Category Archives: 1984

Tech Heavy

There’s something quaint about reading futuristic novels after the future is, well, the past.

Obviously, Orwell’s predictions have not come to reality.  My home decor doesn’t include a telescreen, I haven’t spotted a single Big Brother poster on my commute to work, my children haven’t donned spy apparel.

Those incredibly apparent places where he missed the mark give me a sense of relief.  Hoorah!  Society yielded his warning!  But, there were a few other spots where his prophetic genius was just slightly off target, and instead of a striking fear in my heart, it brought a smile to my face.

For instance, had Orwell only known how teensy tiny surveillance equipment would become, his initial love scene would have needed a new setting.

“Yes.  Look at the trees.”  They were small ashes, which at some time had been cut down and had sprouted up again into a forest of poles, none of them thicker than one’s wrist.  “There’s nothing big enough to hide a mike in.”

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Posted by on November 26, 2013 in 1984


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Last weekend I wished my brother-in-law a happy birthday a day early. I clearly knew that his birthday was November 17, instead the problem lay with my ignorance of Saturday’s date.

The good news is that I might find myself at home in Oceania.  Days, months, and years are all a little questionable there.  Was it 1984?  Maybe, give or take a year.  What about April?  I’d say Aprilish with a heavy dose of March’s lionlike behavior.  And what about that 7:15 call for physical jerks?  Wouldn’t you start to wonder if they’d teased you out of an hour or two of sleep, shoot, even our government does that every spring.

But this we know.  Difinitively.  Well, that is if we are to trust Big Brother Google:

May 2, 1984, the “Sunday” that Winston trips through the golden pools of light and misty bluebells to make his rendezvous with Julia, was a Wednesday.

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Posted by on November 21, 2013 in 1984


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You Can Count on It

Now that we’ve read twenty-four of the most important works of fiction in chronological order something keeps happening, and a while back Christine suggested the need for a series to document this phenomenon.

Connecting the Literary Dots

That’s right, it seems that at every page turn we run into some association with the fictional past, and it’s time to connect those points and see if any patterns appear.  Beware though, some posts could end up looking like the dot-to-dots my three-year-olds “complete.”

For our first official installment (if you’re really hungry for unofficial ones, you can find a good batch here) I bring you this quote only a page or two away from the end of Book One.  Winston just saw the dark haired girl on the street in prole territory and regrets his inability to conk her on the head with a brick then and there.

It struck him that in moments of crisis one is never fighting against an external enemy but always against one’s own body.  Even now, in spite of the gin, the dull ache in his belly made consecutive thought impossible.  And it is the same, he perceived, in all seemingly heroic or tragic situations.  On the battlefield, in the torture chamber, on a sinking ship, the issues that you are fighting for are always forgotten, because the body swells up until it fills the universe, and even when you are not paralyzed by fright or screaming with pain, life is a moment-to-moment struggle against hunger or cold or sleeplessness, against a sour stomach or an aching tooth.

Red Badge of Courage, anyone?

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Posted by on November 20, 2013 in 1984, The Red Badge of Courage


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From the Bottom

They’re above suspicion.

It’s that funny turn of phrase that we use to describe someone so thoroughly good that to imagine them in wrong-doing is unfathomable.  So, were you as surprised as I was to hear Orwell turn the expression on its head?

Promiscuity went unpunished; divorce was permitted.  For that matter, even religious worship would have been permitted if the proles had shown any sign of needing or wanting it.  They were beneath suspicion.

This excerpt from Book I Chapter VII  kicked off my proletarian disbelief, which held fast to the end.  Over and over I wrote in my reading journal phrases like this, “Proles are 85% of the population. 85%!?!?”  “Why are the proles so complacent?”  “So the proles don’t have telescreens?  What . . .?”

The revolt of the peasants on the estate of Prince Shahovskoy by Ivan Vladimirov

I didn’t understand how so many citizens could be left uncensored by Big Brother and not rebel.  I’ll admit that I’m fairly new to the study of history, but Peoples’ Rebellions are real things, right?

Later in the novel we learn from The Book that the lowest class of people does not concern the middle or upper classes, for the low is seldom able to strive for anything, and when they do, it is the grandiose and impossible goal of a classless society of equals.

