Discuss ideas for creating a short rewrite of 1984 to reflect the current moment, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

A short rewrite of Orwell's 1984, written to reflect a modern political context, should aim to update and effectively translate Orwell's key insights and political concerns, while being aware that the totalitarian power structures Orwell describes would not reflect the modern democratic West. Even so, concerns about the manipulation of truth or the use of surveillance remain highly relevant in the modern age and prove promising avenues around which this rewrite can be attempted.

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One factor you should be aware of is that the writing of 1984 was heavily shaped by its post-war context. From this perspective, you'll need to think about how to update its setting to better reflect the modern age. Orwell's dystopia was very much a portrait of single-party dictatorship, a power structure that does not reflect modern Western democracy. That being said, many of his insights and concerns still hold true today and can be easily translated to reflect a more modern political and social context.

An area of promise for this assignment (concerning COVID-19) lies in Orwell's concerns about the manipulation of truth for political purposes. What you see in the United States today is an era of deep political polarization, and the internet has actually played a role in fostering that polarization, as disinformation is easily and quickly spread by such means. Consider the case of COVID, where a genuine health crisis has become politicized, with the mandate of mask-wearing being twisted into a test of political loyalty. Just as you can discuss 1984's concerns about surveillance through the lens of the modern digital age, so you can also discuss its concerns about the manipulation of truth through the lens of modern political discourse (and the extreme polarization that marks it).

In the end, I would suggest that, while the totalitarian structures Orwell wrote about cannot be applied to the modern democratic West, his insights into doublethink and the manipulation of language, into the use of surveillance and the motives of power, are still relevant therein. This assignment strikes me as a largely creative one, and in this sense, it will be up to you to put together a narrative that would update 1984 to reflect the modern age. Nevertheless, thinking about those core Orwellian concepts and insights and trying to apply them to a democratic (rather than totalitarian) framework will be crucial to completing this assignment.

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