What’s it about?
Winston Smith is a regular everyday guy living in London, but it’s not the London that we know today. Shattered by nuclear war, the city is under totalitarian rule and freedom of speech, independent will, and privacy no longer exist. Everyone is under surveillance all the time – even in their own homes – and so much as thinking bad thoughts is considered a crime. Despite the risk, Winston embarks on a forbidden affair with a like-minded colleague and is increasingly drawn to the idea of joining a mysterious group of rebels. But unluckily for him, Big Brother is always watching.
Why it’s so famous
The novel was published in 1949 in the aftermath of World War II. It was inspired by the strict regimes of the Soviet Union, Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany and the way that a government could control its people by restricting language and rewriting history. Its dystopian vision of how the future could look made for a terrifying read which has only felt more and more realistic as the decades tick by. In fact, in recent years sales of the books have skyrocketed.
Why you should read it today
How would you feel if you knew that someone somewhere was monitoring all the messages on your phone? It would be pretty embarrassing if they knew how many dog memes you send a day. But what if they could use this information against you and one casual joke comparing a prominent public figure’s face to a pug could land you in jail? Data protection laws are a hot topic in the media, so read 1984 to see a worst case scenario of what could happen if our private conversations stop being private.