“The best books… are those that tell you what you know already.”
“Sanity is not statistical.”
I’ve have wanted to read Orwell’s novel, 1984, for quite a while, so when I was asked to read it as part of my ToK course (Theory of Knowledge for those who are not familiar with the International Baccalaureate language) I jumped at the chance!
However, before I got round to reading the novel I was asked if I wanted to see the stage production in London’s West End. Naturally I was happy to go! It was a brilliant piece of theatre, and I came out of the auditorium stunned and amazed by what I had just seen.
The performance (here comes the drama student’s analysis – don’t say I didn’t warn you) was fantastic: the actor playing Winston gave a phenomenal performance, particular the complex simultaneous sanity and insanity of his character. The set was simple in viewing yet complex in design (similar to the book really!) and, combined with the fantastic use of lightning, sound and projections (especially the use of video), gave an already powerful production and even greater gravity, as well as creating a visually stunning piece of theatre. There was one scene in particular – although I will not reveal which, so as not to ruin it for others – that both my companion and I found breathtaking, and totally engrossing and impressive to watch.
In terms of the novel itself, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I found it a compelling and engrossing read, despite the fact that I already knew the plot thanks to the theatre production. I particularly loved how the book made me think more deeply than other novels, stretching my thoughts further than just the characters and fictional world of the novel and instead outside into my current reality. In fact, I’m beginning to understand this to be the nature of dystopian novels – or at least those I have read, including Margaret Attwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Reading 1984 has now made me want to read even more modern classic dystopian novels, and I just can’t wait!
Another conclusion I reached (or at least thought more thoroughly about) through reading this masterpiece is that I believe there is a power in words, both spoken and written; the novel itself has such a compelling and powerful nature to it that it’s impossible to think otherwise. Obviously, reading the book gives you a greater insight into the characters’ feelings and the society Orwell created, but it was incredible how the play also hit so hard on the key points of his writing.
What I found most interesting and intriguing is that although Orwell wrote this novel in the late 1940s, it still has so much relevance in today’s society – and the play highlighted these similarities further.
Gah, it’s just so clever!