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1984 (Signet Classics)
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George Orwell's prophetic, nightmarish vision of "Negative Utopia" is timelier than ever-and its warnings more powerful.

Customer Reviews:

  • Great Book On The Human Nature and Human Condition
    This book was first published in 1949 and it revolves around the story of the struggle of Winston Smith against a totalitarian, oppressive regime. It's as well an essay on the human nature and human condition. It also reminds us that sometimes the cure is worse than the poison. I highly recommended it together with Animal Farm....more info
  • What It Means to Be Human
    I read this book because I was growing weary of my own ignorance. One-too-many references to Big Brother amid the post-911 proliferation of video cameras, wire-tapping, and concern about government intrusions into private life pushed me to question my own cultural literacy (thanks to author E.D. Hirsch, Jr. here). My job also sent me to southern Sudan in 2007, during which a colleague noted that I would need to visit a rather remote "Orwellian province". It turns out that province is called Unity State. After reading 1984, I get his drift.

    It also occurred to me that the TV phenomenon Big Brother was likely produced by staffers who found themselves in their teens or early adulthood during 1984, while the audience to whom it caters may largely have been born well after that year. Given a generation who knows Big Brother not as the incarnation of thinly veiled government despotism but as the product of CBS Prime Time, there was reason to question more than my own cultural literacy. But what, or whom, we really need to discuss is Winston Smith.

    Best I can tell, Winston Smith is me. Modern man; modern society but faced with the reality that government had morphed into political, economic, sociological, technological, and intellectual fiat - its greatest coup perhaps being the subtle control of free thinking. By changing content of archival media, limiting contact with others, or simply eliminating those who dare _remember_, all that matters is current perception, regardless of logical inconsistency. And if this is achieved, then Smith's government (for lack of a better term) is, and always has been, right and just. For if you never learned (or never remember learning) that 2 + 2 = 4, then 2 + 2 = 5 seems quite plausible.

    The problem is that Smith dares to remember - dares to become conscious that another manner of thinking exists beyond the required and ubiquitous application of Doublethink, which he describes as follows: "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."

    As the book opens, Smith fails to "consciously induce unconsciousness", the mere act of which is considered a crime - Thoughtcrime, to be precise. The sort of awareness with which he is left can culminate in nothing other than action, and action which can culminate in nothing other than death. "He was already dead, he reflected. It seemed to him that it was only now, when he had begun to be able to formulate his thoughts, that he had taken the decisive step. The consequences of every act are included in the act itself. He wrote, 'Thoughtcrime does not entail death: Thoughtcrime IS death.' Now that he had recognized himself as a dead man it became important to stay alive as long as possible."

    This book is compelling because of the pains Orwell has taken to conceptualize a world in which government has conquered thought life as the last bastion of liberty. Once memory and perception is controlled, what better way to direct the mindless fervor of the masses than to create focal personifications for polarizing emotions: one to love (Big Brother) and one to hate (Emmanuel Goldstein). As such, manipulated thought can become concentrated action with the purpose of maintaining the entire regime in perpetuity.

    It almost seems as if Orwell is trying to answer the question, "How bad could it (government) get?" to which it is tempting to reply, "How realistic is his answer?" Because so many of us, so many Winston Smiths, have seen smatterings of Orwell's answer in recent developments, there is good reason to be guarded and better reason to be proactive in the defense of intellectual freedom. Looking at the China, Burma, North Korea, and even western democracies of our day, it is easy to see hints of Doublethink and more overt evidence of a paralyzing fear of independent thought. But there is little reason to suspect that government can achieve a more frightening end: that of transforming the essence of humankind. Yet this is precisely where Orwell takes the reader. Smith's nemesis O'Brien notes, "The command of the totalitarians was 'Thou shalt.' Our command is 'Thou art.'" While this book is an excellent call to political and intellectual vigilance, the day government controls our essence as humans is the day government merits consideration as deity. Until then, I remain thankful for my ability to think otherwise....more info
  • Be cautious, Kindle owners
    Obviously a great book, but the Kindle edition (at least) omits the Appendix "The Principles of Newspeak" which any reader should want to have! ...more info
  • One of the best
    This book should be manditory reading in grade school. As a whole, 1984 depicts the world as many in todays world want it to be,but won't admit it of course, a world with out free speech, with out free thought, without the ability to critique and question; yet Orwell created the book prior to the calamities we see around us. Prophetic in a fashion, buit also written in a time when PC sugar coating wasnt the norm and you could see and even say what needed to be said. Big brother is watching us, whether it be the ACLU, some church, some group of fanatics who want to take away freedom, the GOV't, whoever. This book shows the desolate result when human curiosity is censored and oppressed, and the will is stamped out. Dystopian literature is a good thing, it isnt all bells and happy ssmiles, but that is life, and in order to fight against terrible things you need to know why they are evil. This book shows why and how many things become evil even without the need for a diety. Collectively our "Room 101" is not far off if we dont wake up and stop the idiocy of placating becasue we dont want to offend. Part of being human is being offended, part of humanity is the capacity to be unhappy; some say being sad all the time is a sickness, but the person who thinks things are fine all the time I believe is far more ill because if you look around the world, things are not OK; they are turning out alot like 1984. ...more info
  • Remarkable
    This excellent book is about life which was deprived of all meaning, whose primary goal was a constantly increasing productivity motivated by an ingeniously designed social system that advocated "love and peace."

