A Book Review: 1984, A Dystopia That Forbids Love and Reason

Nineteen Eighty-Four

“Cowards forbid love, they are already captive to the earth / All crying streets need real love…”

These lines are from Deja Vu‘s song “Sistem”. (The song is in Turkish.) They have always reminded me of 1984. When I read the most famous dystopia of the literary world years ago, it led to earthquakes in my world of ideas and emotions. It continues to be one of the books which inspire me the most.

The subject is briefly as follows: Post World War II, the world is divided into three. There are three countries, one of which is Oceania. The book is about the rebellion of Winston Smith, who works for the Ministry of Truth in Oceania, in a country ruled by Big Brother. If you haven’t read the book, what follows this paragraph may contain spoilers. To avoid them, you can skip to the title “1984, Obsessions and Other Things” in the last part and read from there.

A photo from the 1956 film adaptation.

You are in a country where a pair of eyes are always watching you. You have duties. You are only allowed to show loyalty to that pair of eyes, the Big Brother, and to hate his enemies. Both the thoughts passing through your brain and the emotions flowing in your blood are subject to inspection 24/7.

Any tendency that might break loyalty and turn into rebellion is crushed in its infancy. Take words… How dangerous can words be? The state introduces new dictionaries, eliminates words it deems unnecessary, and ensures through Newspeak that dangerous thoughts cannot form in people’s minds.

Can you describe what white is if there is no such word as “white”?

What if freedom if there is no such thing as “freedom”?

“The word FREE still existed in Newspeak, but it could only be used in such statements as ‘This dog is free from lice’ or ‘This field is free from weeds’. It could not be used in its old sense of ‘politically free’ or ‘intellectually free’ since political and intellectual freedom no longer existed even as concepts, and were therefore of necessity nameless. Quite apart from the suppression of definitely heretical words, reduction of vocabulary was regarded as an end in itself, and no word that could be dispensed with was allowed to survive. Newspeak was designed not to extend but to DIMINISH the range of thought, and this purpose was indirectly assisted by cutting the choice of words down to a minimum.”

1984, George Orwell.

When words and their associated meanings are destroyed, the mind’s only way out is to observe and compare the data through logic. Think of birds. They can fly as they like and travel anywhere in the world. An Oceanian citizen cannot leave his city without permission. Looking at the birds and looking at himself or herself, however, he or she can somewhat discern what freedom is.

Doublethink So That You’ll Be As If You Have Never Thought

Here, the state develops a new approach to castrate reason using the philosophy that “it takes a thief to catch a thief”: Doublethink!

As defined by Wikipedia: “Doublethink is a process of indoctrination whereby the subject is expected to accept a clearly false statement as the truth, or to simultaneously accept two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct, often in contravention to one’s own memories or sense of reality.”

We can exemplify it as follows: War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.

“To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again: and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself. That was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word ‘doublethink’ involved the use of doublethink.”

1984, George Orwell.

The art of deceiving yourself… Isn’t it awesome? The Big Brother’s party has thought of everything out for its citizens. I would almost think 1984 was a utopia, not a dystopia. After all, isn’t every dystopia a utopia, and every utopia is a dystopia? ☺️

You will speak simple. You will think simple. You will speak and think when and as the Party wants.

Ministries

War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.

“Who controls the past, controls the future. Who controls the future, controls the present.”

George Orwell

After the tools which enable the public to question whatever information they are presented with are destroyed, the only remaining job is to control the flow of information. This, in fact, is a very easy process for the Party. They broadcast through all communication tools and control them. They rewrite history. They alter the publications, newspapers, photographs, and films of the past, that is, all its sources of information when they see it necessary.

A special ministry has been established for this task. And the name? Minitrue, Ministry of Truth!

There are four ministries in Oceania, all named in accordance with the principle of Doublethink. Minipax, the Ministry of Peace, is in charge of warfare. The general public, who constantly feels they are in a war, is united against imaginary enemies.

Miniplenty, the Ministry of Plenty, assumes economic affairs. As befits the name, it impoverishes the people. This ministry produces food and equipment. They gradually reduce them and lower their quality.

“As short a time ago as February, the Ministry of Plenty had issued a promise (a ‘categorical pledge’ were the official words) that there would be no reduction of the chocolate ration during 1984. Actually, as Winston was aware, the chocolate ration was to be reduced from thirty grammes to twenty at the end of the present week. All that was needed was to substitute for the original promise a warning that it would probably be necessary to reduce the ration at some time in April.”

1984, George Orwell.

Miniluv or the Ministry of Love… This ministry is responsible for observing the public seven days and twenty-four hours. When you display a suspicious gesture or action, the Thought Police will come and pick you up and deliver you to the “loving” arms of this ministry.

Inner Party, Outer Party, Proletariat

Big Brother is watching people again. Your eyesight will get bad, brother.

In the world of 1984, the public is divided into three. The Inner Party is a minority living in beautiful houses, eating fine food, walking on good streets, and running the state.

The proletariat are the poor workers who make up the vast majority of the people. They live hand to mouth, do not deliberate profoundly, are unaware of anything. They hope to win the lottery and get rich. They are relatively free. For the state does not even imagine that they are capable of rebellion… “They will never rebel unless they have an awareness, and they cannot have an awareness unless they rebel.”

The Outer Party is a group of middle-class civil servants who implement state policies. The greatest pressure is on the members of the Outer Party. Because they are aware of goings-on. They are under surveillance in all matters of life from their marriage to their children night and day.

Reason Is Tied By The Feet, What About Love?

Winston Smith realizes that things are wrong and keeps a diary in a corner not seen by tele-screens. His disobedient tendencies, which might not have been noticed if he could keep them between his diary and himself, grow stronger when he meets Julia.

