They say that the opening line of this book is one of the classic lines in literary fiction: It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were all striking thirteen. Well, it’s a bright day in October and the clock will be striking 13:45 in just a few moments, Central Standard Time.
I read 1984 in high school and somehow failed to recall the total bleakness of this novel. Winston Smith is trapped in a world in which privacy is impossible, personal relationships are perilous, and independent thought is criminal. There is nothing beautiful or moving in this story, nor in the language Orwell uses to convey his nightmarish future. And I remember, in high school, wanting to learn the whole rhyme for the London churches – Orange and Lemons say the bells of St. Clemens/You owe me five farthings say the bells of St. Martins/When will you pay me say the bells of Old Bailey/When I am rich say the bells of Shoreditch. I remember that part. I think I purposely blocked out the rest.
So, thirty-odd years later, thanks to the insanity that has been #theLIST, Mr. Orwell and I are locked in a bitter struggle – we are trying to see if his vision of the future can really happen.
With a sick and sad feeling in the pit of my stomach, I must humbly acknowledge that at least a part of it not only can be, but is.
Political season, you know. Presidential elections in the US – you see boogie men around every placard.
Winston’s job is to alter the past to suit the present. There never was a past – only what the “Party” has approved to be remembered. And, naturally, giving the shifting of time, what can be remembered is altered daily. Winston, himself, alters it. It is a dreary desk job, performed by a colorless man with an ulcerating sore on his ankle and a secret – he commits thoughtcrime daily, without even attempting crimestop, and is forever lost in doublespeak.
The country of Oceania has always been at war. With whom it has been at war changes, and yet does not change. The war is a necessity, for keeping the common man, or proles, from engaging in any sort of prosperity. The destruction of goods is a necessity.
Here, I pause and look over my shoulder. War is necessary. Peace is War. And there is war a-brewing, just waiting for a new catalyst from the United Nations. If I am not mistaken, gasoline prices in California are very high. There is unrest in Syria. There is oil in Syria. The political possibilities, so far out of the reach of my fingers, ring like church bells in my ears. I think I have just committed thoughtcrime – and is it just me, or do those campaign poster eyes follow everyone around?
The destruction of the family is well underway in Winston’s world – while marriage is encouraged, affection is not. Children are little spies encouraged to turn on their parents. Parsons falls victim to this.
And Winston, who knows, continues to alter the past and engage in a pointless affair with Julia, who is only a rebel from the waist down.
Needless to say, Winston does not escape the notice of Big Brother and certainly pays the penalty for his thoughtcrime. It takes a while, though, and he resists through rounds and rounds of torture. Once again, I take my nerd hat off to Star Trek: The Next Generation,” and the episode Chain of Command. In an eerie homage to Orwell, Captain Picard and the The Cardassian played by David Warner, play out the initial phases of Winston’s punishment.
What price a man’s soul? In a soulless world, Winston finds out the price of his own soul. His soul does not come cheaply, but it does come. War is Peace. Orange and lemons. It all flutters to dust in the end. I am saddened and warned and now must return to Netflix and find my Star Trek episode and look at it with new eyes.
What price a man’s soul? What price mine?
8/10 Hearts. This was not a pleasant read, but it is truly necessary.