George Orwelliphant

OrwelliphantIt’s been a while since my last post, not just because I’ve been busy working on my novel, life has required more attention of late. I have also hesitated to post this installment as it might be a little controversial. Readers might think me; a philistine incapable of appreciating a literary classic; lacking in culture or intelligence – perhaps both. Those who love the book might think I’m committing some sort of thoughtcrime.

When I get into a book I find myself looking forward to bedtime/reading time when an alternate reality awaits me. I have time to devour beautifully constructed sentences that draw me into the world of the book like a gluttonous addict. If words had calories I would be a bariatric blob of a woman reading myself into an early grave. I can escape, arouse my senses, challenge my beliefs, be inspired, scared and so much more. I will read and re-read yummy paragraphs and sentences over and over – Life of Pi and Time Travellers Wife being particularly calorific.

Then I started George Orwell’s 1984. I didn’t like it and abandoned it on page 73. I don’t give up on things easily and it never really occurred to me that I should put this book down but when I started to delay bedtime I realised it was so I wouldn’t have to to read. (I am fully aware of my oddities – nothing to be ashamed of, we all have them.)

Wanna know why?

Well, I’m going to tell you anyway.

I don’t believe that mankind can be so darkly manipulated for such a long time without some sort of uprising or outward demonstration, there was no comradery, no safe place, it was distopian beyond belief.

Dumb Proles unquestioning in their existence with no resistance? When does that EVER happen? I didn’t believe the premise the book is based on. Not just because I believe mankind is better or more capable but I don’t believe our brains can ever be adjusted in that way for so many years and still function in a social way. Germany, Russia, China – those environments existed tenuously. Tyranical rulers stay their course for only so long before being overthrown so how can a future as distopian and as harsh as Big Brother exist for as long as Winston can remember?

The evil children of Winstons neighbour threw me too. Children innately seek love and comfort no matter how horrid they are.

“It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.”

Viktor E. FranklMan’s Search for Meaning

Viktor Frankl spent so much time in concentration camps he and his fellow inmates were tested to their human limit. What I mean is they were stripped of their humanity by the guards around them but sought and found their own humanity. The most basic of human freedoms. Choice. Even if someone is holding a gun to your head, threatening you or your family, you are human, you have a choice.

I also don’t believe we are capable of more. 1984 is unbelieveable and so far into the realm of fantasy that I can’t make my mind accept the premise. I didn’t like that winston was so weak. He frustrated me. We aren’t that powerless, most of us have black days that might last a day, month or longer. (A minority aren’t able to fight their way out of the darkness and their struggle should not be dismissed but respected.)

I wasn’t looking for a disney ending but at the point I stopped reading Winston seemed unable to fight, as if he wasn’t pushed hard enough by his environment. He seemed doomed from the outset.

IMAGE: quickly cobbled together – sorry. Big shout to Elephant Welliphant – a well loved book in my home.

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9 thoughts on “George Orwelliphant

  1. I never read 1984 because the description people gave me sounded a little pretentious and uninteresting. Mostly, I was told it was all about Big Brother and tyranny. Yet, everyone seems so in love with it. So, it’s really interesting to read a commentary on the book from the perspective of someone who didn’t like it.
    It’s funny that you mention the unbelievability of mankind being manipulated for so long. That was my reason for not getting into the Hunger Games. I know they had done some failed rebellions before, but I just couldn’t believe that any group of people would allow anyone to subject their kids to death matches for 74 years. Personally, I think people would either stop having kids, hide their kids, or go into an all-out suicidal war. So, I really couldn’t believe that the world had come to this by the hands of other humans. I guess some books really do rely on a person’s personal beliefs about humanity’s mental and emotional limits.

    • Everyone I know who has read the book has loved it. I avoided it until a friend, who is part of a book club, suggested it for the group. The more I read the more I found myself digging my heels in against it. I’m re-reading Foundation by Asimov now and so much happier!

      • My brother introduced me to Asimov when I was 23. I had chicken pox and was covered in blisters – going out of my mind from lack of sleep. He handed me a copy of Nemesis one night and I was hooked. I would thoroughly recommend the Foundation Series. His short stories are amazing and a great introduction to his work. Asimov also wrote a fair amount of non-fiction mostly in the form of essays which give a great insight into his fiction thought processes.

  2. Nineteen Eighty-Four is a prediction, a thought experiment. Only if you accept the premises will you understand the conclusion, if I can put it in those terms. What is important is not how believable Oceania is. The important thing is, rather, what it would mean if it were to come true. The whole novel is a reductio ad absurdum, everything is taken to its extreme.

    The point the book is trying to make is that Oceania (and the other “countries”) can have existed for a very short time and still perpetuate the lie that things have always been the way they are, because the leaders can manipulate history. This is why Winston remembers things from his youth such as real coffee and whatever else (I can’t recall what right now), because of the lies he himself has been keeping alive, however, he is unsure of the past.

    The truth is that there are in fact countries jarringly similar to Oceania today, take North Korea, for instance. In fact, Orwell is trying to show how hard it would be to revolt in a society where freedom has been exchanged for security.

    “And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed – if all records told the same tale – then the lie passed into history and became truth. “Who controls the past,” ran the Party slogan, “controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. “Reality control,” they called it: in Newspeak, “doublethink.””

    Now I’ve spent way too much time commenting. Anyway, the book is fiction and should be treated as such. Sorry for rambling on.

    • Hi Alfred, Thank you so much for the time you have taken to explain this to me! I really REALLY appreciate it.
      I read your comment just before I took a flight for a break with my family – hence the delayed response. I can tell you that my reaction to your comment was a great big “Oh!” over and over again. “The whole novel is a reductio ad absurdum, everything is taken to its extreme.” – It makes sense now.

      I get it. And, because of your “ramble” :) I will most likely pick it up again and, this time, finish it.

      Thanks again.

      • Thanks for taking the time to consider my comment yourself. I’m glad if it actually helped you view it in another way.

      • I like to keep an open mind – it doesn’t do to be too firm with ones opinions. I can talk and talk but to listen is to learn.

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