I've been hard on Winston Smith, so far. And, I will continue to be so. In part, I'm arguing against the notion that Winston Smith is, in any way, more whole a person than anybody else in the text. A more important part is that Winston Smith is already a victim of Oceana, or at least of similar thought-control techniques to those used by Oceana.

We approach Winston's perspective and his flaws from three decades after the time in which the book is set, which is still approximately three and a half decades after it was published. Winston Smith comes at his world with a heavy amount of isolation. Even in that time of "freedom" he barely remembers from his childhood, much of a person's identity was chosen for them, far ahead of time.

Which isn't to say that 1950s London was just as unfree as Oceana, of course. But, he's not exactly coming at this from a place where anybody's helped him view other people outside of the life-scripts to which they had been taught, from early age, to adhere. And, that's in a society that genuinely wanted him to form connections to other people.

Oceana doesn't. He's left with only his imagination and an imperfect memory.
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It took us five parts, but we got out of Chapter 1 and now we're into Chapter 2, where Winston Smith gets to meet people and interact with them in a manner not entirely bound up in his own mind.

A knock on the door, plus panic, plus a desire not to smudge wet ink in his diary equals accidentally leaving the book open to the words "DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER" repeatedly written and in full display. Luckily, it's not the thought-police or anybody interested in entering his apartment, but his neighbor.

It was Mrs Parsons, the wife of a neighbour on the same floor. ('Mrs' was a word somewhat discountenanced by the Party-you were supposed to call everyone 'comrade'-but with some women one used it instinctively.) She was a woman of about thirty, but looking much older. One had the impression that there was dust in the creases of her face.

Meet Mrs. Parsons. Not having read all the way through, yet (at least not since my first read), I don't recall if she gets much mention beyond this. Tom Parsons, her husband, will. But, she won't get much, if anything, beyond this scene. (Note: I may be wrong, so this is me putting, in writing, something for you to look back and mock me over if my memory was faulty here. I promise not to go back and edit it away... But, I could go back and... you know what? We get to that part when we get to it.)
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Okay, let's see if we can finish off the first Chapter, here. (This is why these deconstructions take so long.)

We're at the end of those Two Minutes of Hate, which seems to be both an obligation and a manipulation that's nigh-impossible to resist. And, while I said the Two Minutes of Hate represents something to be found in all cultures, it's never there just for its own end.

The Hate rose to its climax. The voice of Goldstein had become an actual sheep's bleat, and for an instant the face changed into that of a sheep. Then the sheep-face melted into the figure of a Eurasian soldier who seemed to be advancing, huge and terrible, his sub-machine-gun roaring, and seeming to spring out of the surface of the screen, so that some of the people in the front row actually flinched backwards in their seat. But in the same moment, drawing a deep sigh of relief from everybody, the hostile figure melted into the face of Big Brother, black-haired, black-moustachio'd, full of power and mysterious calm, and so vast that it almost filled up the screen. Nobody heard what Big Brother was saying. It was merely a few words of encouragement, the sort of words that are uttered in the din of battle, not distinguishable individually but restoring confidence by the fact of being spoken. Then the face of Big Brother faded away again and instead the three slogans of the Party stood out in bold capitols:


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Trigger Warning for those who read the book: There's two sentences of a fantasy and those two sentences are stomach-churning. I won't be repeating them, but I will acknowledge them.

That said, even the rest of this is going to get disturbing. It's about hate, the influence of the two minutes of hate, and about how even those of us who imagine ourselves to be above it all, like Winston Smith, are easily swept up. It is a Dystopian novel and those are supposed to be disturbing. So, well done, George Orwell, well done.
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The Two Minutes of Hate

There's a lot to unpack with The Two Minutes of Hate. Let's start with the general concept. Two minutes, every day, in which every citizen of Oceana is to spend targeting the enemies of Oceana, symbolized by one person, with their hatred. This specific hatred of this specific figure and all the figure represents is an integral part of patriotism to Oceana.

The parallels come easily. Communists and their sympathizers. Terrorists and their sympathizers. The gays. The devil. And, as I think Orwell was well aware, antisemitism.

1984 is about methods of control that you might not notice if you didn't have the language for it. And, Two Minutes of Hate is a good language to use. Hatred galvanizes, distracts, and tests. Because, within the culture, there's always a test to make sure that you have enough hate for the hatred. And, we might not notice because we put it freaking everywhere so that it's practically invisible.
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We could go into more characterization of the society Winston Smith lives in (and we will), but I think we get the point enough that we don't have to focus directly. The story seems to want to use Winston Smith as a means of characterizing Oceana and this world, but let's let that be secondary for a moment.

We get a bit more characterization on the world, itself. The "Victory Gin" and "Victory Cigarettes" (labeling things "victory" was a common thing during WWII, if you grew your own vegetables in order to do with less for rationing to provide food for soldiers, you were growing a "Victory Garden") are of low quality, but Winston uses them in order to build courage for his, to date, greatest act of rebellion against an oppressive system.

He opens a diary. "This was not illegal (nothing was illegal, since there were no longer any laws), but if detected it was reasonably certain that it would be punished by death or at least twenty-five years in a forced labor camp."

This is a very small thing. It's a very small thing to risk such a big punishment. But, it's also a very small, very calculated risk. One taken only because of a set of unusual circumstances provided him with a telescreen that had a blind spot. He'd had the actual book for a while prior but hadn't worked up the courage to even grab that "Victory Gin" to work up courage until just recently.
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Dystopias are on my mind for various reasons, not just political. Whether in fiction or in political, we reference ideas of various dystopias. The three books that make, I argue, the biggest impact on our discourse and our entertainment are 1984, Brave New World, and The Handmaid's Tale. So, I intend to go through a deconstruction of each of these in turn.

I'd read Brave New World first. I was in High School and I found it and I started reading and... well... I enjoyed it. It spoke to me for reasons that I'll get into when I get to Brave New World next. I first tried to read The Handmaid's Tale in college, for a class. It wasn't until much later, having saved my copy, that I gave it a full read. I've never been on the right, but I will say that, for someone as privileged as I was, I needed to take in a bit of education before I could see any truth to what The Handaid's Tale had to say.

For a long while, I thought of 1984 as a book people read just so they could make the references. To be clear, if only that, that's still valid. It's good to have a convenient set of references to make for linguistic short-hand. And, upon reading, I can say that it's a good read, but still valuable as a textbook of terms and language in story-form, one that gets its value from being a good example of storytelling.

I'm using the Nook version, in case anybody wants to read along (and is actually going to follow this).
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