Is 1984 by George Orwell still worthy of studying? Do you agree? What are your criticisms? How do you judge the book?
I agree with akannan wholeheartedly!
Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four is more relevant now than ever. One reason: Students must be taught to be good consumers of media and to not take everything at face value; this has never been more important than it is today with the advent of so much technology. Just because something is in print does not make it the truth but many have a tendency to believe this today. One of Orwell's main themes centers on the manipulation of media; Winston's job, in fact, is to re-write history.
Also, citizens in every country must be on guard against totalitarianism everywhere and realize that just like in Orwell's world, it doesn't always happen overnight, but in the slow progression of a loss of freedoms systematically over time. When I teach this novel, students often make the connection between Orwell's world and American's loss of freedom with the Patriot Act after Sept. 11, 2001, the continued invasion of privacy through security and traffic cameras, and even internet search engines.
Orwell's novel was a warning that unless citizens pay attention, their futures will be like the world Winston and Julia live in.
I will go with luckwarm support of studying the book. I think that it has lost much of its relevance since the Soviet Union has fallen and the only truly totalitarian countries are small rogue states like North Korea. Orwell was writing at a time when it was plausible that communism might take over the world -- that is very different from the situation that we see today.
I like the book because of how it is a story of a human being trying to resist the loss of his humanity. In that sense, it is interesting regardless of the historical context. It is interesting because we are watching Winston struggle to maintain who he is in the face of this oppressive government.
My biggest criticism is how weird the whole thing is of O'Brien trying to get Winston to the point where he believes that 2+2=5. I struggle with the idea that this government thinks that it has to get the people to believe things that are clearly not true. I have a hard time getting my brain around the idea of believing something you know is not true. I don't see how it's possible and I'm not sure why it's necessary to do it.
I would certainly think that Orwell's work is worthy of studying. No doubt it was written in a specific context, where the struggle for freedom was present in the fight against Communism or fear of totalitarian orders. While Communism might have exited the world stage in terms of vying for dominance, I still think that there needs to always be a mindful and vigilant presence taken against what happens when there is a central authority that is unchecked in social and political realms. This is where Orwell's work has the most relevance. It operates as an extreme example of what happens when there is a lack of institutional limitation to government or external encroachment. The reader understands that any potential to bring a social or political order even close to what is present in Oceania is something that needs to be actively resisted and avoided at all costs. For this, I would say that the work is quite relevant and highly worthy of studying.