Choking out independent light

Favourite Stories: 1984

I was introduced to this publication in 1984 when a remake of the film was in the works. One of the biggest factors which helped me to immerse myself into 1984 was not that it was a purely English literature topic but one that had been crossed over with modern studies (a political course within Scottish secondary schooling); for the uninitiated, here was implication that Orwell’s book was not only pertinent to other scholarly areas, but that it also had depth. This depth became apparent once I had started to read the book, and resulted in my finishing it over one weekend. The high level of relevance to me was obvious when considering a swathe of political and social dynamics of the time.

These dynamics included the Cold War and the perpetual threat of nuclear war, an increasingly authoritarian government, the beginnings of the post-industrial era, and the collapse of an integrated and equitable society. A number of parallels with this reality were evident within Orwell’s text, which only increased the relevance of the publication to me. Of course, the dark dystopian backdrop had not been lost on my parent’s generation and this was also an influencing factor in my interest in this publication. I used to ask myself, what was it about the book which unnerved my mother so much? In reality it was a fear of the unknown, one where the state operated with impunity, where people did not have a place to hide, either physically or mentally, where the state dictated your thoughts and activities, where society had been broken down to the point where it was manipulated by state agents, fallacies, and, ultimately, by design, or where the fate of society lay firmly and squarely in the hands of an all powerful state.

I was introduced to 1984 during a different era, one where the Cold War was a dominant factor; today we live in a different era, one which has been shaped by the War on Terrorism and 9/11. The response of the state in this modern era is not so different to that which I or my parents had experienced when introduced to Orwell’s timeless work. Swap Newspeak for text speak and twitter; Doublespeak for political spin; the telescreen and thought police for state surveillance on a mass scale; Room 101 for Guantanamo Bay; and Goldstein and Julia for FBI/CIA honey traps, and we no longer have a classic novel, but an instruction manual. This is why 1984 is, for me, a truly timeless classic, and why it was my favourite book at school.

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Having taught for over ten years within an array of environments, I remain passionate about education and the learning process. I am also an academic researcher and have written on a large number of contemporary issues and relevant subject areas.

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