Published in 1949, Nineteen Eighty-Four is what many regard as George Orwell’s crowning literary achievement. The story follows protagonist Winston Smith who is a member of the Outer Party in the fictional province of Oceania. Oceania, a region in Europe somewhere near post WWII London, there are 3 classes: the Inner Party, the Outer Party, and the Proles. The Inner Party is Oceania’s elites and is quite exclusive, the Outer Party is comparable to the Middle Class, and the Proles are the most populous and lowest working class that lives in the slum like streets.
A learned man, Winston soon comes to battle with the thoughts to breaking his monotonous lifestyle of working for Big Brother, the authoritarian head of the English Socialism (IngSoc) party. This very action of thinking against the party is illegal and coined ThoughtCrime. In a world where nearly no action goes unsurveillanced this poses quite a problem, as any action outside the utilitarian norm is taboo.
Winston soon takes a lover, Julia, who is also guilty of ThoughtCrime against Big Brother. Eventually they are tricked into discovery by an undercover Inner Party member posing as a counter revolutionary. They are both captured and subjected to imprisonment, interrogation, and torture. In efforts to reform their minds, they are exposed to a method of brainwashing and both break eventually submitting their minds to the ideals of Big Brother.
This book is widely known and is a common required reading in high schools. The dystopian atmosphere instills a sort of eerie feeling as technology and government surveillance becomes ever advanced. It has been a topic of controversy due to the dark themes of a drab post-war future, authoritarian-socialist government ideals, and uses of torture, mind control, omniprescence of the state, and lack of privacy for the people.