It’s unpopular opinion time *yay*
I have decided to not add a synopsis of 1984 in this review because the story is so well-known. But don’t be scared to hop in Goodreads to check it out if you want to!
1984 by George Orwell
First of all, the message that 1984 conveys is extremely important. It digs deep into the methodological workings of politics and how humans can be kept in the grasp of a government. I’m not fighting the message in any way.
Nor am I fighting any of the millions of people who loved this book. What’s amazing about books is that we all experience them differently but we also differ greatly in how we judge them. I try to judge books based on both my enjoyment of the material and the quality of the book.
Whew, now that I have managed to say all that I’ll let my opinions of this book loose. I’m sorry but my opinions have turned into monsters.
This excruciating paper collection is often denoted as one of the best books of our time. It is a classic, a dystopian horror tale of a world towards which we are already sailing. Everyone seems to love this book, in fact, never in my life would I have pushed through reading it if it wasn’t a very important book for my friend. I desperately wanted to see why 1984 has been put to its pedestal. And now I only faintly understand.
I’ll start by admitting that I’m not the biggest fan of dystopias. I loved reading them when I was 15 but in the last nine years my love has started fading away. My general lack of excitement for the genre definitely had an impact on how I viewed 1984.
I found myself harbouring an intense hate towards this novel. Winston, the main character, was painful to follow. To me, he was as interesting and stimulating as a soggy piece of white toast, and to be honest, I don’t even know why. It just seemed that anything he did and thought was gray and bland. About 50 pages in I almost stopped reading because of Winston. He just rubbed me the wrong way. I read some reviews from others who noted the plain-ness of Winston and called it out as being one of the great things about this novel. The world is so awful and depressing that every human has descended into blandness! Winston symbolises how depressing it all is! But ah, I just don’t agree. There were other characters, like Julia, who were more interesting. Winston was the blandest of bland.
The plain characters also drove me into a vigorous mental battle. Everyone might say that the characters simply symbolise the state of the world but why is it that readers give a lot of meaning for awful or unlikable characters in classic literature when in modern stories we tend to not bother with all the possible conspiracies the author might have meant when crafting the characters. Instead, terrible characters in modern literature often lead to us simply downgrade our ratings. What if all the stereotypical characters in the indulgent chicklits that I have read actually have a deep, metaphorical meaning? Who am I to say that Orwell definitely had awful characters because X, Y and Z but that one dude who couldn’t stop thinking about how horny he is in the middle of a battle does not have a meaningful reason to be that way? (I might or might not be talking about Rhysand but I’ll just shhh because I want to do a discussion post of my unpopular opinions on ACOTAR later)
Also, I would love to say that unlikable characters do not influence my enjoyment of a novel. But they do, and actually being able to relate to the characters or at least care about them for a tiny little bit, is an important factor in how much I enjoy reading a book. As my ratings of books do not sail on quality alone, the lack of enjoyment totally makes this ship sink.
If I had dnf’ed this book at its halfway point like I almost did, I would have missed a shining new low in world-building. Never would have I guessed this to happen in the world-acclaimed 1984: Winston gets his hands on a political history book and reads it aloud. Like really. We get a monstrous one-hundred-thousand-and-eighty-three pages (I might be exaggerating) of the contents of the book. And okay it is a really important book and it explains a lot about the workings of the world and why such a dystopia is so frightening. But come on. Why in earth would it be ok that a history book that the character reads is written into the novel instead of it being paraphrased. I have to make a note of this, if I ever end up writing anything then my fantasy character has to start the story by reading a history book. What wonderful world-building, so easy!
Again, the message in this book is important. The dystopian world IS terrifying and the politics are pretty genious. But in my opinion, the writing is not. This is not a novel nor should it be. In my harshly honest opinion, 1984 should be an essay. An academic piece of how a world as we know it could descend into a totalitarian dystopia little by little and before we know it, we are stuck in a terrifying system. As easily, the essay could include fictional elements like examples of life in that world. As a book, 1984 is really bad. The writing style is stiff and the author has clearly wanted the reader to know every little bit of how the world works. That’s not what I want from the books I read, but that is something that should be taught in schools and discussed in politics. It is not an enjoyable fiction book so why disguise it as one? The message could be as well conveyed in a formal paper. And an academic paper would allow more freedom to fully discuss all the important details behind these politics and how to stop this all from happening.
I didn’t enjoy 1984. I never felt any excitement, suspense or thrill. I did feel dread and disgust (especially at the last 30% of this novel). Overall, in my opinion, 1984 did not come across as a novel worth reading. Absolutely everyone should take care that they know the political idea behind this novel, but it doesn’t mean that you have to suffer through these 328 pages. People could as well read the ideology from Wikipedia or learn it from school. I feel like 1984 did not have anything to offer to me besides its political discussion. I could have studied that in an hour and I already knew a huge chunk of it before I started reading. Instead I lost loads of hours reading this story that really shouldn’t be a fictional book at all. From the bottom of my heart, I wish 1984 was an essay and then I might have given it a full 5* (although it’s pretty rare for me to give star-ratings to the essays I read). As it is not, I will judge it as a fictional novel which means that it doesn’t get much from me.
Let’s discuss! Have you read 1984? Are you going to?
What do you think about it? Did you enjoy reading it? Is enjoyment something that you take into account when reviewing classics? Do you disagree with my points? Why?
I would love to know!
Thank you so much for reading!