Monday, December 28, 2009


1984 is personal. My reaction to it was purely personal. Obviously I know and understand its links and parallels with the USSR, but I didn't care about any of that. To quote from my 2006 journal entry about this novel:

1984 bothers me....I don’t give a shit about big brother, loss of privacy, the ability to or possibility of altering the past, the social commentary, its relevance to today, etc. I don’t care. What bothers me is the story about Julia.

I was deeply disturbed by the love story here. DEEPLY disturbed. And it all centered around this:

"...Confession is not betrayal. What you say or do doesn't matter: only feelings matter. If they could make me stop loving you - that would be the real betrayal."

I wrote extensively about this in my journal at the time. I read 1984 when I was dating Shawn - about a year and a half into our relationship. Everything was still fairly new, and we were still in the lovey-dovey stage. And I completely felt Winston in this instance - he and Julia know they will be tortured, and that they will give the other up. But no matter what, they would still love each other. That feeling would still be there.

And then there is Room 101 and the rats. And Winston really does betray her, in his own definition of the word. He tells O'Brien - do it to her, not to me. His own self-preservation instinct is stronger than his feelings for Julia. And Julia did the same thing. This FLOORED me. It had me questioning everything: would I do the same thing? Would Shawn? And what did that mean? I was bewildered and confused for days.

I continued in my journal:

...After Winston is arrested and begins to be tortured, all I wondered about was Julia – was she constantly on his mind, there with him, etc. Because I would like to imagine that I would feel him there with me. But then I think about those tortures – being kicked in the back where my discs are bad, or to be beaten, shocked, and it's frightening because maybe it would be so bad that I wouldn’t think or feel anything but my own pain. It’s frightening that someone could take him away from me in that manner. Then there was the scene when they shock his brain to convince him of things, and I became afraid of someone who would remove him from my brain in such a way to make me forget that I love him. But then in the end, with the rats, when he tells them to do it to Julia instead...That was the betrayal – he thought of himself to her detriment. What bothers me is that someone else can force you to that point, and you can believe all you want that it won’t or couldn’t happen, but it can. Until just now, I thought that what bothered me was that someone else could do that to me – someone else could force me to betray him but when I was just writing that, I realized that someone could do that to him as well – he could betray me in the same way, and suddenly, I’m not sure which is more disturbing.
I read a lot, but it's rare when a book truly elicits a reaction, or that really moves me. I'm not talking about feelings of frustration, boredom, and general anger at a book or author (*cough cough* Henry James *cough cough*). I'm not talking about being engrossed in the plot. I'm talking about something that stays with you, and that when I recall it, it brings that emotion back up. I can really enjoy a book: its plot, its language or style, etc., but it's those that are not only reading experiences but emotional experiences as well that I love. I get anxious just remembering my reaction to this novel, and that says a lot. I'm not sure that I could stomach reading it again, but I'm sure that I will some day. 1984 may not be my favorite book, but it certainly was able to bring forth really strong emotions. And THAT makes it a damn good book.

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