#9 Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell
Reasons For Being Banned/Challenged: Challenged numerous times on the grounds that it contains communist and sexual content. This book was challenged in Jackson County, Florida (1981) because the novel is “pro-communist and contains explicit sexual matter.”
My Rating: 2+2=5
I actually have no desire to rate any of the books off the list so instead, I’ll make a cute little numbers joke because I’m clever like that.
Hello, my dear readers. Welcome to my first-ever BANNED BOOKS CHALLENGE BLOG POST. As I stated before, I am reading the 46 most challenged classic books this year and will be blogging about it. I actually finished Nineteen Eighty-Four a week before deciding to start this challenge, so get over it. We’re starting with censorship and free will.
First thing’s first, this Penguin cover of Nineteen Eighty-Four is by far my favorite book cover in the history of book covers. It’s just so perfect in defining what this book is about. Which in itself is ironic since a book about censorship is consistently being challenged and censored (ooh, so deep, Allex!).
Reading this was a first for me. I tried reading it when I was twelve, but when I read those first opening lines of, “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen,” twelve-year-old me was like, Oh shit, he’s starting off with time that doesn’t really exist. This is gonna be tough. (I also didn’t really understand military time.)
But now, twenty-four-year-old me was all, I got this bro. It’s nice to see that a book that had been sitting on my bookshelf for 12 years was finally picked up, read, and understood. George Orwell was one of the first authors to write a dystopian sci-fi world even though it was set only 20 years in the future. But what is most impressive about Nineteen Eighty-Four is how it’s still relevant today. I can go all political on you and start talking about things, but I’ll let other articles do it instead.
This books was so challenged that all of Russia was like, “In Mother Russia, book reads you. Just kidding, shut it down. Do svidaniya, Orwell.” Yeah, they banned it hard. They saw it as a veiled attack against Stalin and peaced out real quick.
But lets talk about main characters. Winston Smith. Poor Winston. He is probably the most pathetic man I have ever read about in a long time. But he does have one thing going for him: his own free will. He ultimately understands that his society is a lie. He sees how Big Brother is a dick and should be put down. So much so that he writes in a(n illegal) diary, “DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER,” over and over again.
But I will be honest, I was really bored with Part I of Nineteen Eighty-Four. I get having to explain the society and how things work but come on, George. Let me figure it out on my own. There is nothing I hate more than reading about a dystopian civilization and having every part of how it works explained to me. He spent all of Part I laundry listing what each ministry did and I was not into it.
The most interesting thing was when he was writing in his diary about his experience with the prostitute. And yeah, I guess that’s not the best thing to say, but it was! His story was so nasty I was reading it on the train and making this face like, “Oh my god, this is so gross! But finally something is happening!”
I also pictured Winston Bishop from New Girl the entire time I read this, which was more funny than anything else. Picturing the colorblind, Ferguson loving, puzzle master trying to take down all of Big Brother helped me connect with Winston’s mission just a bit more.
Part II brought Julia’s character forward and she became more than Winston’s object of hated desire. I’m not exactly sure how I felt about Julia. I guess I was supposed to feel the same way Winston did the first times he saw her. She was this mysterious woman who was about 15 years younger, way hotter than him, possibly a spy and in the Virgins Club. But he wanted to bang the crap out of her/smash her head with a brick. And as soon as she admits her undying love for him, she turns into this sex panther, bragging about the number of sexual partners she has had.
I didn’t believe Julia and Winston’s relationship. It was like, “Well, we both hate Big Brother, so we should stick it to him by having you stick it in me.” (I am really proud of that awful sex joke.) Their feelings weren’t real. She blew off Winston so many times whenever he was trying to get her invested in his ideas — or fell asleep on him. Uh, rude. No wonder the Though Police caught them. He had to practically shout at her information for her to listen.
Part III was by far the best of the entire book. The whole inner workings of the Ministry of Love and how they rehabilitate anyone who strays from Big Brother. It was actually really painful to read. O’Brien reminded me of a prude schoolgirl who dangled sex in front Winston; sex obviously being The Brotherhood though. It was like, look, but don’t touch for poor little Winny. And even with the information O’Brien gave Winston, he already knew it. He just reiterated what Winston — and the reader — had learned throughout the novel. And then he turned out to be a dick who wanted to put a rat cage on poor Winston’s face! I was hoping, praying that Winston got out with his free will intact. I really became connected with the most pathetic protagonist, known as Winston Smith. I didn’t want anything bad to happen to him. I wanted there to be some way for him to get out of it and single-handedly bring down Big Brother.
But alas, Big Brother won.
In the end, I can kind of understand why most people weren’t happy with Nineteen Eighty-Four. Not even Winston wanted to hear about the ugly pro he got with one time. And he and Julia basically just loved banging each other. But the having of the sex wasn’t the big issue here. Orwell was trying to make a statement about totalitarianism. About mankind slowly losing their individuality, free will, and curiosity. About being so controlled that even your thoughts can get you killed and it’s easier to believe a lie than challenge the issue.
The choice for mankind lies between freedom and happiness and for the great bulk of mankind, happiness is better.
Want to read along with me?
Check out the Banned Books Challenge page to see my progress!