I went into this book expecting to be scared by it, and expecting to love it. While I was somewhat scared by it, I, unfortunately, didn't like it very much.
I really didn't like Winston very well. He is a weak, lustful, unpleasant character who contemplates murder and rape. I didn't like Julia. She is a sex-addict who is rebelling against the government with promiscuity, but she doesn't really have a reason, other than her desire for sex, for fighting Big Brother. The two of them use each other. You can't expect me to believe that she really loved him after watching him from a distance and never speaking to him. She was twenty-seven, and beautiful, while he was nearly forty and, from the description we're given, likely not very handsome. But she had her first affair with a guy in his sixties or seventies, when she was sixteen, so I guess the relatively small age difference between her and Winston wouldn't bother her. And he contemplated raping and murdering her. I believe that they may have grown to care for one another after weeks of their affair, but certainly they didn't love each other enough to stand the thing they were most afraid of for the other. Whenever Winston would talk about things besides sex, things that interested him, like the faked history, Julia showed how little she cared about the things he cared about by falling asleep. The only reason why I cared about these two characters at all is because they were marginally less horrible than everyone else in the book.
In Julia and the Party, Orwell shows two sexual perversions. Julia's is to make everything about sex. To be so obsessed with sex that your every action is taken in the hope of getting sex. The Party's is to claim that all sex is bad and the only reason to force yourself to have it is in order to have children. Children are the natural and beautiful result of sex, but sex in marriage is not ugly or evil, even if the couple is not trying to have children at the time. Orwell makes clear that the Party's view of sex is evil, but he leaves readers to come to their own conclusions about Julia's, though he seems to lean toward supporting her views as he describes the fanaticism of the party members as coming from the suppressed sex-drive. As though people who don't have sex must certainly have something wrong with them.
George Orwell seems to be anti-Catholic. The Spanish Inquisition lie has been sold for centuries, and during Orwell's time, one couldn't just look it up on the internet and find well-researched articles explaining why the Spanish Inquisition was less violent than most of the other medieval court systems (one such article here http://www.catholiceducation.org/en/controversy/the-inquisition/the-truth-about-the-spanish-inquisition.html ) so if his repeated bashing of the inquisition had been the only anti-Catholic view in the book I probably would have dismissed it as ignorance, but there other such jabs at the Church in general in the book
"Even the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages was tolerant by modern standards. Part of the reason for this was that in the past no government had the power to keep its citizens under constant surveillance."
"He did not see that the continuity of an oligarchy need not be physical, nor did he pause to reflect that hereditary aristocracies have always been short-lived, whereas adoptive organizations such as the Catholic Church have sometimes lasted for hundreds or thousands of years."
"In the Middle Ages there was the Inquisition. It was a failure. It set out to eradicate heresy, and ended by perpetuating it. For every heretic it burned at the stake, thousands of others rose up. Why was that? Because the Inquisition killed its enemies in the open, and killed them while they were still unrepentant: in fact, it killed them because they were unrepentant."
I suspected Orwell to be anti-Catholic after reading this book. While I was looking up the quotes from it, I found articles declaring Orwell to have been both anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic.
I found the world created by Orwell, which is held up by members of both the right and the left in our current political environment as the future if the other party takes power, to be both frightening and believable in all respects save one. You cannot expect me to believe that in all the time that the Party was in power, that not one person could withstand the torture and refuse to accept the lies they were told. That is, Julia and Winston both gave up and betrayed one another, screaming for the other to be tortured rather than them, but they were both weak people who cared for each other, but did not have a great deal of love in their hearts. I find it unbelievable that there wouldn't be one single person who was strong enough, or filled enough with love, that they could withstand the tortures and so die unrepentant to the Party. Whether it be someone who truly loved another and refused to ask the torture be passed to them, or a Christian willing to be a martyr for God. I simply cannot imagine that there wouldn't have been one person brave enough, or, maybe not brave, but strong enough in their belief that they were unwilling to betray it, even to escape the torture of whatever they feared the most.
The last problem that I had with this book was the ending. I suppose that Orwell felt no hope for the future and so wanted to share his hopelessness with us, but I hated the ending of the book. He should have given us something. Whether it be Winston still quietly hating Big Brother, but being defeated and thinking that his hatred was wrong, or a hope that the Proles really would one day bring down the Party, or even just the sight of a spark of hatred in the eye of another party member, but to leave us without a hope for humanity was extremely frustrating.
Scary how fiction can sometimes apply to current events, isn't it? With all of the "alternative facts" stuff going through the media, social media included, right now, this quote stuck out to me as being unbelievably relevant. Those in control of the government in the book are seeking to control what is perceived as true through careful control of the past, the present, and the future.
Yes, for the record, I am reading this because many are reading this. I am also reading it because I haven't before and always meant to do so. I think it's an important book, and now is probably a pretty critical time to read and understand anything involving mass control over what we, the general public and perceived plebeians, understand to be true.
Reading is very, very important, whether you want to admit it or not. It allows for the challenging of one's thoughts and opinions, opens the mind up to different ideas, and feeds the brain to keep it from falling into complacency and disuse. Empathy grows with the reading of fiction, as does how we understand the world. Politics have always and will always play a significant role in fiction.
Read as much as you can.