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1984 by George Orwell

1984 (original 1949; edition 1990)

by George Orwell

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53,8808278 (4.25)1445
Authors:George Orwell
Info:Signet Book (1990), Edition: Reissue, Mass Market Paperback
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1984 by George Orwell (1949)

  1. 846
    Animal Farm by George Orwell (JGKC, haraldo)
  2. 771
    Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (nathanm, chrisharpe, MinaKelly, li33ieg, haraldo, Ludi_Ling, Morteana, Waldstein)
    li33ieg: 1984, Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451: 3 essential titles that remind us of the need to keep our individual souls pure.
    Ludi_Ling: Really, the one cannot be mentioned without the other. Actually, apart from the dystopian subject matter, they are very different stories, but serve as a great counterpoint to one another.
    Waldstein: It's essential to read Huxley's and Orwell's books together. Both present the ultimate version of the totalitarian state, but there the similarities end. While Orwell argues in favour of hate and fear, Huxley suggests that pleasure and drugs would be far more effective as controlling forces. Who was the more prescient prophet? That's what every reader should decide for his- or herself.… (more)
  3. 687
    Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (readafew, hipdeep, Booksloth, rosylibrarian, moietmoi, haraldo, BookshelfMonstrosity)
    readafew: Both books are about keeping the people in control and ignorant.
    hipdeep: 1984 is scary like a horror movie. Fahrenheit 451 is scary like the news. So - do you want to see something really scary?
    BookshelfMonstrosity: A man's romance-inspired defiance of menacing, repressive governments in bleak futures are the themes of these compelling novels. Control of language and monitors that both broadcast to and spy on people are key motifs. Both are dramatic, haunting, and thought-provoking.… (more)
  4. 391
    A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (wosret, Anonymous user)
  5. 361
    The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (citygirl, cflorente, wosret, norabelle414, readingwolverine)
  6. 261
    We by Yevgeny Zamyatin (hippietrail, BGP, soylentgreen23, roby72, timoroso, MEStaton, Anonymous user, Sylak)
    hippietrail: The original dystopian novel from which both Huxley and Orwell drew inspiration.
    timoroso: Zamyatin's "We" was not just a precursor of "Nineteen Eighty-Four" but the work Orwell took as a model for his own book.
    Sylak: A great influence in the writing of his own book.
  7. 3713
    Lord of the Flies by William Golding (vegetarianflautist, avid_reader25)
  8. 224
    One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey (readerbabe1984)
  9. 192
    V for Vendetta by Alan Moore (aethercowboy)
    aethercowboy: The world of V for Vendetta is very reminiscent of the world of 1984.
  10. 216
    The Giver by Lois Lowry (cflorente, readerbabe1984)
  11. 101
    Brave New World & Brave New World Revisited by Aldous Huxley (thebookpile)
  12. 91
    Brave New World Revisited by Aldous Huxley (pyrocow)
  13. 80
    Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler (BGP, ivan.frade)
    ivan.frade: Both books talk about revolution and the people, individual rights vs. common wellness. "darkness at noon" is pretty similar to 1984, without the especulation/science-fiction ingredient.
  14. 81
    Kallocain by Karin Boye (andejons, Anonymous user)
    andejons: The totalitarian state works very similar in both books, but the control in Kallocain seems more plausible, which makes it more frightening.
  15. 92
    Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (infiniteletters, suzanney, JFDR)
    JFDR: 1984's Big Brother is Little Brother's namesake.
  16. 84
    Panopticon; or, The inspection-house by Jeremy Bentham (bertilak)
  17. 40
    The Archivist's Story by Travis Holland (catherinestead)
    catherinestead: Two very powerful stories of what happens when a very small cog in the machine of a dictatorship decides not to turn anymore.
  18. 41
    This Perfect Day by Ira Levin (MMSequeira)
    MMSequeira: Another interesting attempt at a plausible history of the future. Definitely worth reading.
  19. 30
    The Machine Stops by E. M. Forster (artturnerjr)
    artturnerjr: If you read only one other dystopian SF story, make it this one.
  20. 30
    Heart of a Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov (BGP)

(see all 56 recommendations)

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Showing 1-5 of 768 (next | show all)
This book is a serious head trip. It was written during the late 1940's and is the author's prediction of what the world would be like in 1984. We know now that he was wrong, but, based upon the events that occurred at and around the time that he wrote the book, his predictions were definite possibilities (although probably not to the extremes that he imagined). Orwell coined the phrase "Big Brother is watching you."

