1984 by George Orwell

Orwell, G. (1949). 1984. New York, NY: Random House.

Genre: Futuristic, Classic, Crossover

Reading level/ interest age: 16+

Plot summary:

Winston lives in a world where everything he does is watched on television screens or through the use of microphones. Supposedly, no place is private, even the bathrooms! The society seeks to control every aspect of the people’s lives right down to who they sleep with. Winston is getting tired of the oppressive atmosphere and starts trying to find ways to fight back. He begins to write down his thoughts in a journal while crammed in a small corner of his apartment. In a journal, his thoughts cannot be heard or recorded by the monitors. He also starts noticing a girl during their routine meetings of hate against the system their society overthrew. Apparently, she notices him too and they begin an awkward courtship. One day, the girl, Julia, passes Winston a note and they begin to devise a way to meet in secret. Their prayers are answered when they are invited to a Party member’s house. He tells the two of them that he hates the system as well and shows them the life of opulence they could have if they fought back openly. Julia and Winston begin to meet in secret and their lives finally reach a state of bliss they thought could never be achieved. But with Big Brother always watching, are they truly safe?

Reader’s annotation:

Everywhere you go, everything you do, Big Brother is watching you. When your only freedom is within your mind, how do you keep from going insane?

Information about the author:

“Born Eric Arthur Blair, George Orwell created some of the sharpest satirical fiction of the 20th century with such works as Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. He was a man of strong opinions who addressed some of the major political movements of his times, including imperialism, fascism and communism.

“Orwell was married to Eileen O'Shaughnessy until her death in 1945. According to several reports, the pair had an open marriage. Orwell had a number of dalliances during this first marriage. In 1944 the couple adopted a son, whom they named Richard Horatio Blair, after one of Orwell's ancestors. Their son was largely raised by Orwell's sister Avril after Eileen's death.

“Near the end of his life, Orwell proposed to Editor Sonia Brownell. He married her in 1950, only a short time before his death. Brownell inherited Orwell's estate and made a career out of managing his legacy” (Biography.com, 2014).

Curriculum ties: N/A

Booktalking ideas:

1.       How differently would you live your life if you knew that someone was always watching?
2.       How would you find your individualism in a society that stifles it?

Critical evaluation:

In 1984, George Orwell depicts a world where no one is safe except in his or her own mind. He cautions us to fight against censorship and oppression or end up in a world where no one has privacy. This book was meant originally as a scare tactic possibly for the American public to avoid communism. The book is told from the perspective of Winston who develops as the story progresses. Winston at first considers himself as a normal society member but then begins to become bored with the status quo. When he starts to challenge the way things are, he becomes more and more deviant. The reader is able to watch Winston shift from the perfect member of society into a criminal who can be sympathized with. The reader latches onto Winston’s plight because he is relatable as everyone wants their happiness to be private and protected by the law. 

The story is easy to follow, interesting to a numerous age group of readers, and is timeless. Winston’s change throughout the plot keeps the story moving and the struggle for happiness amid a dreary world can be very appealing to both teens and adults. Although the story was written to describe a future in 1984 and the year has since passed, the story is still interesting and something that readers can still relate to decades after it was published.

Challenge issues:

·         Theme of oppression

Defensive Maneuvers:

·         Have the library’s collection development policy memorized and on hand in case a situation arises.
·         Keep positive reviews on hand to refer to or hand out when needed.
·         If the book has won any awards, mention them to the patron and briefly explain the award.
·         Listen to the patron and practice good customer service skills when communicating. Let the customer know where or if he/she can escalate his/her complaint.
·         When necessary, cite sections of the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights or refer to the ALA's Strategies and Tips for Dealing with Challenges to Library Materials.

Why included:

1984 is a classic that could also be considered as a crossover. I included this in the collection because of its strong themes of oppression and the main character’s defiance against the system. The book is about being able to think for yourself and attempting to carve out a piece of happiness in a world that tries to harbor hate.


Biography.com. (2014). George Orwell. Retrieved August 29, 2014 from

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