    I was born in the Soviet Republic of Ukraine. I recall the anxiety that tormented my family during the preceding months that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. I was seven and lived in my own universe, but I was sort of aware that the Soviet Empire was seeing its last days. Karl Marx must have been doing somersaults in his grave.

    I don't remember much about living under communism - except that daily life was "by the book" - but I've talked plenty about it to my parents and grandparents. When Stalin went six feet under, it became a bit more tolerable, but it remained totalitarianism nonetheless. Orwell did an exceptional job at depicting the essential aspects of that kind of state, more precisely Soviet regime. The detail that he told is fascinating; as if Stalin or Beria had let him in on the juicy stuff. Some of it he exaggerated, some he understated, but fundamentally he was accurate. Also, it is imperative that the reader keeps in mind that it was published in 1949. A vast majority of people in Russia and Europe were isolated from this kind of knowledge - the government made sure of that through an intricate system of secret police - so this book was a revelation. Of course we now know that, aside from the fictitious names, he essentially portrayed reality. The indoctrination that is described in the book still lingered when I attended school in Ukraine in the `80s. Soviet propaganda machine was thorough indeed.

    The history of totalitarian states is complex and enormous amount of time and literature has been dedicated to it. This book, however, is a good substitute if one cannot wrestle with a lengthy 700-page tome. It won't make you a political scholar, but it'll educate you on what Soviet Russia was. It's written in a lucid manner; however, one has to read it as nonfiction to truly appreciate the author's vision. George Orwell is a genius and his "1984" will be read for a long time.

    ...more info
  • Past or Future?
    "In the old days, he thought, a man looked at a girl's body and found it desirable, and that was the end of the story. But you could not have pure love or pure lust nowadays. No emotion was pure because everything was mixed up with fear and hatred. Their embrace had been a battle, the climax a victory. It was a blow struck against the Party. It was a political act." The year is 1984, or so Winston Smith thinks. Nothing is ever certain anymore except he lives in Oceania and they are constantly at war with either Eurasia or Eastasia. They had always been at war with Eurasia, until a quick announcement and falsification of thousands of records made them always at war with Eastasia. The Party is always right, or so it would seem. By looking at records you know existed, you would find only lies. Winston Smith knows this because he works for the Ministry of Truth, which deals with the falsification of records. The Party is the single reigning body of totalitarianisim for 1/3 of the world. But, is this simply a mere story, or something more? Was George Orwell trying to warn us of the direction our own government is heading? This version is a little extreme, but it proves its point. Winston Smith is an average man working for the Party. Scared of it, but also hating it, Winston believes that he is good as dead. He does not believe in the Party or its values, and in this world, that will earn you an arrest from the thought police for thoughtcrime. The Party can virtually read your mind through the telescreen; a two- way video broadcast system. You can never be alone with your thoughts. ...more info
  • the hobo philosopher
    When I was young and read this book for the first time strangely enough I never thought of it as a warning about some other country's type of government. I thought of it as a description of what could happen in my own country if the wrong type of thinking was supported by a majority of the people of my country. I don't know what Mr. Orwell intended it to be but looking at my own country today I still think that my original interpretation was accurate.
    I felt the same way about Animal Farm.

    Books written by Richard Noble - The Hobo Philosopher:
    "Hobo-ing America: A Workingman's Tour of the U.S.A.."
    "A Summer with Charlie"
    "A Little Something: Poetry and Prose"
    "Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother" ...more info
  • 2009
    This is important reading for any American or any person in this world who enjoys individual liberty. Sadly, this books spells out exactly where the United States is heading. This is playbook for the current regime (Fourth Reich would be a better name) and this is exactly what we are about to experience. It is absolutely vital that every person read this and prepare themselves for the bleak future that is on the horizon. ...more info
  • Good, accessible book
    This is an excellent book for young people. It's easy to read and understand and will speak directly to their disaffection for society....more info
  • 1984 review
    I highly recomend this book because its interesting and it relates to real life. I find that interesting that the government is always watching, I always felt like someone somewhere always knows what you are up to 24 hours a day. Hopefully the terminator doesn't see everything like when we go to the bathroom or that would just be mest up.

