Big Brother is Still Watching

One of the biggest news stories of this year was the information that America’s National Security Agency was monitoring both American and international communications. Something interesting connected to this was a spike in the sale of George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984. The famous description of a future society under oppressive control of a party didn’t become a best-seller, but it did rise from being from 6,750 to 194 at the beginning of last month. But this sudden peak in sales may be part of the book’s own history.

If something ‘spikes’ we see it grow quickly and usually for a specific reason. ‘Cinema attendance spiked in January because of the unusually cold temperatures.’ In the paragraph, the author also uses ‘peak’ which can be used in a similar way.

For those not familiar with the book, 1984 takes place in the future or at least the future from Orwell’s perspective when he published it in 1949. The main character, Winston Smith works in the ironically named Ministry of Truth, which is responsible for propaganda. Winston meets a young woman Julia, who tells him she hates the regime. They begin a love affair, but sadly are discovered and punished. The message is that there was no escape from the Party or its leader Big Brother.

This term, Big Brother, and many others from the novel such as newspeak and doublethink have entered everyday language. Today, we use Big Brother for any situation of disturbing surveillance. Orwell created newspeak which means to suppress thought, and doublethink, which means the ability to think about two contradictory ideas at the same time.

Though the book was written as a criticism of Stalinism, it has been used by both sides of the political spectrum. The Word spoke with Dr Michael Sayeau, who teaches at University College London, about the novel’s continuing interest.

1984, from the very start, has been deployed almost equally by the left and the right. It happens to be a book that, yes, is purchased by people right now because of these revelations about the US government, but on the other hand has been a staple of education in both the USA and UK, in part because it’s such a vivid critique of totalitarian systems – i.e. their systems of government. That is to say, it can be deployed as propaganda or counter-propaganda in many different cases.”

As strong as Orwell’s message is, the novel is still enjoyed because of the story Orwell told. Without the believable characters and setting, it might not continue to be a classic.

“The politics are an important part, but as with any successful dystopian / science fiction novel, much of the appeal has to do with Orwell’s “world-building” in the novel, the fact that he constructs a world that is vivid and feels real.”

Original article by Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team

Word List Bubble

Big Brother is Still Watching Quiz: Medium

Start

Congratulations - you have completed Big Brother is Still Watching Quiz: Medium.

You scored %%SCORE%% out of %%TOTAL%%.

Your performance has been rated as %%RATING%%


Your answers are highlighted below.
Return
Shaded items are complete.
12345
End
Return
If something ‘spikes’ we see it grow quickly and usually for a specific reason. ‘Cinema attendance spiked in January because of the unusually cold temperatures.’

One of the biggest stories of this year was that America’s National Security Agency was monitoring both American and international communications. Something interesting connected to this was a spike in the sale of George Orwell’s novel 1984.

If you do not know the book, the story of 1984 happens in the future. The main character, Winston Smith works in the Ministry of Truth, which handles propaganda. Winston meets a young woman, who tells him she hates the current regime. They fall in love, but are soon discovered and punished. The message is that no one can escape from Big Brother.

This term, Big Brother, and many others from the novel such as newspeak and doublethink are used in everyday language. Today, we use Big Brother to describe being watched.

Though the book was written as a criticism of Stalinism, it has been used by both sides of the political spectrum. The Word spoke with Dr Michael Sayeau, who teaches at University College London, about the novel’s continuing interest.

“It happens to be a book that, yes, is purchased by people right now because of these revelations about the US government, but on the other hand has been a staple of education in both the USA and UK, in part because it’s such a vivid critique of totalitarian systems – i.e. their systems of government.”

Orwell’s message is strong, but the novel is still enjoyable because of the story Orwell told. Without the believable characters and setting, it might not continue to be a classic.

“The politics are an important part, but as with any successful dystopian / science fiction novel, much of the appeal has to do with Orwell’s “world-building” in the novel, the fact that he constructs a world that is vivid and feels real.”

Original article by Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team

Word List Bubble

Big Brother is Still Watching Quiz: Mild

Start

Congratulations - you have completed Big Brother is Still Watching Quiz: Mild.

You scored %%SCORE%% out of %%TOTAL%%.

