Critics of every aspect along the political spectrum, no matter what their views about the validity of Orwell’s social analysis in Nineteen Eighty-Four, agree on one thing: Considered politically and historically, Nineteen Eighty-Four is one of the most important books of the twentieth century. The bleakness of its vision of a totalitarian society became a profound warning, and Orwell’s accuracy was attested by dissidents in Eastern Europe and Russia both before and after the dissolution of the Soviet empire; Orwell, said a Russian philosopher, “understood the soul, or soullessness” of Soviet life. Not only did the words “Newspeak” and “doublethink” enter the English language but Russians refer to the Novoyaz of Communist Party language. Orwell’s examination of the political uses and abuses of language became the basis for a more critical perception of governmental pronouncements and declarations everywhere. For these reasons alone, Nineteen Eighty-Four deserves to be studied, and the clarity and transparency of Orwell’s language make it particularly appropriate for young adult audiences.
Some critics have pointed out that another layer of meaning exists within the novel. They connect Orwell’s dissection of Oceanian society to his portrayal of his depressing and unhappy preparatory school days, which he discussed in his essay “Such, Such Were the Joys” (1952). Young English boys were removed...
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