1984 (Everyman's Library)

1984 (Everyman's Library)


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One of the most celebrated classics of the twentieth century, Orwell’s cautionary tale of a man trapped under the gaze of an authoritarian state feels more relevant now than ever before.

Winston Smith, a member of the outer Party, spends his days rewriting history to fit the narrative that his government wants citizens to believe. But as the gap between the propaganda he writes and the reality he lives proves too much for Winston to swallow, he begins to seek some form of escape. His desperate struggle to free himself from an all-encompassing, tyrannical state illuminates the tendencies apparent in every modern society, and makes vivid the universal predicament of the individual. 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780594859307
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/28/1992
Series: Everyman's Library Series
Pages: 376
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.34(h) x 1.03(d)
Age Range: 12 - 18 Years

About the Author

George Orwell (1903-1950) served with the Imperial Police in Burma, fought with the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War, and was a member of the Home Guard and a writer for the BBC during World War II. He is the author of many works of non-fiction and fiction.

Read an Excerpt

INTRODUCTION by Julian Symons
George Orwell's life as a writer falls distinctly into two parts, and it happens that he himself dated the change precisely. On 20 August 1939, the night before Stalin's Soviet Union signed a pact of friendship with Hitler's Germany, Orwell dreamed that the war expected by all adults of his generation had begun, and realized that 'I was patriotic at heart, would not sabotage or act against my own side, would support the war, would fight in it if possible.' His dream anticipated the reality of war by no more than a couple of weeks, and although Orwell's health made it impossible for him to enter the armed forces, he supported the aims of the war and was opposed to a negotiated peace.
The decision was a contradiction of much he had said and written up to that time. Only a couple of months earlier he had expressed the view that the British and French so-called democracies were 'in essence nothing but mechanisms for exploiting cheap labour', and had said the only hope of saving Britain from either foreign or home-grown Fascist rule was the emergence of a mass party whose first pledges would be 'to refuse war and to right imperial injustice'. In a letter that must have alarmed the art critic and peaceful anarchist Herbert Read who received it, he suggested that those who were both anti-war and anti-Fascist should buy and secrete printing presses in what he called 'some discreet place' so that they would be ready for the issue ofrevolutionary pamphlets when the time came.
So Orwell was inconsistent: but then his life up to that night in August 1939 had been a pattern of changes in attitude marking changed beliefs. He was born in Bengal in 1903 as Eric Arthur Blair, the only male child (he had an older and younger sister) of a civil servant in the Opium Department of the Indian government. Like many children of what he later called the 'lower-upper-middle class' he was sent as a boarder to a preparatory school, named St Cyprian's, where by an autobiographical account written not long before his death he was very unhappy. The scholarship that took him to Eton did not change his belief that the prime necessities for success in life were 'money, athleticism, tailor-made clothes and a charming smile', and that he possessed none of these attributes, being weak, ugly, unpopular and cowardly. That was not the view of Eton contemporaries like Cyril Connolly, who saw Orwell not as an outcast but a rebel. Yet the teenage rebel retained respect for the standards engendered by St Cyprian's and Eton, and a feeling that may be called sentimental or patriotic for the British Empire. He served five years in Burma with the Imperial Police, and did so by choice and not compulsion, although he said later that 'I hated the imperialism I was serving with a bitterness that I cannot make clear.'
There is no doubt that he ended by hating it, and he was not a man who did things by halves. After turning away from the Imperialist ideal he tried without much success to involve himself with the poorest and most wretched groups in society. 'At that time failure seemed to me the only virtue', and in pursuit of failure he spent some weeks with hop-pickers, lived briefly with tramps, and tried to get himself put in prison as a drunk. He lived for eighteen months in Paris, writing without much commercial success, and the record of that time, Down and Out in Paris and London was his first published book. He was not proud of or very pleased with the result, and decided to use a pseudonym rather than his given name. He suggested four possibilities to the publisher Victor Gollancz, saying 'I rather favour George Orwell.' Gollancz favoured it too, and early in 1933 the name George Orwell came into existence via a book jacket. Thereafter, while early friends continued to call him Eric, later ones like me knew him only as George.
Orwell's career after Down and Out and in the years before the war shows the uncertainties, confusions, fresh starts and false starts almost inescapable for anybody who became seriously involved in Left-wing politics during that very political decade. In that time he published four novels which had reasonable sales and reviews but no outstanding success, and The Road to Wigan Pier. The first part of this commissioned book, which dealt with the hard life of miners, was much approved by the Left intelligentsia, but the second caused shock waves of disapproval for its attack on what Orwell called 'the dreary tribe of high-minded women and sandal wearers and bearded fruit-juice drinkers' who were magnetically drawn to Socialism and the magical word progress 'like bluebottles to a dead cat'.