Winston and Julia find each other attractive. There is, in fact, no love but only pure sexual passion in the scene. But this alone is a great victory against the Party, a hope of freedom in the face of the Big Brother’s authority.

Since the party is aware of this, it takes measures to prevent sexual pleasure, a need inherent in human nature, so that the tension arising from sexual repression can manifest itself as a great devotion to the Big Brother and as hatred of “the enemies.”

“The aim of the Party was not merely to prevent men and women from forming loyalties which it might not be able to control. Its real, undeclared purpose was to remove all pleasure from the sexual act. Not love so much as eroticism was the enemy, inside marriage as well as outside it. All marriages between Party members had to be approved by a committee appointed for the purpose, and—though the principle was never clearly stated—permission was always refused if the couple concerned gave the impression of being physically attracted to one another. The only recognized purpose of marriage was to beget children for the service of the Party. Sexual intercourse was to be looked on as a slightly disgusting minor operation, like having an enema. This again was never put into plain words, but in an indirect way it was rubbed into every Party member from childhood onwards. There were even organizations such as the Junior Anti-Sex League, which advocated complete celibacy for both sexes.”

1984, George Orwell.

While Winston and Julia begin to meet secretly, they are soon caught by an Inner Party member (O’Brien), whom they mistake for one of the rebels. There is no escape from the eyes of the Big Brother.

Room 101 and Creating Martyrs

How long can you bear to face your worst fear?

The Party has learned from history in its fight on the rebels. O’Brien tells Winston about the Inquisition and the Russian communists in one page.

The Inquisition killed those who rejected the religion before they would give up their true beliefs and repent, thus causing the criminals to die honorable deaths. They were martyred. In order not to repeat this mistake, the Russian Communists broke the human dignity of the criminals by resorting to torture and made them give them up their ideas and elicited confessions from them; when it surfaced that these confessions were false and that they were obtained through torture, however, those who died were deemed honorable again.

The Party, however, really wants to change the minds of the rebels. The Party wants to destroy the perilous thoughts inside the skulls, not the bodies themselves.

“We are not content with negative obedience, nor even with the most abject submission. When finally you surrender to us, it must be of your own free will. We do not destroy the heretic because he resists us: so long as he resists us we never destroy him. We convert him, we capture his inner mind, we reshape him. We burn all evil and all illusion out of him; we bring him over to our side, not in appearance, but genuinely, heart and soul. We make him one of ourselves before we kill him. It is intolerable to us that an erroneous thought should exist anywhere in the world, however secret and powerless it may be.”

1984, George Orwell.

1984, Obsessions and Other Things

I think these are enough letters about the subject of the book. I recommend that you read it as it is one of the best dystopias in the history of literature, exploring the notion of authority. If you are prejudiced against popular books, I can say that you can easily break that prejudice for 1984.

I’ll act a little free now. I will talk about a concept 1984 made me think of.

Obsessions… Thoughts you cannot prevent from invading your brain, which attack even more wildly when you fight them. There can be dozens of types of such thoughts, from the obsession of cleanliness, which has recently been brought up by the Turkish series  Masumlar Apartmanı (Innocent Apartment), to the fear of leaving the window open, not turning off the stove, or not being a good enough person…

The reason why I am writing this post and why my activity on social media has decreased immensely over the past month is the various obsessions that have been attacking my brain. Instead of reading, writing, spending time with my family, or enjoying the moment, I’ve been fighting invisible monsters. I will not go into details here, but I must say this: If it is beginning to affect your daily life, if you are in desperate need for a moment of peace, seek a good psychiatrist immediately.

The connection with 1984 is that obsessions are Big Brothers, O’Briens, who want to dominate your personality. And you are poor Winston… They won’t stop until they crush you and destroy you. You want to be relieved by various compulsions. They are not convinced. They make you feel trapped in Room 101. You are constantly confronted with your fears, your fear images. Those readers who do not understand what I have written, you are very lucky. Those who understand, let’s hug.

The way to deal with obsessions, so they say, is to ignore them, and if necessary, to ridicule them. Easier said than done. It’s almost like you have to take a step forward when there is a cliff right in front of you. But I sort of achieved it this morning. That’s how I can focus on this post now.

1984 has been adapted into a movie twice. The first was shot in 1956 and the other in 1984.

1984 movie posters. The first was shot in 1956, and the other in 1984.

Although the second movie reflects that gloomy atmosphere with greater success, I did not like it very much. The main reason was that the characters Winston and Julia did not fit how I imagine them to be. I couldn’t get into the movie. Also, some of the scenes–such as the hooker scene, you will know if you have seen the movie–were disgusting and were not a particular delight to watch. From what I remember, it was consistent with the book. But I didn’t enjoy watching it.

I liked the first movie very much, though! It’s black and white. The scenes are very nicely shot, and the duration is short, 90 minutes. And I think it reflects the book well.

According to Wikipedia, there is in fact one more adaptation, one of which is a ten-minute parody short film Me and the Big Guy, shot in 1999.

Me and the Big Guy (1999)

In 2012, an association of Hollywood production companies bought the rights to the book and announced that they would shoot a new feature-length movie. But that’s about it. In 2020 the scriptwriter made a statement like “This project excited us very much, but it turned out to be a challenge, so we postponed it. Well, what shall we do!” That is, there is no new movie in the horizon yet.

There were three television adaptations in 1953, 1954 and 1965, and seven radio adaptations from 1949 to 2013. I haven’t watched or listened to any of them yet, but I’ll watch/listen if I can.

I’ll conclude the article with Louna’s song 1984.

Good bye!

* Alternative link for Deja-Vu’s song * Alternative link for Louna’s song

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