Your performance has been rated as %%RATING%%


Your answers are highlighted below.
Return
Shaded items are complete.
12345
End
Return
If something ‘spikes’ we see it grow quickly and usually for a specific reason. ‘Cinema attendance spiked in January because of the unusually cold temperatures.’ In the paragraph, the author also uses ‘surge’ and ‘peak’ which can be used in similar ways.

One of the biggest news stories of this year, if not recent years, was the revelation of America’s National Security Agency surveillance of both American and international communications. An interesting footnote to these revelations was a sudden spike in the sale of George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984. The surge was not enough to put the famous depiction of a future society under the all-pervasive control of a party at the top of the best-sellers list, but it did rise from being from 6,750 to 194 at the beginning of last month. But this sudden peak in sales may be part of the book’s own history.

‘To loathe’ something is to hate it very much. ‘I loathe beets. They are the worst tasting vegetable I’ve ever eaten.’

For those not familiar with this staple of English curricula from around the world, 1984 takes place in the future or at least the future from Orwell’s perspective when he published it in 1949. The main character, Winston Smith works in the ironically named Ministry of Truth, which is responsible for propaganda. Winston meets a young woman Julia, whom confesses her loathing of the regime. Together they embark on a love affair, but sadly are discovered and punished. The message being that there was no escape from the reach of the Party or its leader Big Brother.

This term, Big Brother, and many others from the novel such as newspeak and doublethink have entered everyday language. Today, we use Big Brother for any situation of intrusive surveillance, hence its use as the name of a reality show. Newspeak, the corrupted version of English Orwell created which was designed to stifle thought, and doublethink, the capacity to entertain two contradictory ideas simultaneously, has also given rise to a new word, doublespeak, which is the use of language to disguise meaning. Though Orwell didn’t use the term, it was probably inspired by his words, which shows the influence the book had.

Interestingly, though the book was written as a criticism of Stalinism, it has been used by both sides of the political spectrum. The Word spoke with Dr Michael Sayeau, who teaches at University College London, about the novel’s enduring appeal.

“I think that’s definitely true. 1984, from the very start, has been deployed almost equally by the left and the right. Even when it first appeared, there were Tories who, in Anthony Burgess’s words, “rubbed their hands gleefully at what Orwell seemed to be doing for the Tory vote.” It happens to be a book that, yes, is purchased by people right now because of these revelations about the US government, but on the other hand has been a staple of education in both the USA and UK, in part because it’s such a vivid critique of totalitarian systems – i.e. their systems of government. That is to say, it can be deployed as propaganda or counter-propaganda in many different cases.”

The previous US president, George W. Bush, was accused of doublethink in regards to his justifications for the invasion of Iraq. Critics argued that like the Party in 1984, the Bush administration were guilty of the same deceit and twisting of the truth to support their political ends. The right often evoke the name of Orwell when criticizing politically correct speech. Perhaps the multiple interpretations of 1984 stem from the range of political institutions Orwell was attacking.

“Orwell’s targets were many. Stalinism, but of course also the recently defeated forces of fascism. But also it is clearly a satire of the conditions in Britain during and after the Second World War, of “Austerity Britain.” Winston Smith, in some ways is just as much an employee of the BBC in 1948 as he is an Inner Party Member working at the Ministry of Truth in 1984,” Dr Sayeau said.

As powerful as Orwell’s message is, the novel continues to resonate because of the story Orwell told. Without the believable characters and setting, it might not continue to be a classic.

“The politics are an important part, but as with any successful dystopian / science fiction novel, much of the appeal has to do with Orwell’s “world-building” in the novel, the fact that he constructs a world that is vivid and feels real.”

Dr Sayeau believes there is a deeper question to be asked at the heart of the book’s appeal.

“The mystery of why we as readers like to read dark stories like this, why we derive pleasure from them, is of course one of the oldest literary mysteries. (Why did the Greeks like to go to the tragedies and watch absolutely horrible things happen to heroic characters? This is the question that mobilized the first work of literary criticism, Aristotle’s Poetics.) In other words, the appeal is both political and aesthetic.”

Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia

Word List Bubble

Big Brother is Still Watching Quiz: Spicy

Start

Congratulations - you have completed Big Brother is Still Watching Quiz: Spicy.

You scored %%SCORE%% out of %%TOTAL%%.

Your performance has been rated as %%RATING%%


Your answers are highlighted below.
Return
Shaded items are complete.
12345
End
Return

Leave a comment





four + 6 =