George Orwell’s 1984 up for discussion in MNSU library

A discussion of George Orwell’s book 1984 will take place in the Memorial Library of Minnesota State, Mankato Wednesday, March 29, from 2-3 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, with light refreshments provided. Copies of 1984 will be available for checkout at the library.

1984 was written in 1948 by George Orwell, who cleverly swapped the numbers of the year of publishing for the title of his novel. Orwell wrote about his vision of the future, in which the government would be totalitarian.

Monika Antonelli, a reference librarian at the Memorial Library, explains what totalitarian means:

“You have an authoritarian government in place. People have very few rights. It’s very repressive, people are afraid, they’re being watched.”

Winston Smith, the main character of the novel, works for the Ministry of Truth. He is isolated until he meets a young woman named Julia. They have an affair in the midst of a repressive environment. The main question of the novel, says Antonelli, is: “Can love survive in an environment where you can’t trust anyone?”

After the 2016 election, 1984 became a best-selling book on Amazon.com. Antonelli has noticed that more students are interested in 1984 and ten new copies have been ordered and shipped to the library. Antonelli comments: “We had to wait a couple weeks to get our copies of the book in, so there are definitely a lot of people who are reading the book right now.”

According to Antonelli, “A lot of people bought this book because they thought it had relevance for today.” People see parallels between the world of the book and modern times. An example of this today is occurrences of what is called “doublespeak” and “doublethink.”

Doublespeak, explains Antonelli, “is when you call something the opposite of what it is.” She gives the example of missiles being called “peacekeepers” during President Reagan’s time, although missiles are obviously not peacekeepers but weapons of mass destruction.

Doublethink, she says, “is the ability to hold two ideas that are opposed simultaneously in your brain. Alternative facts would be an example.” Orwell looked toward the governments of Russia and Nazi Germany for ideas for his writing. In modern times, “people want to go back and revisit what Orwell had to say,” said Antonelli. People want to see how his vision of the future and fears of a totalitarian government might match up with our government today.

1984 is classified as a dystopian novel, which, according to Antonelli, “is a novel that explores a society, usually in the future, where it’s apocalyptic. It’s an oppressive government, it’s hard to survive.” Other examples of dystopian novels include Fahrenheit 451 and The Hunger Games. The opposite of dystopian would be utopian, in which everything is perfect and there is nothing at all wrong or corrupt about the society. Authors, including Sir Thomas More in his book Utopia, have attempted to fabricate a utopian society, but no one has completely succeeded.

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