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1984 is not technically classified into the horror genre. Yet, it is one of the most horrifying books I’ve ever read. Reading the book is frustrating, suspenseful, hopeful, and exciting, and I can barely make it through the book’s last 10 pages or so.
Often banned throughout the years due to its political, social, and sexual content, the book stands the test of time even though it was published in 1949. Its warnings against totalitarian governments in reaction to the rise of Stalin’s Russia and the horrors and propaganda of the Nazis ring ever true in our current world.
It’s also quite clear who’s actually taken the time to read the book and who hasn’t.
People toss around the terms “Orwellian” “Newspeak” “Doublethink” and “Thought Police” based on what they want those words to mean in their own context, but often not what they actually mean based on the book. In these cases, the irony isn’t funny.
Ultimately, 1984 stands as a warning. In the Signet Classics version from which I pulled my favorite quotes, Erich Fromm writes the following in the afterword:
"[Orwell] wants to warn and to awaken us. He still hopes--but in contrast to the writers of the utopias in the earlier phases of Western society, his hope is a desperate one. The hope can be realized only by recognizing, so 1984 teaches us, the danger with which all men [and women] are confronted today, the danger of a society of automatons who will have lost every trace of individuality, of love, of critical thought, and yet who will not be aware of it because of 'doublethink.' Books like Orwell's are powerful warnings, and it would be most unfortunate if the reader smugly interpreted 1984 as another description of Stalinist barbarism, and if he does not see that it means us, too."
11 Timely 1984 Quotes from George Orwell’s Classic (with page numbers)
1. “It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran.” (pgs. 1-2) 1984 Quotes
2. “You had to live–did live, from habit that became instinct–in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.” (pg. 3) 1984 Quotes
3. “But what was strange was that although Goldstein was hated and despised by everybody, although every day, and a thousand times a day, on platforms, on the telescreen, in newspapers, in books, his theories were refuted, smashed, ridiculed, held up to the general gaze for the pitiful rubbish that they were–in spite of all this, his influence never seemed to grow less.” (pg. 13) 1984 Quotes
4. “Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimeters inside your skull.” (pg. 27) 1984 Quotes
5. “How could you make appeal to the future when not a trace of you, not even an anonymous word scribbled on a piece of paper, could physically survive?” (pg. 27) 1984 Quotes
6. “It was not by making yourself heard but by staying sane that you carried on the human heritage.” (pg. 27) 1984 Quotes
7. “If the Party could thrust its hand into the past and say of this or that event, it never happened–that, surely, was more terrifying than mere torture or death.” (pg. 34) 1984 Quotes
8. “To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself–that was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word “doublethink” involved the use of doublethink.” (pg. 35) 1984 Quotes
9. “And yet, just for a moment, what almost frightening power had sounded in that cry from only a few hundred throats! Why was it that they could never shout like that about anything that mattered?” (pg. 70) 1984 Quotes
10. “In a way, the world-view of the Party imposed itself most successfully on people incapable of understanding it. They could be made to accept the most flagrant violations of reality, because they never fully grasped the enormity of what was demanded of them, and were not sufficiently interested in public events to notice what was happening.” (pg. 156) 1984 Quotes
11. “Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was alright, everything was alright, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.” (pg. 298) 1984 Quotes
For more quotes from the dystopian sci-fi genre, check out: