#301984

Find a new tweet each day in the month of April @BeardofSteel on Twitter.  30 quotes from the first chapter of 1984 rationed for victory and assembled by the hashtag 301984.  30 years after 1984, in the year 2014, I also pieced together a literary analysis of 1Q84, V for Vendetta and 1984, that explores their lasting appeal.  #301984 attempts to clarify all of the sudden resurgence in popularity of a novel published 70 years ago.  Enjoy!

19 thoughts on “#301984”

  1. (1:30) The First Sentence

    The very first word of the very first sentence: it. This vague and indefinite pronoun “it” more than likely refers to the setting, and more precisely the time: 1984. Time is relative and objective truth is in question. Does anybody really know what time it is / Does anybody really care? Legend has it that George Orwell finished his novel in 1948 and reversed the last 2 numbers to project the story into the future, a future he would most certainly not see, since he was settling into his deathbed by this point. Having past the calendar year of 1984, the title and timeframe make even less sense to audiences. Naive students assume this fiction is based on actual history in the year 1984, as if this already happened. Orwell emphasizes mnemonic rhyme in this story as a potential safeguard of truth, and like the calendar verse to remember the days of the months it quickly deteriorates into nonsense when filtered through the malapropism-mind of the people like a game of telephone. How many days are in the month of April?

    Alternative calendars: time-keeping can be seen in our calendar — and the difference between the Gregorian and Julian and Roman calendars is an interesting topic worth exploring further, especially in context of Roberto Bolaño’s 2666, in which the title refers to a different year of 1913 (http://botfly.net/?p=280) — and in our clocks. 13, an unlucky number, also signals the use of military time and the divide between the English standards of measurement and the metric system. Ultimately, what authority will tell us the official time?

    I guess it’s all debatable. The ambiguity is further compounded by the month of April. Seasonally, April is known for mysterious weather and of course some showers; but, did it rain today, maybe where you stand it did, or not? Scattered thunderstorms are par for the course in this month of transition, particularly in a northern area like London, April can feel like an extension of Winter or a bright hope for Spring. By the end of the novel, the time and weather are still as questionable as 2+2=5.

  2. (2:30) The Protagonist

    Winston Smith is supposed to be the audience’s vehicle to enter the dystopia of 1984. He is setup as an everyman, and plays the forgotten man of the 1930s, yet he is literally a broken man in his 30s. Today a middle aged guy is an unlikely casting choice for a dystopia — very vanilla, old vanilla with a varicose ulcer.

    Most dystopias now feature young attractive romance figures, which may be a criticism on the industry in terms of the Hunger Games. Still, the protagonist here gets a quick description on the first page and then readers are quickly thrown into his point-of-view. If this milquetoast main character is hard to hold, know that the novel is divided into 3 books. Book 2 features the rebellious Julia and Book 3 the oppressor O’Brien.

    Haruki Murakami emphasized this triptych and played it up in 1Q84 — read more about this analysis at https://mtinews.org/booktalk/booktalkii/

    After reading the entire novel, you may walk away thinking that Big Brother wins in the end. It is even feasible that Winston wrote the majority of Book 1, Julia Book 2, and in the end O’Brien writes Book 3 while also rewriting Books 1 and 2, like a palimpsest, for INGSOC approval. The entire novel has an aftertaste as if the Ministry of Truth reworked the literature and re-purposed it for “prole” consumption, like a forced testimony. Never mind, Winston has few redeemable qualities and laments about himself being an ungrateful and selfish bastard — through various agonizing flashbacks. It is best to picture the author himself, George Orwell, as the sickly shell of a man, hoping for a cure to a terminal disease, waiting out the clock.

  3. (3:30) Victory Mansions

    Nothing is what it seems and in the tradition of great immersive fantasy, Orwell takes the reader down the rabbit hole. Doublespeak and doublethink are just the tip of the iceberg. Euphemisms have metamorphosed into sadistic ironies.

    Don’t throw stones in glass houses. The lift is out, so you’ll have to take the stairs. The hallways smell of boiled cabbage and old rag mats. There is nothing victorious about this squalor. The mansions are a mirage. The Ministry of Love is the worst of all.

    Extreme and excessive hyperbole renders the literal meaningless. Complex thought is simplified and bound by tight dichotomies. Doubleplusgood spin elevates to the heights of helicopters swirling in air, whirling around in spirals, like little eddies, hypnotizing and distracting.

