Book Banning: "Nineteen Eighty-Four" by George Orwell

Public domain depiction of
"Big Brother" propaganda

"Nineteen Eighty-Four" by George Orwell is one of the most controversial and popular novels of the 20th century. It was George Orwell's final novel before his death from tuberculosis mere months after it was published. Because of this, what the author meant to say with the novel is debatable, though many would say it is obvious. Because of the very strong themes in "Nineteen Eighty-Four" and the fact that people will choose to interpret novels as they see fit, it was banned in Russia and has almost been banned elsewhere. That hardly hurt the sales. It sold like crazy in the UK and the United States immediately after it was published and is still very widely read today.

"Nineteen Eighty-Four" is the story of Winston Smith, who lives in what was once England in the year 1984, which was the future when the novel was published in 1949. In Winston's world, the people are kept in line with mind control, propaganda, surveillance and even torture. The main antagonist in the novel is Big Brother, a dictator who is "always watching." Over the course of the novel, Winston becomes guilty of numerous crimes in this totalitarian society and is eventually brainwashed, tortured and forced to betray a loved one.

Truth be told, George Orwell was not a man to keep his opinions secret. He obviously found the idea of a world like that in "Nineteen Eighty-Four" appalling. Was he warning against allowing the government so much control? Many people think so. However, one thing is certain and should be considered when considering the fact that it was banned. "Nineteen Eighty-Four" is a work of fiction. It is certainly a commentary of sorts on moral, political and civil rights issues, but it is still fiction. Yes, it was daring. Yes, it was penetrating. Works that shine so harsh a light on any political system, real or fictional, are always going to be criticized by those who fear criticism of their political systems. Was that why it was banned? You decide.

Shelly Barclay

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