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George Orwell's 1984.

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I first saw the movie of "1984" afew years ago and I have just recently got a copy of the book and have started reading it.

For those of unfamiliar with it, it was written in 1948 by George Orwell who was also the author of "Animal Farm".

"1984" is basically a dystopian vision of the future where the world has been divided in to 3 superpower nations all of which ar totalitarian regimes and are at constanly at war with one another. The story is set in London which is the center of goverment of Airstrip One(what we now know as Britain) which is part of the vast nation of Oceania which controls Britain,Ireland,North and South America, Australia and southern Africa.

The other two nations are "Eurasia"(Europe and Russia) and East Asia(China, Japan and south east asia).

In this novel Orwell envisioned a world where our lives at constanly monitored by the regime. There is a devise called a "telescreen" which works as both a television and camera. There is one on very room, every corridor, every street constanly monitoring every person. It is a law that they must be left on all the time and there is only one channel which only broadcasts public announments and propaganda from across the regime. If nothing is being bradcast then they simply show a portarit of the dictator's face, who is know as "Big Brother".

In most dictatorships, they use posters or paintings but here they use the telescreens, which he is at the top of this hierarchay of monitoring so it is like he is literally looking back at you. Hence the slogans "Big Brother is watching you".

The novel describes the citizens as living a clockwork, mechinical-like existence full of conformity where everyone only wears uniforms and address each other as "comrade", and only living off the bare essentials of what is needed to survive.

The novel basically tries the descibe the horrors of a totalitarian and statism regime, where there is no freedom whatsoever.

However many argue that Orwell novel is really pro-communism but only anti-Stalinism. However his vision of Oceania stilll carries the same charateristics of a Totalarian society. A society which controls our lives, uses proganda to manipulate our minds, a dictator who tell us what to think and a statism attidude to believe that their nation, their party is superior and the everything which opposes them is unmoral.

What do you people think?

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i loved the book...

And i don't see how it could be pro communist, as i came away feeling very strongly AGAINST the communist ideals...

i haven't seen the movie yet, but that is only because i have limited tv time and have been working my way thru some old faves... I can't wait to see it.

The ministry of love scared me...

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You'll have to check the Objectivist literature to find it but Ayn Rand did make comments on George Orwell's 'Animal Farm.' She didn't think much of it or of Orwell. Her comments were something to the extent that Orwell was against one form of statism but for another, and he certainly didn't understand capitalism because the capitalists were the villians in 'Animal Farm.'

1984 is a good book but it grants evil metaphyical power. Ayn Rand's We The Living presents a more accurate version of what a total dictatorship would look like; a fuedal state as opposed to Orwell's high tech fantasy.

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i loved the book...

And i don't see how it could be pro communist, as i came away feeling very strongly AGAINST the communist ideals...

I thought the first half was ok, but the second was kind of boring. As far as dystopian novels go, I preferred Brave New World, which I also think is a lot more relevant to the problems society will face in the next 100 years or so. 1984 has probably been more important from a cultural point of view however, since it's caused people to become slightly more distrusting of government and surveillence, which is always a good thing. Wouldnt it have been naturalistic by Rand's classification of art, out of interest (or at least expressed a bad sense of life)?

I found newspeak to be the most interesting part of the book, since it was the first time I had encountered ideas like that.

And i don't see how it could be pro communist, as i came away feeling very strongly AGAINST the communist ideals...
I think the books were more against the USSR and totalitarianism than they were against communisism per se. Animal Farm certainly limited its criticisms to the concrete events of the soviet revolution, rather than the ideology behind them. Having said that, I don't understand how anyone could interpret either book as being pro-communist (or pro-any-system really) - they were more anti-statist than anything else. Orwell clearly defines what he doesn't want, but doesn't really describe what he does (this isnt a complaint, just an observation).

A (rather long) essay on George Orwell's personal political beliefs, and how they changed through time, can be found here, although I dont believe that a person's character or intentions should affect the interpretation of their work.

argive99:

and he certainly didn't understand capitalism because the capitalists were the villians in 'Animal Farm.'

