All of us have our personal horrors. Without having read any history on why George Orwell wrote 1984, and because you asked about my opinion, I give it to you here before it becomes tainted by what the outside world thinks. And the outside world, that is, the world outside my head, must think a lot since 1984 is considered a masterpiece.
It sounded to me very much like a materialization of George's deep seated fear (stirred up by Stalin and his comrades, and Hitler perhaps too), this idea that an abstract entity, a thing that is a political concept, can crush you into nothing, to the point where you betray yourself. Politics here is only a vehicle. The horror is deeper. The horror is that for humanity and for what we are capable in the face of chaos. Life is chaos. So evolutionary we've been developing our brains to try and understand what the hell we're going on this earth, who we are, and what does it all mean. If you think about the picture that the Ingsoc Party in 1984 portrays, it's precisely the utopia of an absolute certainty of every bloody thing at all times. The past is gone, the future is always accurately predicted, hence the self-delusion that both statements are true is the perfect escape. You could almost call it a perfect religion.
Ultimately what rang true to me was the crushing by numbers.
In Russia the methods were applied copiously since the revolution began and throughout the nightmare of Stalin's reign, then communism, and now some of it is left over and happens under Putin's mighty hand (though, of course, nobody ever admit to it). Here is how this tyranny works. If you're alone in your belief, you must be crazy. This scare tactic cleverly uses our genetically ingrained need to cling to each other. We're social creatures. We can't survive in isolation. We rely on each other to live. And when that is taken away, when you're one against many, against all, you'll believe any lie to be truth.
It's what happened in Soviet Union. I see obvious parallels in 1984 to the interrogation techniques, etc. I caught only a small part of an echo of that, in the 80s, and aways there was a nagging doubt in my gut. Something was missing from all this cheering and pioneering and striving for equality and pledging your future and the purpose of your existence to the state. Everything for the benefit of the state, nothing for the individual. Perhaps because I grew up like a scoundrel, running around with boys in the streets, the poison of this artificial collective equality never got to me. I never believed in Lenin or socialism or any of that propagandistic shit, but I reverently did the things other kids did, with as much emotion as they. I swore to Lenin. I wore my red kerchief. I paid my dues. It was inevitable.
So, to answer your question, did I love the book? Yes, I loved it. I loved how simple the prose was, unpretentious. And powerful. I loved how cleanly the details locked into place at the end, the chestnut tree, the upcoming death that was left out but certainly came later, and the like. I loved the vivid and punch-in-the-gut descriptions. The unwavering storyline, direct, uncluttered. It was like a breath of fresh air. Complex ideas presented so elegantly and simply. But one thing I didn't like, and that's because I'm a woman and was fighting to assert my feminity since I was a little girl, being abused and reprimanded and treated like second sort in the typical Russian patriarchal manner. Gauche and pedestrian. The girls were supposed to produce children, cook, wash, clean, and darn socks. And keep their mouths shut.
I rebelled against it. For this reason I'm particularly sensitive to anything that undermines me because of my sex. The women characters in 1984 were all weak and somewhat objectified and fit to a particular purpose. Winston's wife was plain dumb. Okay, I could live with that. His mother was mostly a memory, and I understand why she needed to be shown from one side only. His neighbor's wife was a weakling. Okay. But Julia! The revolutionary! Julia was left without an intellectual ability except to protest against the Party "from waist down." She fell asleep while listening to the book, and she was shown as not interested in having any discussions, or in the case of their meeting with O'Brien, it's noted that Winston spoke on her behalf. This turned me off. I get why George did it (maybe, maybe he did it for some other reason). It seems to me he wanted to show on Julia's example the generation that spawned from this mindless state that Oceania induced in its populace. He went even further in showing a completely brain-washed 7-year-old daughter of Parsons. The 7-year-old spy.
After I read about Winston speaking for Julia, I wanted to set the book aside. It was the same old tired story. Boys against boys. Granted, I'm reading now "classics," what you have all read in your teens, and that's mostly books by white males, and therefore the worlds they portray have the stereotypical sexism of the time plus of their generation. It still rubs me wrong. Boys waging wars, shooting guns, poking sticks in holes. In other words, sticking penises in vaginas. At least Lovecraft, the sexist bastard that he was, wrote about his fear of vaginas and created creatures, the Old Ones, that wore vaginas of their faces. Hence, the octopi palpi. Just look at his drawings.
But I'm starting to get tired of this fare. I'm determined to read most of the century's "big acknowledged masterpieces" before graduating to reading more of contemporary fiction. Aside from this, 1984 was brilliant and more so because of how simple it was. In its simplicity is its power. It spoke to everyone, on every reading level. There are no convoluted theories. Everything is crystal clear. 2 + 2 = 5. I'm inspired. This book gave me the nudge to not be afraid of using plain words.
Well, there you have it. Whatever poured out of me (I finished reading and immediately started typing this post), you got it. Next I'm reading BOOKS OF BLOOD. Can't wait to dive in. If you think there are books I absolutely must read on my conquest to devour classics, please tell me. I'm all ears.
And, as you guessed it...ONWARD.