** Bottom line: this novel is well worth the read. ** ( )
  HSContino | May 20, 2016 |
I haven't read a book that fascinates and terrifies me as much as 1984 does. Orwell's acute vision of the future - a totalitarian state controlling it's citizens with technology and doublethink, among other things - is astonishing and horrifying. To think that he wrote this in the 1940s, long before the internet and phone/tv cameras (and certainly long before the XBOX One - "telescreen"), this is such an ambitious and daunting venture, I cannot believe it must have been easy to write it, nor to get people to accept it and believe in it.

Orwell is a visionary, his prose is succinct and well written and his plot is captivating. 1984 spins a lot of questions and contains a lot of answers to them. It makes you think, it makes you relate it back to our "real world" and challenges a lot of norms in society. Winston, Julia and O'Brien's characters are particularly well done. Part three is haunting and sickening and morbidly fascinating.

I think this is one of the very few books I have given 5 stars too. Definitely a must read for everyone! ( )
  meowism | May 17, 2016 |
Not only is this the greatest dystopian novel of all-time, but it may possibly be the greatest novel of all-time. It trashes all forms of totalitarianism, including those on the opposite idealogical spectrum (communism and fascism). It forces the reader to examine all forms of government and the true meanings behind their purpose and existence. It also forces readers to explore the nature of humanity and how humanity controls and allows itself to be controlled. This novel sums up my life creed, which is: QUESTION EVERYTHING. 1984 is definitely one of my favorite novels ever. ( )
  rsplenda477 | May 8, 2016 |
George Orwell

Nineteen Eighty-Four

Penguin, Paperback [2008].

viii+326 pp. “A Note on the Text” by Peter Davison [v-viii].

First published by Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd, 1949.
This text first published by Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd in the Complete Works of George Orwell series, 1987.
Published in Penguin Books with an Introduction and a new Note on the Text, 1989.
This edition published, 2008.


(Here Be Dragons, e.g. spoilers!)

On technical grounds, this novel is close to perfection. The worst that can be said about it is that in the third part Orwell somewhat fails to maintain the tension of the first two and that the ending is incongruously tacked on to work up some extra sympathy for the protagonist. That aside, and within the rigid limitations of the genre, plot, pace and characterisation could hardly be improved. Orwell is an incredible prose stylist with uncanny sense how to combine the poetic with the prosaic. He can create characters in exactly two words. A man of “paralyzing stupidity” or another who is “venomously orthodox” may sound strange, but within the context of the novel such descriptions are highly revealing.

Winston Smith is the only fully realised character, but he is quite enough in a novel of this kind. He is a pathetic bundle of doubts and fears, vividly presented in the middle of a horrible predicament. In a world where children are encouraged to denounce their parents to the Thought Police and you can get “vaporized” for as little as a doubtful expression on your face, it is a dangerous business to meddle with the Party that controls the past, the present and the future with an almost godlike efficiency. Orwell’s gradual revelation of Winston’s growing dissatisfaction with the system, including his ever bolder attempts to defy its rules, is a masterpiece of psychological writing. It flows in a smooth and natural way, not a word wasted, and it must be a hard-hearted reader who is not moved by Winston’s anguished attempts to make some sense of the bewildering world around him. He is 39 and can still remember his childhood before the Revolution, but he has almost nothing else, except the hideous official propaganda, on which to base even the most tentative picture what human beings were like in the old days.

