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Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four" is Published


Dust jacket of the first edition of Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.

In 1949 English author Eric Arthur Blair, writing under his pseudonym, George Orwell, published the dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four in London. The story followed the life of Winston Smith, an apparently minor civil servant whose job was to falsify records and political literature, and thus perpetuate propaganda. Becoming disillusioned with this system and his meagre existence, Smith began a futile rebellion against the system. Orwell's novel became famous for its satirical portrayal of surveillance, and of society's increasing encroachment on the rights of the individual. Since its publication the terms Big Brother and Orwellian became widely used in popular speech.

"Nineteen Eighty-Four's impact upon the English language is extensive; many of its concepts: Big Brother, Room 101 (the worst place in the world), the Thought Police, the memory hole (oblivion), doublethink (simultaneously holding and believing two contradictory beliefs), and Newspeak (ideological language), are common usages for denoting and connoting overarching, totalitarian authority; Doublespeak is an elaboration of doublethink; the adjective "Orwellian" denotes that which is characteristic and reminiscent of George Orwell's writings, specifically 1984. The practice of appending the suffixes "-speak" and "-think" (groupthink, mediaspeak) to denote unthinking conformity. Many other works, in various forms of media, have taken themes from Nineteen Eighty-four" (Wikipedia article on Nineteen Eighty-Four).

As an aside, I remember reading Nineteen Eighty-Four in school in the 1950s. During the Cold War it, along with Orwell's Animal Farm, were required reading in many schools.  When I first read Nineteen Eighty Four I found much of it scary, but it seemed like it was set in the distant future. Later, when 1984 rolled around, I reread the novel and thought how "unlikely" it would be that Orwellian ideas would propagate in our free society. In 2013 with the disclosures by Eric Snowden of extensive secret electronic surveillance of Americans by the U.S. National Security Agency, Orwellian ideas did not seem so far-fetched, even in America.

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