Saturday, June 18, 2011

What Year isThis?

I have to be honest, it’s been a while since the last time I read the novel 1984. I’m not sure I want to read it again either. Why? Because it’s a little too close to 21st century reality. Think I’m kidding? I’m not, and I’ll tell you my reasons.

First, for those who don’t know, Nineteen Eighty-Four ( or 1984) is a novel set in the title year. It was written in 1948 by George Orwell, and is a dystopian novel—or the opposite of utopia. The world of 1984 is not a good place to be, and in my, not all that humble opinion,  our world definitely resembles it. And now, my reasoning:

Ubiquitous televisions. This was a huge deal in the book. Though written in 1948—at the very beginning of television’s popularity—the book accurately predicted TV’s in every home and many public places. Oddly, or maybe not, in 1981, the US Supreme court allowed TV in courtrooms. Been to a doctor’s office lately, or a  McDonalds? There was likely a TV  screen or two there. I have to admit, my heart took a bit of a bump when I first saw the Times Square TV broadcast in New York City. Think you can escape? Not a chance, TV has invaded the Internet!

Interactive TV. Another thing Orwell wrote about that has come to pass, if not exactly like he described it. For instance, I can push a button and pull up the local weather, news, messages from the cable provider. Another button  a list of shows with all the info I’d have had to buy a TVGuide for just a few years ago. I also have a DVR that records my favorite shows on a regular basis, no more forgetting to tape something. Amazing stuff. And TV on the Internet, even more so. Speaking of TV and the Internet, a recently saw a Criminal Minds rerun in which a person’s webcam was turned on by remote means. Not at all impossible, I’d think. And makes me leery to leave the computer and Net hooked up when I’m not using it.  OK, I admit it, I’ve considered putting something over the webcam on my laptop. Paranoid? Maybe. Maybe not so much.

Then there is the changing of history. This actually is the issue that triggered this post. In one of my writing groups, there was a big discussion about language. It started out as a discussion on sexist language, then branched out into how politically correct our language has become. I was surprised when someone mentioned editorial pressure to “PC” historical manuscripts. For example, saying Native American instead of Indian in a novel that takes place in the 1800’s. Um, Native American is a recent term. There’s no way that could be historically correct. But what really got to me was that there is now pressure to revise Mark Twain’s novels to take out the “N word” and put “slave” in its place. Mark Twain wasn’t a racist. He used language to make his point. That’s what good writing is all about. Twain’s books are classics, and somebody wants to change them to fit our culture as it stands right now. Isn’t that an attempt to change history?  And trying to change history is a big part of what 1984 is all about.

I’m sure there are other similarities between Orwell’s fictional world and now, but I’ve had enough chills for the moment. What do you think?

And if you haven’t read 1984, maybe you should. Or not.


  1. Sometimes the similarities can be scary :)

  2. Scary, isn't it? Fabulous book, but way too close to the reality of today.

  3. We just had a speaker talk to our RWA chapter about the information age and mention that all the cameras everywhere were getting to be 1984ish...and there were at least 9 cameras on the flat where Orwell wrote 1984!