1984 A HOPELESS ENDING?
To Orwell Today,
re: 45.Chestnut Tree Cafe
Dear Mrs. Jura,
I finished reading 1984 this past weekend and found it to be the most depressing book I have ever read. In discussions with friends about it, someone sent me a link to your website, which I love. Thank you for your work.
I want to write you because of the immense frustration I feel about the way he ended the book. Literarily it is brilliant but practically it sucks. I was so angry and disgusted that I wanted to burn the book, something I have never done. My sixteen year old son suggested that the book was written by Big Brother (so to speak) as a way to suppress people's desire to fight against them. While I do not think that is what Orwell had intended, the story gives the clear message that you cannot go up against them and win, or even make a difference.
I am in my early forties. During the last 15 years or so I have come to know more about the true nature of our society and it has been like awakening from a dream. The shell really started to crack during the first Iraq war when I actually caught them lying on the news. They said one thing one day and the opposite the next with no explanation, no apology, no rationalization. And no one so much as blinked. My reaction at the time was a bit like Winstonís during the chocolate ration incident.
I have talked at length with friends about what you DO once you awaken to this knowledge. There have been many suggestions that can be summed up as follows: "I don't want to be the most informed person in the concentration camp."
Of the people who actually see what is going on, and I think Orwell was being generous when he said that only 85% of the population is unconscious (I prefer the term non-sentient), most don't know what to do. Many fear doing anything because Big Brother (aka Cheney, aka ATF, aka Homeland Security) is watching. As long as you don't speak too loudly they won't take notice of you and you can go on living your happy life. Most agree there is nothing that any one of us can do to make a difference (something Winston says in the story) but collectively us Proles have tremendous power. The problem is that there is no way to organize the masses. In fact, if anyone did start to organize them I would immediately wonder about their ulterior motives, does that make me paranoid or just realistic?
So we have acquiesced to the idea that you talk to people (friends, acquaintances) about it, you write your congressmen, if you are really ambitious you write an article in a paper or magazine and by all means attend political rallies. That all sounds so empty, so useless. I think those who I have talked to would agree with that but also agree that doing something is almost always better then doing nothing. I want to shake people and ask them what is wrong with them. Why can't they see what is going on in the World?
But they don't see. They don't agree. I remember, shortly after the 911 farce, when they started implementing ridiculous airline regulations and taking away freedoms our ancestors died for, people said they would do anything to be safe. Sorry but I would rather live with a little danger and with my freedoms. They also said about the wire tapping the White House was doing, "If you aren't doing anything wrong why do you care?" I wish I could pull their minds away from "Survivor" long enough to show them Orwell's or Huxley's world. But then they already know it and they don't care. When the price of gas took off they were not outraged. "I would pay twice as much if I had to," they said. Now we do. They defended the oil companyís right to abuse them. "Gas is actually cheaper today then it was fifty years ago," they said. The cost of producing the oil/gas had not raised overnight but people regurgitated the doublethink they had been fed as though it was their own idea.
If they had been born slaves they would have defended their masters right to own them, abuse them, work them to death. It is fitting that it was Fredrick Douglas who said, "Find out just what a people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them."
I am writing you this letter because I am angry with George Orwell. I am angry because he took away the only thing that can make a difference when you are faced with overwhelming odds against you, against the human race, against the future. He took away HOPE.
I guess I am unrealistic but my favorite cartoon is of the frog in the pelicanís mouth. All you can see of the frog is his arms reaching out and around the pelicanís throat and the caption reads, "Never give up." Why not? Why not give into the inevitable? It would be easier. The reason I won't ever give up, even when fighting against insurmountable odds, is that the moment I do my future is assured, the outcome known. Until that point though, there is uncertainty. The odds might be small but there is still a chance, there is still hope. And it is the hope for a better future that keeps me walking toward that goal today.
You have obviously spent more time then most digesting Orwellís words, his views. I donít know what I expect you to say. I donít know if there is anything that can be said. But somehow I am just hoping you have some thought, some encouragement that will make the future look less dismal.
Thanks for your thoughts 'hot off the press' from reading "1984". In many ways you've hit the nail right on the head and your comments make for interesting reading.
Sorry you're angry at Orwell over the unhappy ending. If it's any consolation, you're not the only one who felt that way (including myself before I delved deeper into his meaning).
For my interpretation of the ending please go to previous email exchanges with other readers at: ORWELL SAW GOD IN MAN and WINSTON DIES INSIDE and WINSTON EXISTED, STILL EXISTS and WINSTON HATES BIG BROTHER
All the best,
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~