  4. (4:30) Big Brother Is Watching You

    Paranoia spreads like a virus. Pervasive propaganda permeates every nook and cranny. The conspiracy theorists are comforted by omnipotent actors that validate their existence. How can anyone be alone when everyone is watched?

    We can explain away the limits of this and that, but what remains is a glowing telescreen in front of each face and a microphone recording every sound, every movement scrutinized.

  5. (5:30) Sanguine

    Orwell deftly uses a highly conspicuous term in the third paragraph. The word “sanguine” stands out and lingers in a reader’s mind for the remainder of the story. Winston’s face is “naturally sanguine” and this could mean two things: the redness of his skin is like that of blood, a flushed look, maybe that of rosacea; or the generally accepted disposition of benign cheerfulness. Both are valid and the word choice displays the value of ambiguity in Art juxtaposed against the weaponized language of Doublespeak.

    I tend to picture a pale colorless white man’s face, as Winston’s, an Englishman malnourished and sickly pale from the cold and cheap cigarettes and a general lack of warm sun exposure, bright as a fluorescent light bulb. And blood courses through this transparent tube. Razor burned, rusty rash has set in because of “coarse soap and blunt razor blades.”

    This 8-letter S-word sticking out of its paragraph is counterbalanced by another conspicuous 8-letter S-word near the end of the novel. The word is “sinecure” and it concludes a character arc while simultaneously framing the plot overall. Orwell knew which word to use. In each case there are deeper Latin root that lend themselves to a linguistic, etymological discourse on the development of such historical connotations.

  6. (8:9:10:30) The Ministry of Truth

    I’m hearing from fake news reports about the history of Oceania, a history that changes with the tides. Where was the United States in this story? The Winston Smith of 1950s America was more of an invisible man to Orwell. Follow this year’s BookTalk IV this summer for more literary discourse: https://mtinews.org/booktalk/booktalkiv/

  7. (11:12:13:30) War is Peace

    Freedom is Slavery; and Liberty means no responsibility. The less we know about the common good the better. Ignorance is Strength. These are the three slogans of the Party, picked out on its white face in elegant lettering. Modus ponendo ponens. Peace is War. By this point the slogans need no explanation.

  8. (14:30) News

    The Ministry of Truth—Minitrue, in Newspeak—concerned itself with news, entertainment, education, and the fine arts. Winston’s place of work contained a Records department and a Fiction department, novel-writing machines, and pornosec for the proles. His emphasis on historical documents and reports hides the equally consuming aims of weaponized mass media. In 1984, government propaganda permeated all of these genres and the news became a derivative of this melange. The same telescreen broadcasts fake news, farcical news, satirical news, serious news, breaking news, and lots of stuff that isn’t news at all: the pop songs, and textbooks, and best of all the novels or books—including the banned ones.

    Vice News Tonight on HBO produces a fantastically dystopian take on the nightly news of yore.
    ( https://twitter.com/BeardofSteel/status/852998262755864578 ) Millennial demographics seem to be the target audience, or anyone looking for atmospheric soundtracks of brooding evil layered over neoliberal investigative reporting. Balancing a media diet of Vice with CNBC’s Nightly Business Report puts everything in perspective. Where does Twitter fit in now that is classified as a news app?

  9. (15:30) Newspeak

    The fallout from social welfare programs potentially experiencing austerity measures will feel piddly in comparison to the MOAB that will detonate when the populists retrieve no results from a search engine query—when no results are answered, or when no questions are asked: which would be worse? How will we be able to articulate this angst?

    The official language aims to condense thought, limit expression in gain of efficiency. FYI the deconstruction of language can return us to an age of hieroglyphics. Emojis are yesteryear’s scratch-n-sniff stickers. Swipe through to find the right GIF. 140 Characters, unless you choose to shorten URLs and hyperlink a cogent thought. The click worthy scroll leads us to a new type of memory hole, the cloud.

    Wikipedia says: extended order is an economics and sociology concept introduced by Friedrich Hayek in his book The Fatal Conceit. It is a description of what happens when a system embraces specialization and trade and “constitutes an information gathering process, able to call up, and put to use, widely dispersed information that no central planning agency, let alone any individual, could know as a whole, possess or control.”

  10. (16:30) Truncheons

    The Lake County Sheriff’s office has a history of intimidation going back to the infamous Sheriff McCall. Gary Corsair’s “Legal Lynching” documents the racial subjugation of Floridians circa 1950. Fast forward to today and “Machine Gun America” billboards line the roads to Disney. The latest tourist attraction of greater Orlando involves chain feeding an automatic weapon. A young woman outfitted with stylish protective eye-wear cradles the machine on one billboard with the caption below stating the obvious: 44 miles to freedom. How has an arms race between NRA members and police riddled the domestic front?

