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For the year 1984, you're so not at the right place.
“I'm watching you right now.”
Nineteen Eighty-Four is a novel written by visionary George Orwell way back when men were traveling by horse and oliphant. It depicts a world of totalitarianism where an evil entity, known as the Party, ruthlessly rules over everyone and everything. It was originally written on holly wood tree bark and moose skin until someone discovered the magnificent work and published it when the technology became available. For those of you who have not read the book, never mind this article, stop reading right now and go on with your lives. There's nothing to see here. This book doesn't exist, it never existed. Cleanse your memory, reboot yourself and don't forget to show up to work tomorrow. For those who did read the book, go back to Room 101 to get your electroshocks and learn to think like the Party wants you to. You'll eventually realize that 2+2=5. Right before the Party shoves you in a barrel full of acid and vaporizes you into thin air. At least they'll let you chose between mint and strawberry scent.
In all seriousness, the document is considered one of the greatest works of social dystopian writing, alongside Brave New World by Adobe* (formerly Aldus) Huxley, something written by Ayn Rand, and the book The Mouse and the Motorcycle.
The main character, Winston Smith, works for Oceania's Ministry of Truth, which should perhaps be called the Ministry of Bullshit as his role actually entails retouching history by rewriting books and newspaper to fit the Party's grand lie and shove the obsolete truth into a memory hole where it is burned into oblivion. Nobody in the Outer Party has the luxury of thinking freely, as everyone is a potential spy and could end up betraying someone for a chocolate bar if they so much as suspect this person has committed thoughtcrime. Winston himself secretly hates the Party, but fears that the Thought Police will come and kill him if he so much as fart in the key of B# instead of the mandatory C. So he spends all day at work, rewriting history.
Goldstein, a mysterious rebel and the Party's utmost enemy, is often the target of these historical "corrections". The Big Bad Wolf never blew down the three piglets house, it was Goldstein. Gargamel never was the Smurfs' persecutor, it was Goldstein. The reason why everybody is stuck wiping their asses with newspapers is not because the toilet paper factory is experiencing a slowdown in production thanks to incompetent management, it's because of Goldstein's sabotage operation. The reason why there is an explosive diarrhea epidemic is not because of poor sanitary conditions, it's... you get the idea.
Like all good Outer Party peons, Winston attends the Hate Meetings, where Big Brother spits his baloney about the wars and the numerous traitors that were caught chewing their food in a reprehensible way. The cheers emanating from the brainwashed masses when a soldier from Eurasia is executed are deafening, while bringing up an image of Goldstein on the giant screen immediately sparks a thunder of boos and visceral, animalistic hatred, much like the sudden appearance of Justin Bieber's face would produce if shown right in the middle of a good movie to a normal audience in our world.
Julia, rebellious gal and slightly nympho
After one of these uplifting meeting, Winston meets Julia, who is a rebel at heart too, and they start to have a secretive and passionate affair. Some illegal fornicating is going around here, and should the Thought Police have wind of this liaison Winston and Julia know very well that they'll be part of the next public BBQ as la pièce de résistance. They continue nonetheless to mate like two wild beasts every chance they get. Each orgasm is an insult to The Party, each explosion of fluids is an act of defiance, each stained sheet is evidence of treason. But they don't care. They insist on furiously copulating in every possible position, missionary, upside down, hanging from the luminaries, doggy style, mammoth style, going through each and every possible holes... We're getting carried away here. They just do some pretty reprehensible stuff.
Winston then meets up with a member of the Inner Party, O'Brien, who he always suspected to be part of the Resistance. O'Brien subtly invites him for a visit at his place right in front of surveillance cameras, using the fallacious pretext that they need to do some overtime on the upcoming official Party book proclaiming that the Earth is flat. Shortly after entering O'Brien's crib, Winston is just floored when he learns that members of the Inner Party have the privilege of turning off the screen that contains the camera and the microphone that are constantly spying on the populace. Little did he know that he could have done that himself very easily by pushing that On/Off button on the remote, but it's a secret maneuver that only superior beings can comprehend.
O'Brien then hands Winston a book written by the master of all rebellion, Goldstein himself. They kiss goodbye so Winston can get to his usual Wednesday full-contact curling game in time, so that nothing looks suspicious. Winston is so absent-minded during the match that he almost gets killed by a vicious broom hit to the skull by the opposing team just as he is furiously vacuuming in front of the sliding rock. A melee ensues, and Winston is pretty lucky that Butch the "Curling Killer" is on his side. The game is declared a win by default as the other team is unable to continue due to excessive bone fractures. Leaving the curling carnage behind, Winston goes to his apartment to finally read the precious book.
Opening the book as it it were a forbidden treasure, he is taught about the lies of the Party, along with some nutritious recipes of Ancient Times when men were free. Unfortunately, some of the healthy ingredients, like the carrots and the Sico wood latex, have long vanished into the depth of oblivion. The purposeless wars and incredibly cheap goods produced by the Party are also explained in great detail and confirms what Winston suspected all along: the wars are not meant to be won, but to be continuously waged; the lawn mowers are not meant to be sturdy, but to blow up in your face the third time you're using them: the condoms are not meant to be unbreakable, but to shatter once one puts a little energy in it. And so on. Having the troubling truth right in front of him sends a chill down Winston's spine.
