70 years ago tomorrow marks the day we lost George Orwell, one of the greatest English novelists of the 20th century. Few, if any, have ever come close to penning works on corruption and states of dystopia in a manner as hauntingly effective as George. His creation of popular terms frequently used, not only in literature but in the English language (Big Brother, Thought Police, and Room 101 to name a few), stands as a testament to his sheer writing power. In celebration of this unrivalled talent, we will be taking a look at his two most influential and well-known works - 1984 and Animal Farm.
Also, don't forget to check out our vintage George Orwell book collection, for many of his other lesser known but no less brilliant works!
When it comes to dystopian novels about totalitarian societies and oppressive government bodies (a consistently popular topic in fiction media of all kinds), 1984 is not only a great example of such a novel done right, but it is possibly the perfect example - and certainly the most infamous. Taking place in a fictional version of our world where the ominous "Big Brother" is always watching over the state of Oceania, one of three all-powerful oppressive systems constantly at war with one another across the globe, 1984 perhaps formed the basis for the textbook definition of totalitarian dystopia as we know it today.
With the creation of many of the most popular terms and concepts - including thoughts crimes/thought police, 24/7 surveillance, society-controlling propaganda, and a rigid system so extreme that even your dearest friend would betray to the higher power for even the slightest whiff of rebellion - George Orwell cemented 1984 as one of the most powerful pieces of literature in the 20th century. Not only is this shown through the novel repeatedly finding it place on the top lists of many respected institutes (including Time, BBC, and Modern Library), but also through the fact that it continues to make waves today. The most recent instance of this is the repeated comparisons of the novel to modern China, with its high level of surveillance and public monitoring.
So did George Orwell possibly predict a dark and joyless future for the societies of planet earth? He certainly seemed to fear that such a thing was possible, but I guess we'll all just have to wait and see...
Pick Up George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four Today!
Another work of George's that highlights and demonstrates the constant issue of oppression and government corruption (albeit in a slightly more bizarre, animalistic manner) is Animal Farm. The novel tells the story of a group of farm animals who chose to rebel against their oppressive human leader, the farmer, with the desire of creating a society where all animals can be free as equals. However, as the tale descends into one of betrayal amongst the farm animals, it becomes clear that the ensuing corruption mimics that often seen within higher powers throughout the course of history, including the altering of sacred laws (laws originally intended to guarantee equality) for personal gain.
Having spawned various adaptations for the stage and the screen, as well as being featured on multiple of the same lists as 1984, Animal Farm left just as great a footprint in the world of literature as any other of George Orwell's works for its social and political significance. Originally intended as a satirical commentary on the Russian revolution, not only is this another example of what can happen when oppressive government bodies take control, but it is partially influenced by a very real example - which I think we can all agree makes it that much more terrifying, as satirical as it may be.
Unlike 1984, which tells of a possible future where freedom is only a dream, Animal Farm recounts (in a rather surreal format) what has already happened in the past - certainly something to be both impressed and disturbed by.
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