Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cult Fiction: Nineteen Eighty-four

Nineteen Eighty-four, George Orwell's 1949 masterpiece of dystopian society, certainly qualifies as cult fiction even though it had a more traditional publishing path compared to many of the novels examined on this site.

Through the novel's plot, Orwell was commenting on the limited freedoms in the post-war Soviet Union as the KGB began incessant brainwashing and surveillance of the Soviet population. The book has taken on a much broader significance since its publication, however, with "nineteen eighty-four" becoming a universally acknowledged phrase representing oppression, not only in totalitarian regimes, but also in the context of any political or societal scenario in which authority of any kind threatens individualism.

The phrase "Big Brother is watching" has entered the vernacular as an idiom applied (sometimes sarcastically or humorously) to work environments, the military, government, and even family structures in which freedom of expression is limited, privacy is compromised, or arbitrary rules are enforced for the sake of achieving compliance and conformity. The phrase found new life in the twenty-first century as many Americans believed that the the Patriot Act and actions of Vice President Dick Cheney within the Bush administration violated essential American freedoms. Wiretapping and surveillance of civilians seemed to be very reminiscent of the oppressive government of Oceania in Orwell's novel.

More than anything, the book's consistently loyal following because of its strong theme of individualism and combating propaganda has made this novel one of the biggest cult classics withing the last sixty years.

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