Winston is surrounded by a small cast of uncommonly memorable minor characters. It’s hard to resist the sinister charm of O’Brien and it’s impossible to forget the reek of Parsons’ sweat, but much the most important is, of course, Julia. Winston’s clandestine romance with her, complete with “talking by instalments” and secret meetings at secluded places, is the crux of the novel and surely one of the most extraordinary romances ever put on paper. Of course it is doomed – from every point of view. Julia is a smart, charming and highly-sexed lass, but she is unable to match Winston’s vague dreams of counter-revolution. She is quite content to get away with cheating the system. Though Orwell skilfully avoids a conventional break-up, he reminds us that the seeds of destruction are there from the very beginning:

In the old days, he thought, a man looked at a girl’s body and saw that it was 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.

Too bad all these merits should be offset by one great defect. To cut the long story short, I don’t believe in Orwell’s society based on hatred and fear. Some of it is convincing, the parts about constant surveillance are so prescient that it makes me wonder if Orwell knew Arthur Clarke’s famous 1945 paper on geostationary satellites[1], but on the whole I don’t buy it. I don’t buy it at all. Incidentally, Arthur Clarke’s main objection to the novel was that perpetual war would be impossible in a nuclear age.[2] This is a good point, but a minor one, like the logistically impossible Ministry of Truth in which Winston works. Despite the streak of native barbarism that most of us do have, perpetual war is impossible in any age for the simple reason that everybody would perish – out of sheer boredom.

I find Orwell’s world impossible to believe in for psychological reasons. Sure, the capacity of the human race for hate is extraordinary, far greater than our capacity for love if history is anything to go by, but I don’t think it is quite so extraordinary as Orwell asks us to believe. Such Party celebrations like “Hate Week” and the daily “Two Minutes Hate” are unintentionally hilarious. Sure, the human race is uncommonly stupid and muddle-headed – just look at historical phenomena like religion – but I don’t think it’s quite so prone to moronic brainwashing as Orwell seems to think. The short time frame only makes the whole thing less believable. We are asked to believe that the vast majority of the human race has been turned into brainwashed zombies for mere 35 years (1949–84). No propaganda is that effective. It might have helped if Orwell had set the novel in 2084, 2184 or 2284, but it’s easy to guess why he didn’t. These years sound much less euphonious. And the near future is always more attractive than the distant one.

Orwell, of course, was well aware of these defects. He did his best to explain them convincingly, but for my part he didn’t succeed. In Part II, Chapter 9, where Goldstein’s book is quoted at inordinate length, two of the slogans are explained in considerable detail. What is never explained is how anybody could believe them. They make sense on political and economical, but not on psychological, level. In Part III Orwell slips into tedious metaphysics and ill-advised sentimentality. Incidentally, solipsism, which is the ultimate form of escapism, would have worked in Winston’s favour had he known how to use it against O’Brien’s twisted arguments. Solipsism is impossible to prove or disprove, and unlike the God hypothesis its chances of existence and non-existences are just about equal. O’Brien would have had nothing to reply to this. But I’m glad Orwell didn’t venture in that direction.

One of Orwell’s better, but still unsuccessful, attempts to make his world more credible is “Newspeak”, the official language of the Party especially designed to prevent people from expressing anything unorthodox. The problem with Newspeak is that it is uncommonly realistic. It is expected to become widespread by 2050, but now, in 1984, it is seldom spoken even by the Party functionaries. Two further points are worth mentioning. The Appendix in the end of the book, which explains in detail the structure and philosophy of Newspeak, is boringly superfluous. The same thing is done much more concisely in Part I, Chapter 5. Orwell’s wonderful essay “Politics and the English Language” is an essential companion piece to the novel. Both share the striking image of the eyeless dummy that speaks only with his larynx, without any input from the central nervous system. “Orthodoxy is unconsciousness” indeed.

