Nineteen Eighty-Four is easily one of my favorite books. I read it at least once a year. I wrote a paper on it in college called “The World of Gray” and it was that professor’s first-ever perfect paper. The majority of the books I read are horror/fantasy/sci-fi/comedy, et. al. Orwell doesn’t really fit in with my Christopher Moore and Douglas Adams tomes. So what about this book struck a chord?
He loved Big Brother.”
That line, uttered by the book’s protagonist Winston Smith, is more terrifying than anything Stephen King could ever have thought up. That final line of the book displays how one man — one good, courageous, intelligent man — could absolutely be broken down and re-built in the image his government wanted. He was given the chance to love, had that brief romance ripped from him, was tortured, brutalized beyond imagining and then released to live his life. The pain, both physical and psychological, cleansed him, making him believe Big Brother — the name of the probably non-existent leader of the Communist-model government set in a dystopian future — had set him free, had become his benefactor and his friend.
The book does not end happily, regardless of Winston’s mood and tears of contentment and love towards Big Brother. For all intents and purposes, it may as well have ended with Winston becoming a zombie because he is now a walking dead man, waiting for the government to quietly make him disappear. Winston knows this. He knows what his fate will ultimately be; yet, he loves Big Brother nonetheless for that is what he was trained to do.
I read those words and still a chill crawls up my spine. They are Jason Voorhees’ eyes opening at the end of the movie when he’s supposed to be dead, they are the monster in the backseat of the car, grabbing the heroine just when she thought she had gotten away, but the words do not represent anything supernatural.
That may be what makes them all the more scary.