So is this an accurate portrayal of those in poverty?  Are their stomachs so empty, their lives so unprotected, their minds so vacant that even when they constitute an overwhelming majority of the population they are unable to organize a rebellion?  Are they so deprived that they are even incapable of seeing the need for one?  What made the peasant revolts of the past work?  Or did they?

I feel like these are just questions, not stupid ones, but then again, I might be below suspicion.

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Posted by on November 18, 2013 in 1984


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book%2Bcover%2B1984%2BcopyI finished 1984.

So let me get this straight.

For seven years O’Brien turned Winston away from The Party.  He whispered to him through the telescreen; he set temptations in front of him; he lured him into Thought Crimes…

just so he could torture him and bring him back to being a proper comrade and member of The Party (a broken member, but a member).

Did I miss anything?

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Posted by on November 14, 2013 in 1984


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A Confidant

Book III chapter ii

O’Brien is taking his time torturing Winston.  He’s using the special machine with the dial to reteach Winston the proper way to think: doublethink.  In the midst of unspeakable pain, Winston is finally able to say all the things he’s always wanted to.  He talks about the war and its ever-changing enemy.  He talks about his diary.  He talks about the newspaper photograph of Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford.

O’Brien is determined.  He will teach Winston that 2+ 2=5.

The torture continues until finally Winston can’t even answer the simple math question.  He receives pain medicine.

He opened his eyes and looked up gratefully at O’Brien.  At sight of the heavy, lined face, so ugly and so intelligent, his heart seemed to turn over.  If he could have moved he would have stretched out a hand and laid it on O’Brien’s arm.  He had never loved him so deeply as at this moment, and not merely because he had stopped the pain.  The old feeling, that at the bottom it did not matter whether O’Brien was a friend or an enemy, had come back..  O’Brien was a person who could be talked to.

“O’Brien was a person who could be talked to.”

In the margin of my book I wrote, “like Bigger with Max”.

Certainly Max isn’t like O’Brien.  Native Son ‘s Jewish lawyer really did want to help his client Bigger Thomas, but Winston and Bigger have experienced the same kind of isolation.  Both men were alone with their thoughts… always.  It was never safe for them to share ideas… with anyone.

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Posted by on November 13, 2013 in 1984


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Making Alive

This quote from 1984 opened my eyes.  Worried me.  Gave me pause.

It struck him [Winston] as curious that you could create dead men but not living ones.

But ultimately left me pretty speechless for an analysis.  You?

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Posted by on November 12, 2013 in 1984


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Thought Crime

1984 check-in

I finished Part III of 1984 this weekend.  I think I need to make more doctor’s appointments for my children.  Waiting rooms are where I’m most productive with WEM reading.  How many of you went ahead and read Orwell’s Appendix?  I’m tempted to skip it but don’t want the WEM Thought Police to come after me.  Help me decide?

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Posted by on November 11, 2013 in 1984


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19841984 CCOM
Book II chapter viii

It’s Hate Week.  In the midst of “celebrating”, the war switches from Eurasia to Eastaisa with the explanation that it was Goldstein sabotage.  Five year’s worth of corrections must be made by Winston’s department, but when the work is done, no evidence remains and the war is transferred.  No questions asked.



Have you ever told your kids the plan for the day and then switched it, pretending nothing’s changed?

Mom: Children, we’re going to run some errands and end the day by going out for pizza.
Children: Yea!  We’re going out for pizza.  We’re going out for pizza.
Mom: Children, you are absolutely correct.  We’re going to run some errands and end the day by going out for fried chicken.

Children: crickets.    What?!  Mom, you said we’re going out for pizza!  I heard you!  She said, “pizza,” didn’t she?!  You heard her.  Mom said pizza and now she’s switching it to chicken.  Mom, you can’t switch it.  You promised!

Oceania doesn’t even blink.

Doubleplus Ridiculous.

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Posted by on November 10, 2013 in 1984


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———- ————-

I’ve never been disappointed in a Penguin Classics edition of any of our WEM reads.  In fact, on more than one occasion I’ve been sad that I didn’t forego the other recommendations and spend the big bucks to invest in that familiar and reliable orange and black logo.

This is especially true with the copy of 1984 they released in January.  I want this cover.

Read more about it here.

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Posted by on November 9, 2013 in 1984


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