If one looks still more closely, it’s hard not to notice all sorts of contradictions and inconsistencies that make little if any sense.

The Party’s philosophy is riddled with logical contradictions that far stupider people than O’Brien would immediately spot and never believe. It is explained in detail that the Party intends to improve on its amateurish ancestors, the German Nazis and the Soviet Communists who were either too soft or too dumb, by worshiping Power for Power’s sake. It never occurs even to the smartest members that Power has a limit, and when this limit is reached one day there would be no valid reason for the Party’s existence. It will stagnate and die. Yet members are required to believe as an article of faith that the Party is eternal. Likewise they believe both in perpetual war and in conquering the whole world, or in the Party’s infallibility and the need to ensure it by constant corrections of the past. This fantastic ability to believe two obviously contradictory statements at the same time is called “doublethink” in Newspeak. I don’t buy it. If it is possible at all, it would certainly take a hell of a lot more than 35 years to achieve this on mass scale.

The Party’s methods strike me as amazingly wasteful. The vast halls of the Ministry of Truth, in which countless Winstons diligently correct the past to ensure the Party’s infallibility, are a really inefficient way to do what a little propaganda would have done so much better, faster and cheaper. What makes it totally ludicrous is that most of these corrections of books, magazines, movies and what not are concerned with trivial matters nobody would care about. Would the infallibility of the Party be jeopardised if it got wrong the number of boots produced during the last quarter? Hardly! It is this sort of exaggeration that makes Orwell’s world so hard to believe. He may have replied to this by quoting Bradbury’s famous remark that he tried not to predict the future but to prevent it. Fair enough. But you can’t prevent something which is impossible to happen. And if you don’t believe the version of the world a writer presents to you, it is just as good as impossible.

As for the ending, it is complete nonsense. Winston has been turned into a gin-sodden bum who is simply drifting through a life of alcoholic haze. One is bound to ask the obvious question. Why did the Party take so much trouble with his (not terribly successful) conversion into a Big-Brother loving zombie? This would make some sense if, for example, the Brotherhood does exist and does threaten the Party, so the latter cannot afford losing fine men and must do their best to keep them. But the existence of the Brotherhood is never confirmed. When Winston asks O’Brien point-blank about that, Orwell lamely avoids any definite answer. Winston’s transformation would also make sense if he is turned into a useful Party member. But he is not. In the end, he is completely useless. The good news, if it is good news at all, is that he probably won’t be shot as threatened since the beginning.

But Brave New World is a book about the future and, whatever its artistic or philosophical qualities, a book about the future can interest us only if its prophesies look as though they might conceivably come true.[3]

This is why Brave New World (1932) remains, for me, a more fascinating, thought-provoking and, above all, convincing book. Orwell is the better writer, but Huxley is the superior mind. Simply compare the slogans. Orwell’s Party rules by “War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength”, while Huxley’s World State is ruled by “Community, Identity, Stability”. Only “identity” is objectionable in the latter, while the former is just a bunch of “doublethink” nonsense that could be believed by Huxley’s “Gammas”, but hardly by Orwell’s “proles” and certainly not by highly intelligent members of the Inner Party like O’Brien. Moreover, Huxley made his Savage Reservation much smaller than the World State, yet a good basis for solid philosophical discussion. In contrast, Orwell again went for the unbelievable exaggeration that the 15 percent of the Party, or indeed the 6 percent of the Inner Party, could keep in submission the other 85 (or 94) percent of humanity. The proles are very much kept in the background and never progress beyond Winston’s vague feeling that “if there was hope, it lay in the proles!”