    Meanwhile across these United States, Las Vegas installs its first clean needle vending machine, for the people.
    http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/heroin-crisis-nevada-becomes-first-state-install-syringe-vending-machines-n746111

  11. (18:19:30) Tomorrow’s Breakfast

    “…he had sacrificed his lunch in the canteen, and he was aware that there was no food in the kitchen…”

    It is hard to imagine rationing and prolonged shortages, in the world of today markets have flooded the shelves. Most stores are stocked to the brim and more often than not people endure the inability to purchase something due to lack of income rather than lack of production. A globalized society, not unlike the data-web of the Internet, accepts the never-ending array of consumer choice; compared to the centrally controlled economies of the past in which consumer goods were limited in scope.

    The constant shortage and the hope of increases in rations weave their way through Winston’s 1984. The public is fooled by the diminishing chocolate supply and he questions the validity of all government statistics on manufacturing and production. Boots on the ground amount to invisible chess pieces. The white squares box out the black markets. “Party members were supposed not to go into ordinary shops (“dealing on the free market”)…”

    Erstwhile, the iconic opiate of the English masses became moonshine gin. Winston epitomizes the addict, gin-head progressively through the plot. Indigestion followed by tranquilizing buzz settles Winston’s nerves enough for him to recollect. Try not to think about what you don’t have and what you didn’t do. Don’t rationalize your regrets. The last chapter includes:

    “He took up his glass and sniffed at it. The stuff grew not less but more horrible with every mouthful he drank. But it had become the element he swam in. It was his life, his death, and his resurrection. It was gin that sank him into a stupor every night, and gin that revived him every morning. When he woke, seldom before eleven hundred, with gummed-up eyelids and fiery mouth and a back that seemed to be broken, it would have been impossible even to rise from the horizontal if it had not been for the bottle and teacup placed beside the bed overnight. Through the mid-day hours he sat with glazed face, the bottle handy, listening to the telescreen.”

  12. (20:21:22:23:30) Shoelaces and Razor Blades

    “For some reason the telescreen in the living room was in an unusual position.”
    “It was partly the unusual geography of the room that had suggested to him the thing that he was now about to do.”
    “It was a peculiarly beautiful book.”
    “The pen was an archaic instrument, seldom used even for signatures, and he had procured one, furtively and with some difficulty, simply because of a feeling that the beautiful creamy paper deserved to be written on with a real nib instead of being scratched with an ink pencil.”

    4 sentences framing the range and flow of Orwell’s prose in 1984, yet the style cannot compete with the substance. An honored author pays homage to the craft. Great novels not only capture the reader as an audience, they also inspire the next author to continue the fascination of Literature.

    Orwell obsesses over how things are recorded and edited. The tools of communication, from the abstract propaganda to the concrete “speakwrites” and palimpsests, are showcased. Thoughts of privacy and authority are coupled with the emergence of movie theaters and television as the death knell to literature and imagination.

    He genuinely ponders writing a story, through archaic means such as print publication; and, he predicts the future populace will not endure reading and writing like this, so he knowingly accepts the futility of his transmission being terminated as if he could only communicate in a future language through a future medium. It would become no longer enough to create a story, Winston would have to perform the story live.

    Why do we continue to mourn the death of Literature? The end of Journalism? Publishing, or whatever, needs scarcity to be real “…because there were various things such as shoelaces and razor blades which it was impossible to get hold of in any other way.”

  13. (24:25:26:30) Doublethink

    “His mind hovered for a moment round the doubtful date on the page, and then fetched up with a bump against the Newspeak word doublethink.”

    “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”

  14. (27:28:30) Audience Much Amused

    “April 4th, 1984. Last night to the flicks. All war films. One very good one of a ship full of refugees being bombed somewhere in the Mediterranean. Audience much amused…”

    Winston’s first words in his diary are rather revealing. Orwell had a keen awareness of time: his time period, history or the past, and his projections of the future. Facing death helps to focus one’s vision. All eyes were on the emerging screen time. Winston’s first entry, the act that sets this story in motion, the very act that will kill Winston begins with a time out to the movies or as he writes it: “Last night to the flicks.”

