Many books can change your life or at least the way you look at it. One of these perhaps more relevant today than it was when it was written – George Orwell’s 1984.

1984 in a nutshell

1984 is in the past for us now, but it was still 35 years in the future when Orwell penned this novel. It centres around Winston, a man who works for the Ministry of Truth, a department of the Party who controls everything and everyone. It is a view into a dystopian future where free thinking and even love are outlawed, a future where Proles are downtrodden and have no hope for a better life. Winston breaks the rules and falls in love with Julia and they plot overthrowing the Party and dream of escaping its ever watchful eye.

A prediction of times to come?

What Orwell wrote might not have actually happened by 1984, but now we have CCTV monitoring us, some governments allegedly tracking our browser history and phone messages and terms such as “post truth” and “fake news” muddying the waters of what we know and how we think.

References in popular culture

In the novel, Big Brother was always watching – Big Brother being the Party who watched London’s inhabitants through large television screens in their flats. This became the name for a popular reality TV show where several people are put under close scrutiny in a house for several weeks.

Room 101 is a British TV show where people get to banish things they dislike. In 1984 Room 101 was a method of torture, a room full of things a person most feared.

The importance of 1984

1984 is a novel that provokes thought. It warns of the dangers of surveillance and of those in power having too much control over the masses, forcing the poor to remain poor and helping the rich become richer. While it was seen as an astonishing work of science fiction or political horror when it was first published, it knows echoes our frightening present and possibly future as governments and authority seek to impose more controls and fewer freedoms on citizens, citing it as being in their best interests.

If only we had realised that Orwell was right all those years ago we could perhaps have done something to prevent what then happened.