I wished I didn’t have to read this book. But my daughter had been begging to read it. She loved Orwell’s Animal Farm and I’m trying to keep her occupied. So I agreed to let her read 1984.
3 days later, when she was more than halfway through when I realized that it was not enough to ask her what she thought of it. I was going to have to read it again.
I think most people read 1984 in high school. But I wasn’t assigned books in high school. I was a feral reader, and I didn’t read 1984 until I was 22. I had lived through a controlling church and homelife in high school and spend a year and a half in the newly post-soviet Russia.
Orwell’s Big Brother dystopia was scary but plausible that night I picked up my uncle’s copy. I’d seen these twists and traps before.
But the horror of Winston’s fate was one I was determined to avoid. I would never accept the something I knew wasn’t true
But life is long, Winston. And very little in life is indisputable.
Eventually I did get to take that literature class. And I heard what the professors said. I agreed with some of it. And I didn’t agree with all of it. I could still know that two plus two equals four.
Most of the time. Eventually.
And at the end of the book, with Winston’s sorry shamble of a life when he finally gives in, I understood that this was the cruz of the matter.
How do I tell truth?
Because I needed to get some truth out of this beast of a book to give to my daughter. Mothers are supposed to do that, make sense of messy things and hand over a neat child-sized package for her.
What did I just get myself into?
True truth should be easy. But if it were Big Brother would never have gotten away with it.
“Veronica, Winston gave up in the end. He couldn’t believe that 2+2=4”
Her eyes widened, “I know!”
“I need you to know how to tell what’s right. Remember when Winston was tired of Big Brother and wanted to fight? How when he finally talked with O’Brien and O’Brien made him promise that he would be willing to do horrible things, even throw acid in the face of a child to resist Big Brother?”
“That’s the thing. You can’t do good by doing evil. It all comes down to love. Love never contradicts love.”
Her forehead furrows.
I go on: “Winston should have realized that when O’Brien made him promise to do horrible things to fight Big Brother. Doing bad things to fight bad things can’t be the answer. There has to be another way.
Love won’t contradict love. He’ll have to keep looking.”