The novel was about the russian revolution. I assume the farmer/pigs would have represented the Russian czars and the corrupt communist party rather than some idealized capitalist businessman.

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1984 is a good book but it grants evil metaphyical power. Ayn Rand's We The Living presents a more accurate version of what a total dictatorship would look like; a fuedal state as opposed to Orwell's high tech fantasy.

This is what Leonard Peikoff wrote about it in OPAR:

Orwell regards freedom as a luxury; he believes that one can wipe out every vestige of free thought, yet still maintain an industrial civilization. Whose mind is maintaining it? Blank out. Anthem, by contrast, shows us "social cogs" who have retrogressed, both spiritually and materially, to the condition of primitives. When men lose the freedom to think, Ayn Rand understands, they lose the products of thought as well.
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You'll have to check the Objectivist literature to find it but Ayn Rand did make comments on George Orwell's 'Animal Farm.' She didn't think much of it or of Orwell. Her comments were something to the extent that Orwell was against one form of statism but for another, and he certainly didn't understand capitalism because the capitalists were the villians in 'Animal Farm.'

In a couple of letters during 1946, when Animal Farm had just come out, Ayn Rand made clear that the book was not anti-Communist, but rather anti-Stalin. She specifically warned Leonard Read , founder of the Foundation for Economic Education, against recommending the book to his audience. Miss Rand pointed out that the moral of the book was not "Communism is evil," but rather "Stalin's Communism is just as evil as Capitalism."

See Letters of Ayn Rand, pages 310 and 337.

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This is what Leonard Peikoff wrote about it in OPAR:

I remember reading that passage and wondering if Peikoff and I had read the same book. I read 1984 in junior high (which, ironically, was just a year or two after the actual year 1984) and was quite impressed. Years before even hearing of Rand, I had the feeling of encountering someone who thought like I did.

I haven't read the book since then, but as I recall, the chocolate rations were gradually reduced. The implication, to this reader, was that the society was declining and unable to support itself. There was no indication of any kind of technological progress.

Maybe I should read it again to be sure, but I think Peikoff is wrong on this point.

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"1984" isn't technologically advanced. I've only read half of it so far, but the main character "Winston" describes the houses as being old and decaying and were built in the 19th and early 20th century and most of those have broken windows and and are boarded it.

The novel may also be pro-Capitialism. "Winston" is aged 39 in the time of the novel and the Socialist party "Insoc"(English Socialism) was established when he 12 years old, so he tries to think back to a time before the revolution and wonders if life is really better than it is now.

The party tries to brainwash people with Marxist anti-Capitalist proganda, describing a history before the revolution the Capitalist Bourgeoise controled most of the wealth and lived in luxury while the vast majority of people lived in poverty and had berely enough to make ends meet.

In a cafe "Winston" meets an elderly gentleman who has lived half his life in the Capilist era and the other in the era of Insoc. Wiston uses the oppurtunity to question whether he believed live was better now than it is back then. However the elderly man seems to be so brainwashed that he doesn't understand Winston's question, and thinks he is simply asking whether it is better to be young or old.

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The novel may also be pro-Capitialism.

Odd that a socialist would write a pro-capitalist book. Look, 1984 can be an enjoyable book, but it is definitely not an anti-socialist or anti-collectivist book. Orwell understood some basic faults of Communism, but not the roots of the faults. It's easier to see where Orwell went wrong in Animal Farm, because that book is more obviously attacking what went on in Russia. In it, he clearly has sympathy for the ideas that led to the revolution, but disagreed with the way things happened.

Some of this is there, but more subtle in 1984. It's interesting to note that so many leftists have used 1984 to make arguments against capitalism (ie. invasion of privacy, control of information, war leading to profit, etc.). Most capitalists would argue that they are wrong, that Orwell meant such and such. But there's really nothing in the novel to suggest that he actually favors capitalism. He might conceed it's better than the society of 1984, but I doubt Orwell would promote capitalism above standard European Socialism.

