1984: Follow-Up

“The best books, he perceived, are those that tell you what you know already.” —1984

I never understood the point of introductions to books. They so often contain spoilers that I never read them until after I’ve completed the novel anyway. I was happy to see that instead this edition of  1984 had an afterword written by Erich Fromm, whose definition of love we memorized in high school (“the active concern for the life and growth of that which you love”).

Fromm focused on the context of the utopian/distopian novel and it’s political warnings. In reading this I realized that my reaction was more horror at the situations and events surrounding Winston than the general state of things described. I tend to latch on to character and see things at an individual level rather than look for sweeping implications (unless they are to my own life). I felt a sense of doom for the world as portrayed in the novel, and a philosophical interest in the issues raised, but did not necessarily see it as a political warning until I forced myself to really think about it.

Perhaps I simply “doublethink’ and believe in the best–love, truth, freedom, equality, justice–while at the same time knowing that in many parts of the world they do not always occur, including our own backyard. In my eyes love is the best solution for everything, and the key to this is something mentioned in the book and often overlooked; all people everywhere are pretty much the same. Everyone has a family, a friend who cares about them, a birthday, a favorite food, a lucky number, a secret dream. To love your neighbor as yourself is to look at someone and see how much he actually is you, and how much of him is inside yourself. And when this happens you cannot help but love. We share the same struggle, and the only way to survive is to join together and find strength in each other, striving for a reason beyond our own mortal existence.

1984 was a warning written during a time of Cold War and atomic uncertainty. I can’t even begin to try and figure out its exact political implications today (other than pegging the Middle East as an unstable area), but I do know that its message is still an important warning as to what happens if we allow ourselves to let go of what truly makes us human.

Sorry for getting all philosophical, but once I get going it’s hard to stop. This is definitely a book that will stay with me, and I’m not sure whether that confirms or contradicts the quote at the top. If you’ve read 1984 as well I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Published in: on July 25, 2009 at 10:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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