Everything is gray. The air is damp and thick like smoke. The giant image of a man with a mustache dominates from inside some posters. His eyes follow everyone, like an inscrutable god. A single line is under the picture of 1984: “Big Brother is watching you.”
1984 is a dystopian sci-fi novel by Eric Arthur Blair, known by his pen name, George Orwell. In the universe of 1984, there are no longer laws. Ingsoc (English Socialism) is the predominant ideology. The Party rules everything, but it constantly lies to the population. The book follows the story of Winston Smith, a man who decides to write a diary, to tell the truth. After that, he unleashes his hate for Big Brother, the symbol and leader of the Party. Winston then begins a journey to survive against his society.
The loss of privacy
In this world, everyone is watched or listened to at any time. Hidden microphones and telescreens (two-way televisions) are inside all houses, workstations, and public places. They never turn off. The Thought Police employ undercover agents, who report suspicious people to the government. The slightest sign of rebellion can result in immediate arrest.
Although other authors wrote about dystopian societies, like Aldous Huxley with Brave New World or Ray Bradbury with Fahrenheit 451, Orwell was one of the first to introduce the modern concept of privacy. His novel inspired many media representations later on, for example, Netflix‘s TV series Black Mirror or the videogame We Happy Few developed by Compulsion Games. Lately, the debate about the newest digital devices involves Orwell’s 1984 more and more often.
An animal mankind
In the book, most of the time, people don’t act like humans but like tamed animals. For example, during the Two Minutes Hate against Emmanuel Goldstein. He is the author of a forbidden book and the leader of a revolutionary group, the Brotherhood. After a while, all the participants lose their minds, becoming part of the mass. They keep saying the letters B-B (the initials of the Big Brother) over and over again. This sign of veneration soon became the bleating of many submissive sheep, that do what is commanded of them.
Orwell already used animal allegories in his previous work, Animal Farm. This iconic novel shares similar political subjects with 1984. He found many difficulties trying to publish these two books because of the political tension between the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union in the 40s.
The entire novel is an ongoing manhunt, where everyone plays the victim and the executioner’s role at the same time. Throughout the whole story, the reader perceives the continuous presence of someone spying on the protagonist. Buildings are in ruins, shadowy echoes of a rejected world, for the love of bigger entities and the fear of invisible enemies. A spying mob rules, a society with no privacy that acts as a single being, following the Party’s motto of 1984: “Big Brother is watching you.”