The Spanish Civil War took him to Spain to fight for the Republic, and his experience there was the basis of his finest work during the decade. Homage to Catalonia appeared in 1938 in an edition of only 1 ,500 copies, 600 of them still unsold when he died in 1950. The story of his life during the thirties might be called 'the education of a Socialist', from the first blundering attempts to understand the poor by living with or like them, through a high-minded period of linking himself with a political party (in Orwell's case the splinter group the Independent Labour Party), into the full understanding of the noble idealism and bitter internecine hatreds within groups that called themselves Socialist, as they were demonstrated to him during his months in Spain. In 1947 he said:
Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic Socialism as I understand it ... Looking back through my work, I see that it is invariably when I lacked a political purpose that I wrote lifeless books and was betrayed into purple passages, sentences without meaning, decorative adjectives and humbug generally.
It is no wonder that at the time he regarded the Spanish experience as a turning point in his attitude towards society, yet there was one more lesson still to learn. He emerged from Spain an apparent revolutionary, as we have seen in the call for a mass anti-war party and preparation for guerrilla warfare. Yet such a thesis went against the deepest impulses of his nature, the love of his country, its people, customs and landscape, that was the emotional basis of his personality. An understanding of this prompted the final realization of what Eric Blair/George Orwell truly believed: that it was necessary for the war to be fought, with Socialism the end to be achieved when it had been won. By the side of that went the obligation to expose the deceits and villainous practices of Communist parties, as he had seen them in Spain and imagined them in the Soviet Union. He did not stray from those purposes in the last decade of his life.
Because George Orwell is now so famous, with all the books consistently appearing in new editions, and the adjective Orwellian stamped on the mind of every politician and leaderwriter for use once a week, it is well to be reminded of the way in which he was regarded during most of his life. Had he died in 1939 (something quite possible, for his health was never good) he would be remembered now as a maverick with some lively but highly eccentric opinions that need not be considered seriously. And if his life had been cut off before his last decade that would not have been an unreasonable view, for the achievements up to then had been minor. The account of life as a plongeur in Down and Out, the description of going down a mine in Wigan Pier and much of Homage To Catalonia have the extraordinary directness of his finest writing, but there are elements in the first two books that leave a sense of the writer being selective, not telling us all the facts of the case.
We know now that this was so, that he could have escaped from the squalor of the down and out life earlier than he did, and that some details of his Wigan experiences were not exactly reported. A passage in The Road to Wigan Pier describes how, from the train that took him away from the town, he saw a girl kneeling on the stones in the backyard of a little slum house. She was pushing a stick up a blocked waste pipe, and her face wore 'the most desolate, hopeless expression I have ever seen'. The image is a powerful one, the actual incident described in Orwell's diary much less so. In fact he saw the girl walking up a squalid alley, she was not clearing a blocked pipe and he was not in a train. Perhaps this only matters if we are looking for the literal accuracy expected of (but rarely found in) newspaper reporting. There can be no doubt that in these books, and to a lesser extent in Homage To Catalonia, Orwell is presenting reality heightened for emotional effect. Something similar can be said of much writing based on things seen, and later set down for literary effect.
The fiction of the thirties reveals his limitations as a novelist, in particular an inability to imagine characters outside his own direct experience. Burmese Days is primarily interesting in the light of the author's reactions to the country, and Keep The Aspidistra Flying as an echo of Orwell's own hard times, with the other characters not much more than shadows. This book may have been influenced by Gissing, whose portraits of Victorian lower-class London Orwell greatly admired, as A Clergyman's Daughter was influenced - and damaged - by his reading of Ulysses. The novels as a whole produce their undoubtedly powerful effect through the intensity with which the writer communicates his feelings about Imperial Burma and depression Britain, but in terms of character and incident they are not successful books. When Coming Up For Air was reprinted in 1947 he sent me a copy. I suggested that a good many of the opinions and thoughts and feelings attributed to George Bowling were really those of George Orwell, and he replied:
Of course you are perfectly right about my own character constantly intruding on that of the narrator. I am not a real novelist anyway ... One difficulty I have never solved is that one has masses of experience which one passionately wants to write about, e g. the part about fishing in that-book, and no way of using them up except by disguising them as a novel.
I am not a real novelist anyway: it was through acceptance of this fact that Orwell came to realize the nature of his genius, and to fulfil it in the two great moral fables, Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four.

