REVIEW: 1984

Eagle's Stare


1984 is probably the best-written book I’ve pulled from the shelf to date. That there’s an absorbing and urgent narrative here as well is icing on the Orwellian cake. The lessons of Oceania transcend era and have lasting value for those working to organize and uplift society.

It’s as if Orwell has reached into the future and touched the mood of the present. One can connect with ease Orwell’s cautionary dystopia to the depredations of American privacy that have surfaced in just the last couple of years. Much of 1984’s quirky “Newspeak”—terms like thoughtcrime, doublethink and Big Brother—have been absorbed into the modern idiom. Among the rarefied collective of the greatest writers the English language has ever known, George Orwell painstakingly crafted a penetrating, prophetic tale, a world within a world, a spiraling ideascape whose tendrils integrate seamlessly with the realities of modern life.

Here’s a small sampling of the winged brilliance flanking the reader at every turn:

He was a fattish but active man of paralyzing stupidity, a mass of imbecile enthusiasms – one of those completely unquestioning, devoted drudges on whom, more even than on the Thought Police, the stability of the Party depended.” (p. 22)

She had a bold, aquiline face, a face that one might have called noble until one discovered that there was as nearly as possible nothing behind it.” (p. 66)

Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.” (p. 70)

But there was still that memory moving round the edges of his consciousness, something strongly felt but not reducible to definite shape, like an object seen out of the corner of one’s eye.” (p. 122)

To hang on from day to day and from week to week, spinning out a present that had no future, seemed an unconquerable instinct, just as one’s lungs will always draw the next breath so long as there is air available.” (p. 152)

What opinions the masses hold, or do not hold, is looked on as a matter of indifference. They can be granted intellectual liberty because they have no intellect.” (p. 210)


Recommended companion reading:

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932)
Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman (1985)

1984 cover

Signet Classics edition

Note: This review is mirrored over at Goodreads and at Amazon.

Feature image: Eagle’s Stare by cookzkie