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Barron's Booknotes-1984 by George Orwell-Free Book Notes
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REFERENCE

THE CRITICS

ORWELL AND ERIC BLAIR

The creation of George Orwell was an act of will by Eric Blair, and it was carried on at almost every level of his existence, affecting not only his prose style but also the style of his daily life. Becoming George Orwell was his way of making himself into a writer, at which he brilliantly succeeded, and of unmaking himself as a gentleman, of opting out of the genteel lower-upper middle class into which he was born, at which he had only an equivocal success... it allowed Eric Blair to come to terms with his world. Peter Stansky and William Abrahams, Orwell: The Transformation, 1979-80

A WARNING AGAINST TOTALITARIANISM

Nineteen Eighty-Four is a long premeditated, rational warning against totalitarian tendencies in societies like our own rather than a sick and sudden prophecy about a Soviet or neo-Nazi takeover, still less a scream of despair and recantation of his democratic Socialism. Its harsh style created as authentic a picture of a state turned by men themselves into hell as the lyrical passages of Animal Farm give a picture of a natural, pastoral and egalitarian Utopia.... Nineteen Eighty-Four may show sociological rather than psychological imagination, but imagination of a high order none the less. Bernard Crick, George Orwell: A Life, 1980

If Nineteen Eighty-Four is treated as a warning rather than a prophecy, as a satire on present tendencies rather than a forecast of the future, it can be seen that its effect has been totally salutary. Today such terms as 'doublethink' 'newspeak' and 'thoughtcrime' have passed into accepted usage and for a generation of readers the book has come to be regarded as a standard treatise on the growth and influence of totalitarian trends.... J.R. Hammond, A George Orwell Companion, 1982

In previous writings he had stressed that bourgeois individuality was going, the bonds of family, locality, religion, craft and profession were going. In their place a new collectivism was spreading in society.... But it also appeared to Orwell in 1948 that the new collective did not bring the earthly paradise any nearer. Not only that, it appeared to him that under the threat of violence and nuclear terror, the new collective could become grotesquely dehumanized. It is as a permanent warning against the danger of the dehumanized collective in our society that Nineteen Eighty-Four has survived... T. R. Fyvel, George Orwell, 1982


ORWELL AND THE LOWER CLASSES

Winston Smith holds up the Proles, not too convincingly, as 'the only hope' for the future. But Orwell, even in tramp's clothing, never pretended to be a Prole. He remained always aware of the gulf between him and the class he envied. Did he like them? It is hard to be sure he did. His aim was to be personally as classless as possible. Peter Lewis, George Orwell: The Road to 1984

ORWELL AND WINSTON SMITH

Winston Smith's sensibility, then, can be seen as representing a constellation of special intellectual, aesthetic, and literary values. There is the love of what Newspeak calls oldthink, that is, the ideas grouped round the equally outmoded concepts of 'objectivity and rationalism' and of old folk rhymes. There is, further, his love of the particular and the detailed in other things.... Behind these aspects of Winston's inner sense of values is the larger idea that individual feeling is the most essential and desirable reality available. Ian Watt, "Winston Smith: The Last Humanist," in On Nineteen Eighty-Four, ed. Peter Stansky, 1983

Throughout his career, Orwell had two themes that he made particularly his own: first, the experience of impoverishment- not of poverty; to which many are born, but of the fall into poverty by those not bred to cope with it-and second, the political obligation of the intellectual class to maintain steadfast loyalty to the cause of truth. The figure of Winston Smith combines both these themes. He is one with a number of earlier figures in Orwell's novels who have their economic pins knocked out and become conscious of the slummy underside of industrial civilization.... He lives in an imaginary world, in which the 'middling' intellectual class has been stripped of the protection of money by a stroke of their author's pen. Alvin C. Kibel, Papers, International Orwell Conference

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