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Having recently read the book this summer, I see little differences between it and Anthem. Difference being, of course, that in Anthem, society has gone farther down the path of social primitivity. Really, Anthem could be a follow-up to 1984; both societies are almost indentical: Fanaticism for the state, or for one's "brother man," is highly supported, citizens live lives of self-sacrifice, no personal gain is ever made, society is in constand decline, sex is frowned upon, people are under constant surveilence (or are supposed to be), etc.

Whatever Orwell's intentions might have been in writing 1984, i don't know, but he was clearly against fundamental statist and totalitarian ideas. If it was written to support socialist ideas, then he certainly didn't do a very good job writing it.

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I liked the book I thought it was good. Winston was kind of pathetic though for the lead character. I thought Julia was a saving grace to off set the weaselly nature of Winston. Also I thought I read that Orwell was a communist/socialist earlier in his life but changed his mind after Russia tanked its rep. I figured that’s why the book appeared anti-stallen rather than anti-communism. (His lack of vision leading him to see them both as one in the same) Animal farm on the other hand struck me as anti-capitalism. (Which may have been his point?)

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  • 1 month later...

Has anyone seen the 1980’s movie “Brazil?” It’s an excellent adaptation of 1984 that is better than the original in some ways.

I read “1984” many years before discovering Objectivism or capitalism, and was depressed for weeks after reading it. It was the first time I glimpsed the nature of totalitarianism, and the prospect of a society locked into slavery and unable to even conceive of freedom seemed plausible and very scary to me. “Anthem” on the other hand, had quite the opposite effect, and I have since re-read it many times, with a feeling of triumphant joy after each time.

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Has anyone seen the 1980’s movie “Brazil?”  It’s an excellent adaptation of 1984 that is better than the original in some ways.

I just saw "Brazil" less than a week ago. I also recently saw "Baron Manchausen" and "12 Monkeys" also by Terry Gilliam. I am mixed on Gilliam. I really liked 12 Monkeys which could almost be viewed as a warning against environmental terrorists. I thought the theme to Baron Manchausen was terrible, namely the superiority of imagination and emotions to cold-hearted reason and logic. There is even an explicit attack against the Enlightenment in that film which is reffered to as the "age of reason" and essentially mocked.

So while I think that Gilliam is intelligent and philosophical (which in itself makes him stand out from his Hollywood peers), I also see some bad intellectual influences in his work.

With that as a preface, I was mixed on Brazil. I like that it portrayed a future totalitarian state as bearucratic and inept but I didn't like the way it portrayed capitalism. It made corporations the big, evil bad guys who exploit everyone. There was a scene in the film when the two lead characters are driving away from the city on a highway. Along the highway are nothing but corporate billboards depicting beautiful scenery. When the camera pans up, you see nothing but a desolate, barren wasteland. The implication is unmistakable; corporations plunder both the poor and the environment.

Another theme I didn't quite like was the way plastic surgery was used as almost an attack on self-interest. It was a straw man; the rich are so vain and uncarring that they mutilate themselves with plastic surgery to such an extent that their evil, empty inside is revealed on their exterior. I originally thought it was an attack on superficiality, but I think it goes deeper.

The last theme I'll coment on (and the film had many) is the phenomenon of self-delusion in the context of a society that has no hope for the future. The protaganist's inability to seperate fantasy from reality was interesting for awhile but by the end it became depressing. And here the movie becomes ambiguous; did the final breakout occur or was it all a dream. Maybe Giliam's point was that under tyranny all a person has is dreams. I don't know, but I personally dislike when films (or novels) resort to the tack of "is it real or not - you decide."

So I wold say that "Brazil" is worth a look. And I agree that it is more realistic in its depiction of a future totalitarian state than "1984" but it still has many flaws in its outlook. But it is entertaining.

And incidently, it has nothing to do with the country which shares its name. I think Gilliam got the title from a popular song in the 30's. Its an interesting question why he chose that title. I think it has to do with contrast; an ugly tyrannical future and a happy, carefree, jolly song. Just a guess.