While Winston is absorbed by his reading, Julia comes in from a very inspiring "Orgasm about to become unthing" evening class. She absentmindedly explains to Winston that the Party is caressing grand plans to reboot the human brain in such a way that an orgasm will become impossible, and that the crowd was actually aggressively cheering for it, demanding it. Well, what else could go wrong here, we've already pulverized every ounce of sanity in existence. Winston is very mildly enthusiastic at this wonderful technological improvement, and interests Julia in the newly acquired book. She doesn't understand it since there are no images, so Winston reads it aloud while they sip the real coffee that she stole from the Party's chieftains.(Yes, the wretched rulers even pushed the audacity so far as to invent "false coffee") She also states that she brought along some real cheese, but she is inadvertently wrong, since it's a Cheez Whiz jar.
The Cheez Whiz hits the fan
While they are feasting, some rude blokes break in through the door. It's the Thought Police! They are so screwed! They politely ask if they can finish the Cheez Whiz before being taken away. The sergeant abruptly replies that it's not good for their health, then punches their teeth out. Winston highly doubts they'll ever get out of this predicament alive. They are being led to the Ministry of Love and separated. To add insult to injury, it's Valentine's Day.
Winston is led in a cell which is hosting a bunch of disgusting drunkards. He notices that the floor is soiled with a mixture of yellow and green goo and that the painter did a horrible job while he is being puked on by some effeminate sprinkler. To kill some time, he starts playing Monopoly with his fellow sufferers, but it soon becomes impossible: 1- They are cheating. 2- One of them has a hotel on the Boardwalk and all the railroads 3- They all get taken one by one to the mysterious Room 101.
It seems indeed that there's something terrible in that room. Soon Winston finds himself alone in the cell after all his buddies are forcibly taken to the infamous room by guards who have the charisma of a frying pan. Furthermore, they were all pleading for mercy and saying that they'd rather have an arm chopped off than go to Room 101. Certainly the interior design there can't possibly be as bad as this cell, Winston thinks. Then the door unhinges. Winston slowly turns around to see the newcomers with great apprehension. As soon as he recognizes one of them, his jaw hits the floor (causing his mouth to fill up with the previously mentioned goo) O'BRIEN!!! That son of a bitch was an agent of the Thought Police all along! He should have guessed when this traitor accidentally dropped his badge and ate four doughnuts back at his apartment!
Winston is then hauled off to a room where he is tortured for hours on end. Strapped to a table, he is repeatedly asked by O'Brien a bunch of questions: Does the weather impact your overall mood? Do you eat broccoli? Big Brother had an approval rating of 112% last year, what do you think he should do to improve it? Whatever answer Winston comes up with, his persecutor hits the "Play" button and Céline Dion's music immediately engulfs the room, reverberating wildly within its walls. Understandably, Winston screams and cries in agony. O'Brien cuts the cacophony and informs him that what he just endured was a sound volume of 4 out of 10 and that he would not hesitate to turn the volume up next time. Better start giving him the answers he wants fast! Still recuperating from the horrendous suffering, Winston struggles to ask to O'Brien in a whisper how he managed to look like the he didn't mind the music. O'Brien informs him that he fell in a cauldron full of Céline Dion's CDs when he was young, grimacing at the memory. For a moment, Winston feels great compassion for his tormentor.
Winston is continually destroyed mentally and physically over the course of the next weeks. He is told that he will never get out of there until he embraces Big Brother. Much like when you try to convince a police officer that you didn't see the stop sign or the old woman crossing the road, he must not only say it, he must know it. After a month or so of systematic destruction, Winston is beat up like a 1978 Ford Pinto with a 400,000 mileage. He now looks like a scarecrow at 42 pounds and his teeth are working loose, but he takes comfort in the fact that he doesn't need them since the only food he gets is a bowl of Jello a day. Real Jello at least.
Then one day, O'Brien opens Winston's cell door and instead of gently beating his ass to a pulp, he calmly states: "Time for Room 101."
Resignated, Winston gets up when suddenly, gunshots resonate in the corridor. O'Brien starts to turn around and pronounce a "What the f..." when his jaw explodes under a hail of bullets. It's Julia!!! She came back for him! She hugs him, says she loves him and hands him an AK. Together with a bunch of liberated blokes, they obliterate anyone standing in their path, repainting the Ministry of Love's walls red with blood. While snapping a Party soldier's neck, Julia explains that the Proles revolted thanks to the Goldstein's book that she managed to reproduce thousands of times and disseminate within the populace after escaping. She also informs Winston that his credit card is now maxed since copying the book that many times didn't come cheap. They finally escape the building and witness in awe as the streets are flooded by a sea of irate commoners screaming bloody revenge against Big Brother.
Winston looks at Julia with a loving smile and states: "I HATE Big Brother!"
Fade to black, cue the Rage Against the Machine song.
Spoiler alert: Don't read the 'plot' section of this article, it'll spoil the whole book for you! You are warned.
Comparison between Nineteen Eighty-Four and Uncyclopedia
|Outer party||Registered users|
|Big Brother||Recent changes|
|Emmanuel Goldstein||Banned users|
|Doublethink||Ignore all rules when convenient|
|Miniluv||Ministry of Love|
|Minitrue||There is no Cabal|
1984 in modern culture
“The answer to 1984 is 1776.”
Big Brother is watching you!
...is a sentence that remained in the popular lexicon because of the overwhelming popularity of Orwell's novel, just as the expression "an Orwellian society", meaning a society where, well, Big Brother is likely watching you. The original image of Big Brother is a mustachioed tough guy staring right at the camera bearing a facial expression hinting that a rape is imminent. Some little scalawag came up with illustrated derivatives. George Orwell would certainly be proud.
References in modern music
A great amount of artists are drawing comparisons to our idyllic, perfect modern world and the tyranny expressed in 1984. Such insightful and clever musicians include Radiohead, Anti-Flag, Stevie Wonder and Lady Gaga.