Re-read 1984 in preparation for the first term of Year 11 literature….I’m excited to teach this text and I imagine the students will find those lot more interesting and related to world events that other texts we have done.
George Orwell has lost a bit of his luster over the last ten years or so….The fact he may have been a rat who kept tab on others for the British Government being an extremely damaging revelation for a writer who offered his own integrity as a guarantor of his writing http://www.netcharles.com/orwell/articles/col-informer.htm….I find that in retrospect having a contrary nature wherein you must always take the opposite side of an argument is not always a sign of great integrity….Sometimes it just means you’re an a**hole who likes to draw attention to himself.
When your #1 fan is a drunken moronic colonialist such as Christopher Hitchens who deep down inside wishes for a return to empire as he doesn’t seem to understand that a democracy a country chooses is sometimes not necessarily always going to fit with what first world nations want to see , uses atheism to hide a prejudice against Muslims, and supported the Iraq war and the whole kit and caboodle of lies and propaganda that went with it….The last one is fitting considering the use of Newspeak in discussions of “extraordinary renditions” “shock and awe” and countries automatically becoming democracies in the Middle East, it does not bode your legacy well.
However, I’m pleased to say that 1984 is a still great book….Its nearly perfect in its construction with the society of Oceania as the ultimate totalitarian state where everything within humanity is to be replaced by ultimate devotion to the state.
However, how this is accomplished is a question worth debating….In particular, this line (which I believe has been disproved).
“But it was also clear that an all-round increase in wealth threatened the destruction -- indeed, in some sense was the destruction -- of a hierarchical society. In a world in which everyone worked short hours, had enough to eat, lived in a house with a bathroom and a refrigerator, and possessed a motor-car or even an aeroplane, the most obvious and perhaps the most important form of inequality would already have disappeared. If it once became general, wealth would confer no distinction. It was possible, no doubt, to imagine a society in which wealth, in the sense of personal possessions and luxuries, should be evenly distributed, while power remained in the hands of a small privileged caste. But in practice such a society could not long remain stable. For if leisure and security were enjoyed by all alike, the great mass of human beings who are normally stupefied by poverty would become literate and would learn to think for themselves; and when once they had done this, they would sooner or later realize that the privileged minority had no function, and they would sweep it away. In the long run, a hierarchical society was only possible on a basis of poverty and ignorance.”
When I was in high school, one of my English teachers did a series of lessons where they compared the dictatorships of 1984 and BRAVE NEW WORLD….They use opposite approaches to achieve the same end….While I think 1984 is a vastly superior book in plot, characterization, and style, BRAVE NEW WORLD has more relevance to today’s situation (especially in America) .
In fact, the opposite of 1984 has really proven to be more effective in keeping down a society of happily distracted deliberately stupid proles….People who know nothing except the most idiotic form of entertainment and the drilled in desire for the acquisition of material possessions as some sort of essential stapled to life will not complain when their country commits horrendous atrocities around the world.
You don’t need the Leon Trotsky figure Emmanual Goldstein as a boogeyman….Any number of lesser subjects will do but even better is the constant search for pleasure….Of course, you will end up with a population of citizens who behave like teenagers even when they are middle-aged but I guess that’s the point….Less thinking!
I think loss of freedom of speech is not the worst thing that can happen to a society….Loss of a desire for nobility and greatness is worse….Misplaced priorities as a nation are worse.
So I am looking forward to teaching Orwell but I don’t view it as anything historically analogous to the America (or for that matter EU nations) of today.