It is not so much that Huxley feels relevant and Orwell dated. It is that Huxley feels conceivably possible while Orwell is frankly incredible.[4] Both worlds are completely totalitarian and highly manipulative, but Huxley realised that pleasure is a much more efficient way to keep the masses in submission. Orwell, I think, was led astray by his politics. He detested so much totalitarian dictatorship that he thought he could get away with a gross exaggeration of it in fiction: “Power is in inflicting pain and humiliation.” So it is. But it’s a short-lived power.[5]

Exaggeration is the essence of satire, but it doesn’t work well when a realistic description of the future is attempted. This is why Nineteen Eighty-Four is not Orwell’s fictional masterpiece. Animal Farm is. The lesson is the same in both books. A bloody revolution can only bring, sooner or later, a bloody retribution and a new dictatorship by no means better, and usually worse, than the old one it was supposed to end. Simple as that. But where Nineteen Eighty-Four fails due to unnecessary detail, Animal Farm succeeds by concise allegory. For example, the whole activity of the Ministry of Truth, described at tedious length, is nothing more than Squealer’s editing the Seven Commandments on the barn’s wall.

In the context of Animal Farm, Nineteen Eighty-Four looks like an overblown sequel. It is certainly worth reading, though probably not for the reasons Orwell intended. Some of his world-building is thought-provoking, but most of it is notable mostly for the beautiful prose. Winston, Julia and their unique romance against all the odds carry on the book. It’s a pity that such compelling characters and intense dramatic situations should be presented against an unconvincing background, but nobody’s perfect after all.

[1] “Extra-Terrestrial Relays”, Wireless World, October 1945. It is reprinted in several of Arthur’s books, for example Voices from the Sky (1965), Ascent to Orbit (1984), How the World Was One (1992) and Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds! (1999). Orwell’s Big Brother does not, of course, use satellites for his ubiquitous surveillance, but that’s only because Orwell was not a science-fiction writer. It seems very unlikely that he was inspired by the concept of geostationary satellites, but it’s an interesting thought to entertain.
[2] Arthur C. Clarke, 1984: Spring – A Choice of Futures, Granada, 1984, p. [8]. Arthur, however, also points out that Orwell “wrote (and died) before the invention of thermonuclear weapons multiplied kilotons into megatons.”
[3] Aldous Huxley, 1946 Foreword to Brave New World, p. xxxii in the 2004 Vintage edition.
[4] Astonishingly enough, Orwell’s opinion of Brave New World was “a brilliant caricature of the present (the present of 1930) [that] probably casts no light on the future.” His main argument was that “a ruling class has got to have a strict morality, a quasi-religious belief in itself, a mystique” because otherwise it “would soon lose its vitality” and the hedonistic society it rules would perish after “a couple of generations”. (From a 1940 review quoted by Christopher Hitchens in his 2003 Foreword to Brave New World and Brave New World Revisited, HarperCollins, 2004.) If Orwell thought that Mustapha Mond and his ilk didn’t have “a strict morality”, all one can say is that he either never understood Brave New World or, more likely, never finished it. Huxley took his revenge posthumously in the opening chapter of Brave New World Revisited (1958) when he remarked that, baring nuclear holocaust, “it now looks as though the odds were more in favour of something like Brave New World than of something like 1984.” It still looks so, even more so indeed, 58 years later.
[5] By the way, Hitchens (ibid., note 3) provides some ingenious speculations why Orwell might have been more indebted to Huxley than he cared to admit even to himself. These include Huxley’s “Nine Years War” that made use of weapons for mass destruction, Mustapha Mond’s secret library that may have inspired O’Brien secret book and, most convincingly, the production of cheap pornography and large amounts of gin for the benefit of the proles that correspond almost exactly to Huxley’s rampant promiscuity and soma. In short, Orwell is most convincing when he seems to follow Huxley most closely. ( )
2 vote Waldstein | Apr 26, 2016 |
This book still haunts me - the ending floored me. Fantastic - how can anything I have to say compete with that? ( )
  BrydieWalkerBain | Apr 26, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 768 (next | show all)
Londres, 1984: Winston Smith decide rebelarse ante un gobierno totalitario que controla cada uno de los movimientos de sus ciudadanos y castiga incluso a aquellos que delinquen con el pensamiento. Consciente de las terribles consecuencias que puede acarrear la disidencia, Winston se une a la ambigua Hermandad por mediación del líder O’'Brien. Paulatinamente, sin embargo, nuestro protagonista va comprendiendo que ni la Hermandad ni O'’Brien son lo que aparentan, y que la rebelión, al cabo, quizá sea un objetivo inalcanzable. Por su magnífico análisis del poder y de las relaciones y dependencias que crea en los individuos, 1984 es una de las novelas más inquietantes y atractivas de este siglo.
added by Pakoniet | editLecturalia
Most novels about an imaginary world (e.g., Gulliver's Travels, Erewhon) have as their central character, or interpreter, a man who somehow strays out of the author's own times and finds himself in a world he never made. But Orwell, like Aldous Huxley in Brave New World, builds his nightmare of tomorrow on foundations that are firmly laid today. He needs no contemporary spokesman to explain and interpret — for the simple reason that any reader in 1949 can uneasily see his own shattered features in Winston Smith, can scent in the world of 1984 a stench that is already familiar.
added by Shortride | editTime (Jun 20, 1949)
"Nineteen Eighty-Four" is not impressive as a novel about particular human beings. Its account of life thirty-five years hence has little fanciful or gadgety interest. But as a prophecy and a warning it is superb. The ultimate degradation of a totalitarian sates is here portrayed with repulsive power.
added by Shortride | editThe New York Times, Orville Prescott (pay site) (Jun 13, 1949)
It is probable that no other work of this generation has made us desire freedom more earnestly or loathe tyranny with such fullness...the terrific, long crescendo and the quick decrescendo that George Orwell has made of this struggle for survival and the final extinction of a personality.
added by Shortride | editThe New York Times Book Review, Mark Schorer (pay site) (Jun 12, 1949)