    Mass media was weaponized by fascist regimes, during Orwell’s brief life spanning the first half of the 20th century. Screens quickly entered the public sphere through nickelodeons and theaters and later television. The idea of a “telescreen” takes this media evolution one step further, in believing the profuse proliferation of personal screens akin to contemporary smartphones and tablets. Orwell could compare communal theater going experiences to invasive fireside chats and the onset of home television viewing.

    Audiences have been much amused since then and continued to be much amused. Techno-critic Neil Postman famously wrote the book, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business in the actual year of 1984. Orwell could foresee the loss of privacy and inevitable change in discourse. Totalitarian governments invaded the private sphere and television was a tool built for prying.

    Radio revealed itself to be another crowbar of a tool. Altogether the bombardment of city center loudspeakers combined with now stereo speakers installed in every room and home (and yet later in nearly every ear) amplified the power of totalitarian regimes. Undoubtedly war propaganda would conquer more minds in the future with each encroachment upon personal privacy. Unguarded by public amusement, emotions are manipulated, reality is bent, and psychological testing is experienced.

    Whipping up the de-individualization en mass easily through mass media showed how the masses could so easily be manipulated “like the flame of a blowlamp.” Switching emotions to switching objects of hatred could be conveniently controlled with a public initially transitioning to cinema. Audiences literally and physically reacted to the projected images unsure of their physicality. Today’s public is consequently desensitized and requires increasingly immersive methods of viewing such as virtual reality and 3-D IMAX. So too could viewers forget the last scene, the last news story — to end on a sappy story about puppies cleanses the story about genocide and enemies of the nation are re-classified. Facts are altered.

    “Certainly we ought to be discontented, we ought not simply to find out ways of making the best of a bad job, and yet if we kill all pleasure in the actual process of life, what sort of future are we preparing for ourselves? If a man cannot enjoy the return of spring, why should he be happy in a labour-saving Utopia? What will he do with the leisure that the machine will give him?”

    For more thoughts on techno-criticism and free-thinkers of the modern age check-out: https://mtinews.org/booktalk/

  15. (29:30) Brotherhood

    “…sprang directly out of his teaching. Somewhere or other he was still alive and hatching his conspiracies: perhaps somewhere beyond the sea…”

    https://twitter.com/BeardofSteel/status/858330554697220096

    “Neither the Brotherhood nor the book was a subject that any ordinary Party member would mention if there was a way of avoiding it.”

    “…the Party. Perhaps the rumors of vast underground conspiracies were true after all—perhaps the Brotherhood really existed! It was impossible, in spite of the endless arrests and confessions and executions, to be sure that the Brotherhood was not simply a myth. Some days he believed in it, some days not.”

  16. (30:30) Down With Big Brother

    “His eyes refocused on the page. He discovered that while he sat helplessly musing he had also been writing, as though by automatic action. And it was no longer the same cramped awkward handwriting as before. His pen had slid voluptuously over the smooth paper, printing in large neat capitals—DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER…”

    “…during the night. Your name was removed from the registers, every record of everything you had ever done was wiped out, your one-time existence was denied and then forgotten. You were abolished, annihilated: vaporized was the usual word.”

    George Orwell more than likely suffered severely from PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, following his involvement in the Spanish Civil War in which he actually & literally was shot in the back of the neck. What’s more, his existentialist view of life & death perfectly frames this magnum opus in a classically anthropomorphized simile of Winston sitting, lying in wait, hiding like “as still as a mouse” at the end of chapter one; and, by the end of the book his greatest fear awaits Winston in Room 101.

    “Already! He sat as still as a mouse, in the futile hope that whoever it was might go away after a single attempt. But no, the knocking was repeated. The worst thing of all would be to delay. His heart was thumping like a drum, but his face, from long habit, was probably expressionless. He got up and moved heavily toward the door.”

    Orwell also uses doors as a symbolic device of transition, not unlike how Haruki Murakami exploited transitions in 1Q84 through immersive and surreal storytelling on par with Sinclair Lewis or Lewis Carroll or rather Upton Sinclair. Something like a muckraker mucking the fields of time & perception. Or the doorman, common working class man, a prole through and through, holding open the door for you. The decision to enter or exit the room is all yours.

    “But through the darkness that enveloped him he heard another metallic click, and knew that the cage door had clicked shut and not open.”

    Shout-outs go to J. G. Ballard’s “End Game” short story that pairs well with the novel 1984. Ballard uses the game of chess to push the boundaries of Kafka-esque self-replicating paradox. For more literary analysis of 1984, 1Q84, and V for Vendetta check out:

    https://mtinews.org/booktalk/booktalkii/

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