When George Orwell wrote this classic in 1949, I do not believe that he knew then that his book would become the standard for the concept of the totalitarian police state. The book became so popular that not only is it read by students across the nation but it was adapted for the silver screen in 1984 by Michael Radford. The film was released on March 22, 1985 and starred John Hurt and the late Richard Burton. Orwell’s masterpiece about the watchful eyes of the government has stood the test of time and is often cited during discussions about the invasion of privacy and control of society by the government.
Winston is our main character and it is around his life and experiences that the book is centered. A love interest appears in the appearance of Julia and the book’s antagonist is the terrifying O’Brien. The lives of Winston and Julia under the watchful eye of the government paints a portrait of the world that many fear will one day come into existence. O’ Brien is an agent of the state and a true believer in the ideology of the total control of a once “loose” society. His determination and fanatical loyalty to his beliefs highlight the extreme elements among us that we embrace with precaution today. The “ring of steel” in London and the increasing amount of surveillance cameras throughout major metropolitan cities are exactly the types of societal controls O’Brien would have loved to implement. The genius of the book is that we don’t know exactly who the master controller is for there is no one person that assumes the title. Rather, it is a cohesive system of observation and persecution that reminds the citizens of the loss of their rights, freedoms and privacy. As technology advances and the control of society is increased, we can look back to Orwell’s timeless literary work as a premonition of what was to come.