I feel like I am taking this challenge by storm! In order to finish on time I need to read an average of 1.3 books per week. Some of these are quite large, so I was hoping to gain a little speed early in the game, and save some of the books I know I can read quickly and easily for when I need a mental break. (Sorry Harry Potter, I guess that means you will need to wait.) It was hard, the week before the challenge officially started, staring at the book I was going to begin with and not reading it. Luckily for me, I got moving right away and finished in four days, giving me three days to get a start on the next book I had selected. Yea me!
As this is the first posting of the 50 Books series, it may come across as a little rough. If you would like a reminder of what I am doing, check back to last week’s post here. You can also check in on my 50 Books to Read Before You Die page to see the list, with updates as I finish books and links to posts as they are, well posted.
I started off with a book I had already read, and made sure to write down my impressions and memories of the book before I started.
1984 By George Orwell
Where Did I get the Book and how many pages?
There are 298 pages in my copy. I bought this book a couple of weeks before deciding to do the challenge on a whim. I had just bought the bookmark and figured I should get a copy to read at some point. There wasn’t a specific plan to read it right away, just someday, maybe.
Have I Read This Before?
Yes, sometime in high school, not sure when. Probably sophomore or junior year.
What Do I Remember?
I remember I liked the book, but I cannot remember exactly why. 1984 is a dystopian novel, taking place in the year 1984. Big Brother watches everyone with cameras everywhere, and controls every aspect of life. Love and/or sex are not allowed, possibly ever but maybe it is just also strongly controlled. I think I remember a scene where a scarf is worn as a belt as a small form of rebellion. Maybe it was red? I’m pretty sure there was a scene in the woods where this scarf is taken off, as well as everything else for what was most likely this hottest scene I had read at the time. I could be completely mistaking where the scene came from, but it made an impression. I’m hoping rereading the book does not ruin my memory of this moment.
I may have just been turning 2 in 1984, but I do not remember it being quite like this. There is a possibility that Orwell got a few things wrong.
What Do I Think Now?
There were a few things I remembered wrong. I thought putting the sash on was a sign of rebellion; by wearing the colored scarf she was pushing against the conventions and the bland uniform of the time. Instead wearing the scarf was only sort of a form of rebellion; she joined in groups such (as the Junior Anti Sex League who wore the red scarves around their waists) as a way of showing herself to be a perfect citizen, which them allowed her to rebel without being suspected. It was a rebellion through conformity of physical presence but not conformity of the mind. I also remember the scene where the scarf was removed as being much sexier, but of course, I was also much younger and more innocent myself at the time. Maybe I put more stock on the symbolism of the moment than the actual actions. At least my former English teacher should be happy about that. I also did not remember the anger or the violence of the story. I know it makes sense for the story, but I thought I remembered it being more focused on rebelling through personal relationships and sex. I guess that says where my mind was in high school.
Looking at this now, I can definitely see why it spoke to me in high school. I grew up in a house where religious principals were important, and there were certain things that were either done or not done for religious reasons. Yes, there was sexual repression; governing sexual activity is a bit of a mainstay of religious principles in most churches. More than that, I felt as if I was being told to be someone I wasn’t. Of course, going to an American public high school, I often felt as if I was being watched and forced to conform to a certain role. Most of this may have been in my mind, but I knew everyone was watching me, judging me, and telling me everything I was, was wrong. In my adolescent mind, high school was a dystopian novel; Big Brother was watching (occasionally literally as I have six older brothers) and Big Brother was not happy with how I was turning out.
There is even a part of me that can relate to the idea now. The war machine seems like a viable idea; keeping at war gives the people of a nation something to stand together against. I mean lets face it, we have the War on Terror, a seemingly unbeatable foe, which allows a nation to stand together. It is not a person, it might not ever be able to be defeated, and almost everyone agrees random violence for the purpose of frightening people is not a good thing.
More than anything else, I can still at time relate to the idea of living in a world where I am supposed to be one thing, and yet I feel like another completely. It is not always possible to live your life exactly as you would like, and sometimes things don’t work out how you want them to, leaving you feeling as though something is not quite right. I too have had days where I wished I could stand up and scream, not for any particular reason, but for every reason at once. 1984 painted a picture of how life could have been, but it also told a compelling tale of how life can be when you don’t feel as though things aren’t what they could or should be.
Should You Read This Book Before You Die?
Yes. Read this book when you feel the eyes of Big Brother watching you. Read this book when you feel as though you will never rise above the oppression of your life. Read this book, and change the ending to fit the life you think you should live.
For those of you who might be reading along, I have already started on the next book in the series. Who knows, maybe I am done by now. Anyway, feel free to grab yourself a copy of Life of Pi by Yann Martel and look out for my commentary next week.
To keep up with the 1.3 books per week, I will have to read faster than I post, so for all read alongers (maybe I’ll need a better word for that) plan on picking up a copy of the very long Ulysses by James Joyce afterwards. Let’s plan on getting a couple of these hard ones out of the way quickly, before we lose steam!