What People are Saying About This

V. S. Pritchett

The most solid, the most brilliant thing George Orwell has done.

Alfred Kazin

1984 has been an extraordinary experience for me. It is...overwhelming in its keenness and prophetic power. I hardly know which to praise more -- Orwell's insight into the fate of man and its totalitarianism or his compassion for him.

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1984 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1590 reviews.
Jessi-21 More than 1 year ago
So what can I say about this book that hasn't been said before? Having read it I can see how it has become regarded as classic fiction. Of course the year 1984 has come and gone and many folks say had it been titled "2009" it would have been much more accurate. For those of you who haven't read it, it is a complex novel but with a fairly basic plot. The protagonist, Winston Smith, is a functioning member of a society in the future who meets a woman he is attracted to. Much of the book surrounds their attempt to form a relationship in this society that just won't allow that sort of thing. Of course the real point and value of the novel is to illustrate where our current society may be headed if we don't change course, a sort of anti-utopian (dystopian?) novel. This book has brought us common terms such as "Big Brother", "doublethink", and "thought police." There are long sections where Winston reads to his girl friend from the official government manual detailing how the society came to be as well as the evolution of the government-speak ("Newspeak") language. I am glad that I've read this novel but at the same time I can't say that I would ever want to read it again. My political/societal views are already pretty much cemented in place and this book, while thought provoking, did not change my views. I do agree that it should be studied at the High School level though, not only for its value to the world of literature but also as a way to kick start young people's thinking on what a society should and shouldn't be. Essentially 1984 presents a juggernaut state that has become unmoored from whatever benign ideals once berthed it and has drifted off beyond site of a reassuring oasis-like coastline. A state in which its inhabitants no longer strive to achieve their original goals be they based on economical, religious or political ideals and have allowed the state to become a living entity in itself with the destruction of the human spirit as its sole aim. Be sure to watch the three different movies made from this book: 1984 (1954) Peter Cushing is Winston Smith 1984 (1956) Edmond O'Brien is Winston Smith Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) John Hurt is Winston Smith
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a high school student. This was not a required reading peice for me. I saw it sitting in Barnes and Noble on a shelf with suggeseted reading. When I first started reading the book it was BORING! I had to force myself to go on. After about the first hundred pages though, it started to get interesting. The story is ok, but this is a book you shouldn't be reading for just the plot. There is so much more to it than the plot. Every person who reads this book will get a different meaning from it. To me this book says that peoples minds can be molded very easily. Even the strong can be made weak after a certain amount of torture. Perhaps this is a negative thought, but it started me thinking on a much larger scale. I owe a lot of things to this book. I think more clearly since I read this book. I think about more important things, things most 16 yr olds wouldn't think of. This book has truely shown me the light towards literature so to speak. Whether you are required to read this or not, I think you should. If you have already read it, read it again. I'm sure 10 years from now the book will have a deeper meaning. I can't wait to read it again and find out what those meanings will be.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I came to 1984 after reading a series of novels by Russian authors about life in Stalingrad during the onslaught by Hitler and then after the cruelty of Stalin. It's easy to see how Orwell extended the grim realities of the concentration camps of Germany and the labor camps of Russia into this dark prophecy. Of course, in many instances his vision has become realized. Big Brother seeks to invade our privacy at every turn via electronic media. Governments pose rhetoric immersed in 'doublespeak'. The Thought Police exist to bully our free expression. Power is exercised by imposing real human suffering upon multitudes. 'The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labour. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent.' Oil comes to mind here. And munitions. And diverse other commodities. In 1984 the war is endless. 