The secrets of Nineteen Eighty-Four

Preece, James

Publisher:  International Socialism
Date Written:  01/07/2019
Year Published:  2019  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX23793

Close analysis of 1984, including biographical details of Orwell, defending it as a work of leftist literature.




For 70 years [1984]'s dystopian vision -- which depicts a totalitarian socialist state that nationalises "truth" and crushes dissent in the mind -- has been used by the right wing as an example of the logical end-point of radical politics. At the same time, liberal and left-wing readers have tended to rescue some sense of progress from the book, lending an anarchistic interpretation to the book's love of individual freedom and responsibility....

Since the publication of Nineteen Eighty-Four, the "Orwell Problem" has been the pretext for many a Marxist critique. Most famously, Isaac Deutscher wrote of its "underlying boundless despair", caused by Orwell's alleged failure to grasp dialectical materialism. More recently, the book has come under attack from feminist critics who argue that Orwell was misogynistic to the end.

This article attempts to address these critiques from the left by closely examining the context of Nineteen Eighty-Four and Orwell's late political beliefs, before delving into a radical textual study of the novel itself to make clear the true significance of this important work. As a result, I support the argument, made by John Newsinger and supported by Orwell’s biographers, that he was resolutely socialist in the final years of his life. However, it is not the intention of this article to suggest that Orwell was an exemplary person or an infallible socialist, but to show that his last work of fiction was an even more innovative piece of left-wing literature than is conventionally assumed.
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