» Add other authors (44 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Orwell, Georgeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dean, MikeRetold bymain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Audiberti, AmélieTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Baldini, GabrieleTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chiaruttini, AldoContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Davids, TinkeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fromm, ErichAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Holmberg, NilsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jacoby, MelissaCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kool, Halbo C.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pimlott, BenIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prebble, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pynchon, ThomasForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sutton, HumphreyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Talvitie, OivaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vos, PeterIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Warburton, ThomasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Original title
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Original publication date
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Important events
Related movies
1984 (1956IMDb)
1984 (2009IMDb)
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First words
It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
"Freedom is the freedom to know that two plus two make four."
Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.
"In philosophy, or religion, or ethics, or politics, two plus two might make five, but when one was designing a fun or an airplane they had to make four."
Last words
Disambiguation notice
"George 1984 Orwell" is a cataloging error for 1984 by George Orwell.
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Book description
Published in 1949, it is set in the eponymous year and focuses on a repressive, totalitarian regime. Orwell elaborates on how a massive oligarchial collectivist society such as the one described in Nineteen Eighty-Four would be able to repress any long-lived dissent. The story follows the life of one seemingly insignificant man, Winston Smith, a civil servant assigned the task of perpetuating the regime's propaganda by falsifying records and political literature. Smith grows disillusioned with his meagre existence and so begins a rebellion against the system that leads to his arrest and torture.
Haiku summary
The hero battles
A government dance of words.
"++good, Comrade."


Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0451524934, Mass Market Paperback)

Among the seminal texts of the 20th century, Nineteen Eighty-Four is a rare work that grows more haunting as its futuristic purgatory becomes more real. Published in 1949, the book offers political satirist George Orwell's nightmare vision of a totalitarian, bureaucratic world and one poor stiff's attempt to find individuality. The brilliance of the novel is Orwell's prescience of modern life--the ubiquity of television, the distortion of the language--and his ability to construct such a thorough version of hell. Required reading for students since it was published, it ranks among the most terrifying novels ever written.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:05 -0400)

(see all 10 descriptions)

Portrays life in a future time when a totalitarian government watches over all citizens and directs all activities.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 32 descriptions

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