George Orwell's dystopian novel 1984 was published 68 years ago on this day, and never has his cynical hypothesis about a future where we are being constantly watched been more prevalent.
If you have any doubts about how relevant people think the book is — New York Times reported in January 2017 that there has been a huge surge in sales of the book.
Craig Burke of Penguin USA, said that the publisher had ordered 75,000 new copies of the book this week and that it was considering another reprint and the demand had surged since Donald Trump was elected President of the United States on January 2017.
Orwell's 1984 seems to be a futuristic mirror that somehow has been able to reflect the socio-politico economic situation of the present day in the year 1949 when the book was published. It stands true to all the depictions of a dystopian world named Oceania. His idea of an all-powerful party leader 'Big Brother' who keeps an eye on everything that's happening around couldn't be truer if compared to present-day world. In the age of alternative facts, when lies are tweaked to appear as truth and censorship prevailing at every step of the ladder, the sense of freedom takes a huge toll.
Terms coined by Orwell like the party-language Newspeak is relevant today when across the globe, despite having cultural diversities, the mental language seems to be the same. Today's world is being driven by right-wing fundamentalist ideology that deems others to conform to it, regardless of how skewed it is.
The idea of dividing the society into sections, driven by class is very much a prevalent idea in a country like India. The ideology has not done any good to the country's state and has rather put its fate at stake. Orwell's legendary mastery over his thoughts and language also comes across with the names of the ministries in Oceania that he coined - Ministry of Truth, Ministry of Love, Ministry of Peace and Ministry of Plenty. Each of these are in every sense incongruous in the world that Orwell describes as well as the world we live in. He so skillfully uses them as puns to make us think, observe, realise and act.
The theme of 1984 — a dystopian future where critical thought is suppressed under a totalitarian regime, is also very pertinent to India and the world. Here are a few more novels that touch base on the subject of a dystopian future for our throwback Thursday:
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
In 1985, Margaret Atwood couldn't possibly have known that the plot points she described in her feminist novel The Handmaid's Tale would hit so close to home for women in 2017. More than three decades later, Atwoord's novel seems eerily prescient. The Handmaid's Tale was set in a fictional futuristic society called Gilead.
Fertility levels in the populace are low, so the women who are able to bear children, are pressed into service as 'handmaids'. They're contracted to rich and powerful men whose wives are unable to have children; the handmaids must bear their babies. They're also not entitled to names of their own — instead they're known by by the name of he man they 'belong' to, with the prefix 'of' attached (for example — Ofred: 'of' 'Fred', meaning belonging to Fred). The Handmaid's Tale is a sad reminder that no matter what the time/age/era/century, women always have to fight for their rights.
Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
The title, 'Fahrenheit 451' is a reference to the temperature at which paper catches fire, and burns.
Though this novel doesn't speak politically against the left or the right (like 1984 or Brave New World), it touches on the very relevant theme of dumbing down of society — and highlights how a nation only living on Hollywood, pop culture can create zombies who are incapable of fighting for their own rights.
For those who have missed reading this wondering novel by Ray B , they are in luck — because HBO's film version, starring Sofia Boutella, Michael B. Jordan is likely to debut in 2018.
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
Brave New World is set in 2050 AD in London and shows a society where left leaning thinking has been taken to such an extreme that society to lose all concept of art, honor, religious beliefs, or anything that often defines culture. Yes there is peace, there is no concept of war — but people also have no empathy or any feelings for others. Human beings are grown inside bottles and 'conditioned' to believe certain moral truths which benefit the 'greater good' of the society.
The Sleeper Awakes - HG Wells
Much of Wells' sci-fi fiction would resonate with the world as we know today, but one of the elements in his book The Sleeper Awakes seems particularly valid. The Sleeper Awakes with a strange but captivating premise — an insomniac finally goes to sleep, only to awaken from his slumber over 200 years later! Even as he comes to grips with the world and the unimaginable technological advancements around him, he is also exposed to a world where the gap between the haves and have-nots is sharply defined. The way in which the elites of this future world have oppressed those not as fortunate by the use of rewards and punishments, and also technology should set off warning bells for readers.
A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess
Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange transports the reader into an otherwordly place, which may seem like it is vastly different from our own because of its linguistic quirks, style of dressing and culture. But this dystopian book hits home because its themes are relevant even today.
The State, as represented in the book, interferes in the very personal lives of citizens by conditioning them to behave in a particular way which is deemed moral. Free will just does not exist in this world. The Ludovico technique used in the book to reform criminals is based on the psychological theory that humans can be deterred from indulging in certain behaviours if the behaviour results in an unpleasant experience. But the technique is far from perfect, and the subjects that undergo it do not really change. Not just that, they also begin behaving like wound-up toys who function as the State would like them too.
To add to the mania are an oversexed youth with very violent tendencies and a public that watches State-approved films on TV which numb them into not questioning the evil that the government is up to.
Published Date: Jun 08, 2017 17:26 PM | Updated Date: Jun 09, 2017 06:59 AM