'Everywhere there is the same pyramidical structure, the same worship of a semi-divine leader, the same economy existing by and for continuous war.' Sound familiar? The High, or the 'priests of power' only fall when assaulted by the Middle and usually assisted by the Low classes. Then the Middle becomes the High and oppresses the Low for which change only means a new master. The protagonist, Winston, a 'minority of one' questions his own sanity but ultimately defends the 'spirit of man' as a force which cannot be overpowered. In the closing pages we see Orwell's true convictions about the infallible power of Big Brother and the triumph of the human spirit. This dark view has real overtones of Nietzsche and Machiavelli, who wrote with the view of realism based upon the inhumanity they witnessed in their heydays by 'princes' with the 'will to power'. But the 'spirit of man' is truly formidable and cannot be overcome, except temporarily, by totalitarian figures and corrupt democracies. The next US national election will be telling about down which road America will travel. 1984 is a cautionary, post-World War II tale but to say it's unrealistically dark and couldn't happen here and now is to overlook eons of history. And to be unconscious of the powers of orthodoxy infringing greedily and corporately upon the spirit of man in our time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If before you read 1984 you never saw how government intrudes in our daily lives and how things are so easily controlled, you will after reading it. Orwell's Dystopian classic lays out how easily we, the masses can so eaisly be decieved by political rehtoric, mind control and constant fear and brutality. How we can be misled to think the wrong thing is the right thing... and how we could be made to feel greatful for it. After reading this book, I can't look at our world the same ever again. So many shades of 1984 are apparent in everyday life and everything we do, political bills that have been passed, an economy spiraling out of control. You have to remind yourself that 1984 was written way back in 1949! It is a frightening prophecy of a world that is only a mere nudge from becoming our own. 1984 is a warning of letting anyone have too much control. Of how through deception, freedom is made into slavery without us even knowing the difference. If you ever thought that there was something wrong with our world, that their was something more than what we can see or hear going on, read this book, it's simply amazing. But beware, once you see 1984 through Orwell's eyes, you may never see our own world ever the same through your own eyes. You will be awakend, and may never go back to sleep.
Nick34 More than 1 year ago
After reading Animal Farm I decided to move onto 1984. It is one of my favorite books, better then Brave New World in my opinion. The scene that Orwell creates is amazing yet the ideas and situations he presents seem extremly feasible in society today. I highly recommend this book.
bah_bah_black_sheep-mh More than 1 year ago
I loved this book, and would recommend it to anyone, especially people who are interested in politics and current affairs. 1984 is mostly symbolic and highly philosophical; I think Orwell's goal in writing 1984 was to explain his thoughts on Totalitarianism, and the power of [big] government; this book was written around the time of the spread of communism, a time when Orwell wanted to warn Western nations about why communism is ultimately bad. It's highly effective, and chilling to the core when you start to make parallels between Orwell's society and our own.
This book made me see the world, and governments in general, in a different light. Once you read this book, you will see allusions to "Big Brother" everywhere, mostly on cable news stations and radio talk shows. When bored, I often think about the concept of "doublethink", "proles", and constant surveillance; thinking about it never gets old. I still crack open my copy to read an excerpt or two from time to time. I would recommend that anyone else should do the same.
mascaroml More than 1 year ago
This particular book was an essential read: speaking to the society that we live in, the world around us, and the politics we take for granted. The book speaks to the heart of the political ¿human condition,¿ writing a manifesto against the apathy of constituents. 1984 tells the story of a single character who lives in a futuristic England, know ruled by a totalitarian government that is designed to keep it¿s citizens uninformed and uninterested. We watch as the main character descends into the bowels of the government, and meets a political leader who speaks to the way the government is constructed, and why it is ¿designed¿ in this way.

1984 holds on, sweeping the reader into the plot, and holds on to the very end. A great read for those interested in politics, and even those who simply want to be thrilled by a great book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Literature is the ability to make the reader think. It spawns thought of the plot, the setting, and the subject matter. 1984 achieves this. I had to force myself to read this book because it attacked my view of the world, and I found the basis improbable. But as I read, the development amazed me. Everything about this book is brilliant especially how it unfolds. If you enjoy literature and not entertainment fiction, then this is a book for you to read. If you enjoy to think, purchase it.
Author_DB_Pacini More than 1 year ago
I first read this book as a teen, it was a class assignment. I recently read it again and I'm still blown away by it. I don't know many people that have not read this masterpiece. It was first published about sixty years ago. In today's times it is definitely a profound and visionary book to read again. I assume that it is still recommended reading to students. It certainly should be.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So much depth! What a cool world Orwell has created here! What interesting characters! What a relevant story! Help me, God, I never thought a book this great was possible. This book transcends all thoughts that it is "just a book"; it feels so real!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Isaac Deutscher said it best in his justifiably hostile critique of this book: 'Orwell borrowed the idea of '1984', the plot, the chief characters, the symbols, and the whole climate of his story' from Russian writer Evgeny Zamyatin's 'We'. Orwell's true genius was not his spinning of this 'literary masterpiece', but his interpretation and subsequent modification of Zamyatin's novel. I do believe that on its own '1984' could merit some positive criticism, but when it is held up next to the original the cracks begin to show through. Do yourself a favour, don't get caught up in the 'pop culture' of Big Brother, Newspeak and Doublethink. Read 'We' instead.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When I first started reading the book it was BORING! I had to force myself to go on. After about the first hundred pages though, it started to get interesting. and take a extra 15% off promo code from bookscoupons.com
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is so good.... i couldn't put it down when i was reading it ... The only thing was the ending was pretty sad and it was kind of generic(no element of suprise)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A must read for those who watch political and social movements. The repression of speach and liberty are main ideas here as well as revisionist history. Do we rewrite the past? Do we clean it up for our own desires? Do we uncover issues that were not properly dealt with? How do we view news? The media? The government? Our language? All of these are within this classic.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I see a lot of negativity towards conservatives and relating them to this book. I'm sorry, but the dangers seen in this book (of fiction, in case you forgot) are due to large global governments and social programs, which are liberal points. Not to mention if you disagree with liberal policies you are often called a bigot, Nazi, or a fascist. These are obviously huge staples of liberal agenda today and these are the major points in the book: large govt, socialism, and only one way of thinking. Failure to recognize this is complete bias.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is definitely amazing but you can read it for free online if you look it up on google.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A book that can really excercise the "inner good" portion of your brain. Orwells writing style can be a bit dry but that is quite fitting in this novel. 1984 is a reminder that government and "Big Brother" only have the control we allow. It would seem hard to write a book as this and not pander to either political faction but as "right-wing" as I may be this book didn't offend. Rather it gives quite a timeless lesson on our ability to recognize when were being duped by the powers that be.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this book and the characters Orwell created were compelling and completely believable. Sadly there are many vast similarities in this book to today's times which really make you stop and think where this world is heading. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone and everyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is sooooooo good!!!! Although some parts were confusing, overall it was great!!!! It almost changes the way you think about society as a whole and if you think about it, some of the content is coming true!!! I highly recomend reading this book!!
Ianv More than 1 year ago
