What are the main things to know about 1984 by George Orwell?
Perhaps the most important thing to understand about 1984 is that Orwell wrote it in the wake of the rise and of Hitler's Germany and the emergence of Stalin's Soviet Union. The latter, in particular, had left Orwell very disillusioned about the future, and it was an event he had satirized in Animal Farm, an earlier work. It should also be noted that 1984 was part of a rich tradition of dystopian literature. The debt that Orwell owed to the 1923 novel We by Fyodor Zamyatin is well-known, and 1984 is also written in the same vein as Aldous Huxley's classic Brave New World. The book's legacy has been immense, as it has been almost universally acknowledged as a classic. While some have questioned its pervasive pessimism about human freedom, citing the book as influenced by Orwell's own imminent demise (he was dying as he wrote the book) most critics have acknowledged its brutally frank assessment of the interaction between state power and the human psyche. Orwell himself said of the book:
I do not believe that the kind of society I describe necessarily WILL, but I believe (allowing of course for the fact that the book is a satire) that something resembling it COULD arrive. I believe also that totalitarian ideas have taken root in the minds of intellectuals everywhere, and I have tried to draw these ideas out to their logical consequences.