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  • 2 months later...
Has anyone seen the 1980’s movie “Brazil?”  It’s an excellent adaptation of 1984 that is better than the original in some ways.

Sorry for the late reply to this post but I just found it tonight...

After seeing "Brazil" I thought the same thing. Just last year a friend loaned me the DVD re-release with Gilliam's comments. It's a bit wierd because he claims that he never even read "1984".

I suppose this could go to show that if you start with a certain premise (in this case, collectivism) and are logical & honest to a degree in your working out the details you are bound to wind up with certain conclusions (in this case a negative reaction toward collectivism).

Of course, as has already been mentioned in this thread, Orwell was not pro-freedom, just anti some flavor of collectivism. I read his stuff years ago & remember thinking "OK so I know what you're against, but what are you for?".

It struck me as cynical because he never offers any constructive alternatives to his bleak view.

BTW-there is a thread on Gilliam that has some interesting comments. He is a talented film maker despite philosophical flaws.

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  • 1 month later...

Wrong wrong wrong you are! A world like 1984 is completely possible and parts of the book are so similar to the way the United States is headed that its scary.The belief that it cant happen is exactly the kind of attitude that lets it happen.The Jews in poland never would have believed that anyone would try to exterminate them, but it did happen.You should also read "We" by Yevgeny Zamyatin which was written before 1984.

Let the government put cameras everywhere like they are doing now.Turn in your guns and weapons of resistance/ empowerment. Agree to an electronic national ID card.Give the government broader powers of surveillance and the ability to try suspects in secret courts. See what happens to your freedom then. They don't even need a warrant to search your home anymore, thanks to the "Patriot" Act. You don't seem to know much about human nature, my friend. The hunger for power over others is all-consuming, for some people.

"The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing."

--Hitler's Secret Conversations, trans. Norman Cameron and R. H. Stevens (New York: Signet Books, 1961) 403

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I'm not so sure if a world like 1984 is completely possible. If you riddle society full of contradictions and control their mind, who is going to produce? What would keep society even at the level it is at?

I read it twice; once for me and again for school. I have to admit I enjoyed the book, even after I read Anthem. I like Anthem better, but this seemed to be another strike against communism. The thing the teachers in schools should tell their kids (and this is true of Animal Farm too) is that Goldstein and Snowball represent Leon Trotsky. I was told this, but for some reason I figured he was a Capitalist. Anyway, I really wish the school would have told us that because it wasn't until months later that I bothered to Google Trotsky and came up with a commie. That takes alot away from the book for me. Plus, I'm sure many of the other kids at my school thought he was a Capitalist.

For my two cents, I enjoyed it, but at a level of ignorance. Now I don't like it as much.

Zak

Edited by realitycheck44
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I have read the novel and it quickly became one of my favorites.

I have only seen about 2 mins. of the opening scene of the movie. Hopefully, I will soon by able to view it entirely.

The book sent me into about a week of questioning with myself about some of the concepts of truth that were present in the novel. In the end when Winston is being "tortured" and truth is being discussed, it is stated that truth is only what the mind determines it to be. This made me question what people may be able to influence upon others simply because we believe what we learn and experience. Look at the influence of propaganda and how successful that can be. Surely there is external truths, physical elements that exist in a manner our thoughts could not alter, however, the way in which we think about these external elements is dependent upon what we learn. We learn everything with a predisposed bias. These basic thoughts sent me on a downward, yet digressing, spiral of pessimistic thought which I would rather not go into in detail at this time due to the extensiveness of it as well as the sick feeling such thought imposes on me.

Just wanted to put in my comments.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Speaking of "We" by Yevgeny Zamyatin, does anyway know where I can get a free online copy of it?

I managed to get an online copy "Anthem", "1984" "Brave New World", "Manifesto of Communism", "Mein Kampf" and the "Dune" novels.

"We" was actually the first dystopian novel and inspired Orwell to write "1984" and Huxley to write "Brave New World". These three are the most famous dystopian novels in the world.

"We" also inspired Ayn Rand to write "Anthem".

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