The novel 1984 by George Orwell is one truly deserving of praise. A novel depicting the at the time fears of communism by providing the reading public with a "painting" of a true dystopian society: Oceania. This picture of a truly unfavorable future is the exact message Orwell tries to convey in his book. His portrayal of a somewhat rebellious main character shows the dangers of a government too controlling, any consequences it could have, and what people feel under that influence. The book, being written after WWII focuses on the dangers of extreme communism, and it does a marvelous job at conveying its anti-communist message. One simply can't say that this book is one of the books that fails at carrying out its designed message, or that the author is one that is new to this topic. As with the novel Animal Farm, George Orwell successfully provides us as readers with dramatic plot developments, dynamic characters, unforgettable settings, and a sense of intellectuality that not most authors are capable of delivering. The novel is centered on the character of Winston Smith, a member of the controlling government party controlling Oceania (Future UK), although he is not high ranking. From the beginning Winston is shown to be more adventurous and rebellious than most of the members of the party, engaging in acts with prostitutes, visiting old world antique stores, even purchasing the at the time illegal Journals to write his OWN thoughts in, an act considered one of the most dangerous in the government. As the party begins to prepare for Hate Week (A holiday where they "celebrate" their hatred for their enemies), Winston is captivated by the beauty of a young woman, who unbeknown to him shares those feelings. The two secretly begin exchanging messages, which lead to a full blown sexual rebellion against the party. Their relationship furthers, his acts plunge him deeper into rebellious acts against a totalitarian government, and it shows no sign of stopping, and just when it seemed to be at the peak of rebellion, Winston meets a man by the name of O'Brien, who introduces him to the dark world of The Brotherhood, the anti party entity that goes against everything he's been taught. Treason with a side of sexual betrayal. Will Winston escape from his rebellious actions, or will he live to suffer the consequences? Unfortunately, I am only a reviewer, it's up to you as a reader to choose weather it peeks your interest. All in all, George Orwell succeeds once again at showing the downsides of improper governmental control, and gives us a greatly captivating story to boot. Once you start you won't be able to stop. Five Stars!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazingly relevant 68 years later.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A high school assignment that was unappreciated is a timeless work of art being read 30 years later. The story the author tells was as fitting at his writing then as it is now.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My brother had told me to read this book because it is really good. As you start to read it you kind of like it but when your in the middle of the book its amazing. This is a book where you have to do a lot of thinking but not too much to where it is school. The book has given me a new perspective to our government today and how it can be really corrupt. There are .any things in the book that can tie into our society today. Some of those things are in the book there is something called newspeak which can be a related to texting. Also the government ( I think specifically the IRS) has the ability to look through your computers even when they are off. There are so many ways that this book is similar to our society today that I could be listing them off all day. Also there are ways that the book is not similar to our society. I hope you read this book because it is a very well written novel!!!
Carstairs38 More than 1 year ago
Big Brother Says Two Plus Two Equals Five   Welcome to Oceania.  Our guide to this world is Winston Smith, a member of The Party who works at the Ministry of Truth making sure that all documents conform to The Party line.  And in this socialist vision of the world, The Party, as embodied by Big Brother, is all powerful.   However, Winston is old enough to have vague memories of life before The Party took over England.  While he outwardly tows the line, he is hoping that at some point The Party can be overthrown.  As he starts a forbidden affair with Julia, it looks like his hopes might come to be.  Do they have hope of overthrowing the government?  Or is Big Brother really all powerful?   I know I read this book back in high school, but that was a few years ago, so I decided it was time to read it again.  As a novel, it isn’t that good.  There are long, preachy passages and it’s easy to let your mind start to wander.  Yes, some world building is needed, but entirely too much of it takes place.   However, in a study of how a totalitarian government can take over power and never let it go, this book is chilling.  And before you shake it off and say, “That would never happen here,” look around.  I see it happening on both sides of the spectrum, and politicians on both sides encouraging it.  We need to start heeding the warning that Orwell put in this book before we become part of Oceania.   So read this book.  Think about it.  And figure out how you will keep the government from turning into Big Brother.