    This book changed me a little bit, now i think twice before doing stupid stuff because I know someone out there might be watching and I might get in trouble. It doesn't have to be the government, the popo can be watching you from far away and you think he is probably not watching and 5 minutes later after you did the dumb thing, your screwed and you will get in trouble with the law.

    I highly recommend this book because it will change your view on the goverment, and on the world we live in now. ...more info
  • A Strange backwards world(Beware)
    George Orwell was the pen name of Eric Arthur Blair. He first gained fame for publishing 1984. He was born in 1903 in Bengal, India and died in 1950. He was poor until his 30's. He was frightened by communism and his books reflected that particularly in Animal Farm.

    The author's goal in this book, 1984, was quite simple. He wanted to frighten people about a totalitarian, technologically backwards society where truth is changed to what is the present people say. What they say is are lies. The telescreens that are mounted everywhere destroy privacy everywhere but in the slums when they are like cameras. There is no such thing as love. If discovered, the secret would condition it out. There is a constant fake war as an excuse to make goods and then destroy them. There are 3 types of people, the proles, the outer party, and the inner party with all the wealth, goods, mansions, and servants.

    The author without a doubt achieves his goal. It is akin to detonating a brick of C-4 to swat a fly. He definitely frightens the reader into a coma. The reader's own children turning them in for thoughtcrime. Could anyone imagine that? No Bill of Rights? Room 101 where all the reader's worst fears come out and haunt the reader? If there was a secret police, how would people live? By looking over their shoulders, and holding low pitched conversations, thats how. Once the reader died, there would be no trace of the reader. No mention on the newspaper. It would just be changed the next day. The reader couldn't say anything subversive, because the readers' co-workers would turn them in. The worst of all is that speech would all be polarized. Everything that you said would have negative or positive connotations.

    The book has its strengths, when it describes the antiques shop and how there was relics like china. The description of Newspeak and the different ministries abbreviations are also strengths. The abbreviations are just a way of getting the mind to conform to new values. It was all about perception.

    The weakness is when the baser instincts leak through into actions. One example is when Winston wanted to rape Julia because he thought she was part of the secret police. Another is the very graphic screen, when Winston is getting interrogated and sells out his love for Julia just to get the pain to stop. It is a little too strong in my opinion.
    ...more info
  • Great Read
    This is an inexpensive classic and a great read. I recommend this book for anyone interested in a great book....more info
  • A must read!!
    There are alot of idiots floating around out there that don't see the potential pitfalls of giving the Federal government expanded powers. If you are one of these folks, please read this book. The work is relatively short but the lesson that it gives is powerful. I believe it was Benjamin Franklin who said this but I believe it encapsulates every being of this book "people willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both"
    ...more info
  • 1984
    I don't know how many people read this for enjoyment, but this is pretty much an amazing novel that manages to capture so many intriguing and frightening ideas. And yet at the same time it is remarkably entertaining--it's a great story of romance, intrigue, and betrayal....more info
  • Science fiction?
    To call 1984 a work of science fiction is, while technically accurate, somewhat a disservice to the book. 1984 is a chillingly accurate glimpse into a future of hellish totalitarianism, and quite amazingly, with each passing generation it actually seems to become more and more relevant. It should be regarded not only as great literature, but also as an oracle of the very real storm clouds that are consistently looming just overhead. But perhaps most importantly, it should also serve as a much needed kick in the groin to anyone who is constantly blinded by the bright lights of patriotism, war, greed, fear, and all forms of propaganda.

    1984 is not science fiction. 1984 isn't fiction at all....more info
  • 1984-Classic Much?
    A communistic dictatorship rules over the people living in the country of Oceania. Newspeak is the official language of Oceania, people love Big Brother, the head of Oceania. What I have just described to you is what 1984's world looks like. 1984, is the book that explains what would happen to the world if democracy fell and communistic-dictatorship took over. This book was written by a man by the name of George Orwell, who was born in 1903. Soon after writing this book he succumbed to tuberculosis. Once finishing the typescript he sent it to his two friends, Secker and Warburg, who officially published it on the date of June 8th 1949. George Orwell sadly died only a few months after his book hit the shelves in January 1949.

