his organisation (the Brotherhood) and urged to fight against this enemy although neither Goldstein nor the Brotherhood exist. Another typical feature of Oceania is its economical system: Except for the Inner Party members all inhabitants of Oceania have a constant lack of nearly all goods. This is caused by Oceania's planned economy and the fact that the main task of economy is to produce weapons. The party has only one aim: to control everything. Because of that also the past is controlled, that means old newspapers and books are corrected until they tell about the past what the party wants.
The party also wants to forbid all emotions and is strictly against sex, it wants children to be begotten by artificial insemination (artsem in Newspeak) and let them grow up in party institutions to make good party members of them. The main characters of the story are: - Winston Smith, a member of the Outer Party who works in the Ministry of Truth and corrects old issues of the "Times" - Julia, also Outer Party member; she works in the Fiction Department of Minitrue - O’Brien, a member of the Inner Party
Winston Smith was born before the revolution and is not really satisfied with the system but he doesn't dare to protest. He buys a diary in a stationery one day that is owned by an old man. Winston wants to write a diary to keep at least some remembrances for the future. One day during the "Two Minutes Hate" he sees a girl in the Minitrue. He feels that he loves her but at the same time he hates her and is afraid of her because he thinks that she is from the Thought Police. But a few days later this girl - her name is Julia - hands Winston a paper where she tells him that she is against "them" - against the party. Winston and Julia decide to meet in the area around London because there is a smaller risk of being caught there than in town. Later they lend a room above the old man's stationery because they think it is safe to meet there. They decide to do something against the party. One day they visit O'Brien because they think that he is also against the party. O'Brien tells them that he is a member of Goldstein's Brotherhood. Winston and Julia also join this organisation and a few weeks later O'Brien sends them a book by Emmanuel Goldstein where he explains the political system of Oceania. While they are reading the book in their room men of the Thought Police burst in and arrest them. The old man who owns this house turns out not to be an old man but a Thought Police member. Winston and Julia are separated and taken to the Miniluv. There Winston is tortured by O'Brien, who is of course not a Brotherhood member. After some time in the Miniluv Winston is totally changed and follows every order without thinking. Then he is released. In freedom he meets Julia again but he doesn't love her any more. The book ends with the sentence "And he loved Big Brother", which shows that the brainwash has been successful, that Winston has become an obedient party member. George Orwell wrote this book in the years 1946 to 1949, just after the 2nd World War and the breakdown of the Third Reich. In "1984" he describes a Communist system, but it could also be a Fascist one - it is a general description of a totalitarian system. Because of that many parallels to other systems, especially to Nazi-Germany can be seen: one leader who is mystified; the Inner Party members, who have a lot of privileges; the Thought Police and as equality the GESTAPO, the telescreen - the Volksempfänger, the Spies - the HJ or BDM, and many more. A very interesting fact is also the existence of one enemy who is blamed for everything. Orwell chose the name Goldstein for this enemy which is a Jewish name because of the fact that Jews were the enemy in the Third Reich but were also prosecuted in the USSR. Orwell also shows the different groups of people in such systems: One group is really convinced that this system is the best for the country, only a few people are against it but most of the people follow without thinking, even if they are not really satisfied.
The system of Oceania is described as much more perfect than all systems that have ever existed in reality. This example should force us to do everything possible to avoid totalitarian systems and dictatorships in future.