Winston Smith has always been a dutiful citizen of Oceania, rewriting history to meet the demands of the Ministry of Truth. But when Winston grows to hate the totalitarian party and begins to think for himself, he soon realises it is impossible to hide his betrayal from the watchful eye of Big Brother.
I’m not entirely sure why I forced myself through a reread here. I don’t particularly remember enjoying 1984 the first time around – maybe I thought I was missing something? I can assuredly say now that I was not.
He disliked nearly all women, and especially the young and pretty ones.
Winston is not only obnoxious, but he gives off some seriously fucked up incel vibes. He’s attracted to Julia when he first sees her, but our first description of her is how much Winston hates her because she’s too attractive to be interested in him. However, once Julia reveals her attraction to Winston, he suddenly has nothing but nice things to think and say about her. He couldn’t be more transparently, disgustingly, shallow.
It struck him that the truly characteristic thing about modern life was not its cruelty and insecurity, but simply its bareness, its dinginess, its listlessness.
Overall, though, I found 1984 to be mind-numbingly boring. It took me five days to read 350 pages – it should’ve taken less than a day. But the neverending descriptions are difficult to parse. Orwell gives us paragraphs to describe the most minute details, but there’s no context when it comes to something interesting – like why Winston would trust two strangers with his life. Winston makes eye contact with a man, sees the ‘intelligence’ in his eyes, and that’s enough to risk everything? I get being desperate for connection and meaning in such a bleak existence, but you’ve got to give me more than that.
By the time we get to anything even minutely interesting
(O’Brien’s betrayal, Winston’s imprisonment, and O’Brien torturing Winston back into his brainwashed state),
I was pretty checked out and over the whole thing. There isn’t any actual resolution, which is likely the best part about the entire book, but it contributes to the apathy I felt about the whole thing.
I can see why this book has been so prevalent in academia and popular media for so long. There are, of course, aspects similar to the world we live in now, and I understand the warning that many have taken from the narrative about Big Brother. But, unfortunately, today’s media and political landscapes have turned this from a commentary on leadership and freedom to right-wing propaganda filled with incel rage. It left behind a disagreeable, pathetic feeling that I did not appreciate or enjoy.