    Within the pages of 1984 there is the `Party' which mysteriously and ruthlessly rules over the people who live in the country of Oceania. The peasants are called the `Proles'. The `Proles' are essentially everyone who is not in the party, these are the common man and the people who live in much poverty while the Party is able to live with considerable of luxuries. This book gives the reader a feeling of desolation, sometimes while reading it I thought I was Winston the main character who was trying to take down the party, and who was sick of being told what to and what not to do. That is one of the books major strengths because the reader will feel as if it is him being prosecuted. Also the book makes you hate the party. This feeling makes the reader become even more sucked into the book, making him feel like the party is the worst thing possible. The only real weakness I could find with this book was that, sometimes, the book has a tendency to give a little excess information to the reader. These are often unnecessary facts that have no place in the book such as when it describes in a lot of detail how the tree is where Winston and his friend Julia meet; however this does not happen very often.

    The main goal of this book is to give the reader an idea of what life would be like if democracy ever fell in the modern world. This book accomplishes this goal with an amazing job. Everything is how the reader would think it would be, the citizens are being watched at every moment, there are `thought-police', the majority of people are poor, is a are the minority of rich people. Also this book goes into so much detail, it makes me feel as if I were 1984. The detail helps the reader become even more captivated in the dark secrets unlocked within the party and the severity of the crimes Winston commits against the party.

    When reading this book the reader will experience a connection with the book and its characters, the reader will become Winston. The reader will become a Prole. The reader will become Big Brother, the reader will love big brother. The reader will go through many changes while reading this book, and may experience many hardships. Which path they choose is up to them, whether to love big brother, or hate him. That decision is up to the reader, good luck. I would highly sugges this for any high school teaher.

    P.S.-Using a Family Acount.
    Shlomo...more info
  • The State of Perfection
    Only four years after his critically acclaimed Animal Farm, George Orwell came back with another masterpiece in the form of Nineteen Eighty Four. Orwell, a British author, is known for his hatred and disgust towards a totalitarian society and social injustice. This novel clearly demonstrates the impurities and chaos that are brought about by such a dystopian society.
    The story follows the life of Winston Smith, a state worker who has much secret hatred towards the "Big Brother Society." In the world in which he lives, citizens are forced to follow the strict rules of the society. Their state, Oceania, is constantly monitored by the government and by Big Brother, their "great" ruler. In this totalitarian state, the ruler controls all of the actions of his people and even their minds. He does much of this through propaganda and slogans such as the now famous, "Big Brother is watching you" (3). The rulers also are trying to dispose of all unneeded words in order to get rid of all unorthodox thought. Winston Smith is one of the very few who secretly rejects the society and its laws. He believes that he should live his life in a more free way because the end of his life is approaching soon. As a result, Winston has a surreptitious, illegal relationship with a co-worker, Julia. This is a large step for Winston because he knows what he is doing is a great offense, but he does feel very comfortable and safe when he is with her. For example, he states " they were actually in this room, they both felt, no harm could come to them" (152). Winston's life goes from good to horrible very quickly, and he is forced to live out the rest of his existence in physical and emotional pain.
    The novel mocks the greed, selfishness, and utter craziness that an unstable government can cause if poorly run. Orwell shows through the odd and hectic life of Winston Smith. He grabs the reader's attention with Winston's secretive and mischievous acts. He describes the instability and corruption of a government at its worst. With Oceania being contently at war, one can recognize that the governments are constantly corrupt and the concept of having this "Big Brother" always watching over the citizens illustrates how the government has an unreasonable belief that citizens will rebel. After reading George Orwell's masterpiece, I believe that "Big Brother" culture is not as far fetched as I originally judged. Orwell's story completely changed the way I look at how a government can be run and makes me rethink how our country is being run now. Just a few bad decisions can cause chaos.
    ...more info
  • Our world today and to come
    Once science fiction, now daily reality: constant war, newspeak, doublethink, surveillance by hidden cameras (and now satellites), TV sets humming 24/7 in many homes, political cover-ups, repression, restriction of language and the concomitant impoverishment of thought, manipulation on many levels. If you only read this in high school, read it again. ...more info
  • The Greatest Love Story of Our Time.
    1984 is a social commentary on history and the appalling state of public policy and society generally told through a love story that resonates with a deep familiarity for all modern readers....more info
  • Is this Bush and Ahmadinejad's playbook?
    I never read Orwell in school for some reason and I am glad I waited. I can't believe this was written in the late 40's. O'Brien's descriptions of seeking power for power's sake and the mutability of truth and history have never been more applicable to current events. Reading this book now, you really start to feel like this must be on Karl Rove's desk. ...more info
  • 1984 - A Book About the Future
    What can you say about this book that hasn't already been said? It's dark. It's real dark. It's real, real dark. Get your flashlight. The future is not a nice place and this is no fairytale. It is, however, a classic and a must read. ...more info
  • Hauntingly accurate...
    I don't think I will ever get over the fact that this book is so accurate about the future. This author is a genius, and it's a timeless novel that every person needs to read...more info