George Orwell

George Orwell published 1984 in 1949, the same year that the Soviet Union exploded its first atomic bomb. The arms race that followed the Soviets’ development of nuclear weaponry quickly escalated into the Cold War, which raged for the next four decades as the enormous ideological gulf separating capitalism and democracy from totalitarianism and Communism led to mutual hatred between the United States and the Soviet Union, the world’s most powerful nations. During the long decades of the Cold War, perhaps no book better captured the moral objections against totalitarian Communism than 1984, written by Orwell originally to warn the world of the dangers of authoritarian regimes. Depicting a horrifying near-future of governmental oppression, slavery, and alienation, 1984 created a sensation upon its initial appearance, sounding the alarm that the atrocities committed under Communism upon human material security and freedom were possible not only in Russia and Eastern Europe, but in the West as well.


Many of the methods that the Party in 1984 uses to sustain its absolute power, such as the rewriting of history and the use of political icons, were actually employed in Communist nations around the world (Big Brother is similar to Lenin in the Soviet Union and Mao in China). A recent historical survey conducted by a group of French scholars, published in America as The Black Book of Communism in 1999, estimates that Communist governments were directly responsible for the deaths of more than 100 million people during the twentieth century, more than died during World War I, World War II, or during any of the horrific genocide campaigns of the twentieth century. Though the world did not fall under authoritarian control as Orwell feared it might, 1984 has not become dated; it remains an invaluable book, both warning against a world that could come into existence and reminding the reader of one that did.

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Just as it did in 1949, 1984 continues to bear enough relevance and prescience to make such the world it prophesies seem frighteningly possible. In the novel, for instance, war is used as a device for political manipulation on television–a concept presented strikingly in the film Wag the Dog. Also in the novel, historical records are rewritten to match the political ideology of the Party–a technique that the Soviet Union used as recently as a decade ago, and one still common in some parts of the world. Though 1984 has passed, the warning of Orwell’s novel remains important: the Cold War may be over, but the world has never completely escaped from the dystopian dangers that Orwell describes.


George Orwell published 1984 in 1949, the same year that the Soviet Union exploded its first atomic bomb. The arms race that followed the Soviets’ development of nuclear weaponry quickly escalated into the Cold War, which raged for the next four decades as the enormous ideological gulf separating capitalism and democracy from totalitarianism and Communism led to mutual hatred between the United States and the Soviet Union, the world’s most powerful nations. During the long decades of the Cold War, perhaps no book better captured the moral objections against totalitarian Communism than 1984, written by Orwell originally to warn the world of the dangers of authoritarian regimes. Depicting a horrifying near-future of governmental oppression, slavery, and alienation, 1984 created a sensation upon its initial appearance, sounding the alarm that the atrocities committed under Communism upon human material security and freedom were possible not only in Russia and Eastern Europe, but in the West as well.


Many of the methods that the Party in 1984 uses to sustain its absolute power, such as the rewriting of history and the use of political icons, were actually employed in Communist nations around the world (Big Brother is similar to Lenin in the Soviet Union and Mao in China). A recent historical survey conducted by a group of French scholars, published in America as The Black Book of Communism in 1999, estimates that Communist governments were directly responsible for the deaths of more than 100 million people during the twentieth century, more than died during World War I, World War II, or during any of the horrific genocide campaigns of the twentieth century. Though the world did not fall under authoritarian control as Orwell feared it might, 1984 has not become dated; it remains an invaluable book, both warning against a world that could come into existence and reminding the reader of one that did.


Just as it did in 1949, 1984 continues to bear enough relevance and prescience to make such the world it prophesies seem frighteningly possible. In the novel, for instance, war is used as a device for political manipulation on television–a concept presented strikingly in the film Wag the Dog. Also in the novel, historical records are rewritten to match the political ideology of the Party–a technique that the Soviet Union used as recently as a decade ago, and one still common in some parts of the world. Though 1984 has passed, the warning of Orwell’s novel remains important: the Cold War may be over, but the world has never completely escaped from the dystopian dangers that Orwell describes.


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