Nineteen Eighty-Four

Nineteen Eighty-Four

‘Sometimes,’ she said, ‘they threaten you with something – something you can’t stand up to, can’t even think about. And then you say, “Don’t do it to me, do it to somebody else, do it to So-and-so.” And perhaps you might pretend, afterwards, that it was only a trick and that you just said it to make them stop and didn’t really mean it. But that isn’t true. At the time when it happens you do mean it. You think there’s no other way of saving yourself, and you’re quite ready to save yourself that way. You want it to happen to the other person. You don’t give a damn what they suffer. All you care about is yourself.’

Published in 1949, and written while Orwell was seriously ill with tuberculosis, 1984 is perhaps Orwell’s most famous work. The story of Winston Smith, who rewrites Times editorials at the Ministry of Truth to suit the Party’s version of events, 1984 introduced ‘Big Brother’, ‘thought police’, ‘Room 101′, ‘doublethink’ and ‘newspeak’ to the English language. A satire on totalitarianism, 1984 is a testament to the potential power of modern political systems, and the dark side of human nature: as O’Brien tells Winston, ‘the object of power is power’.

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