The next book on the list was actually Brave New World by Aldous Huxley but as I had already read that and had not read Orwell's classic 1984 I decided to substitute in the later.
To be honest, I was somewhat disappointed with 1984. The power of post-apocalyptic and dystopian novels lies in the fact that they are believable, that it is possible that this kind of society could come to exist. I found that Orwell's novel went rather outside this realm of believability. I must say that I have never encountered a better description of hell and if that were what Orwell had set out to describe in this novel I would say that he had done a masterful job. However, what he set out to do was describe the ultimate end of socialism. I felt that the novel lost much of its power because it was unrealistic, because it is very hard to imagine society ever coming to the point described in 1984.
Much of the reason that 1984 was a good description of hell, but also utterly unbelievable as an earthly society, was the complete hopelessness of the situation. Hopelessness or despair is antithetical to Christianity and to true humanity. An earthly situation could never be entirely without hope as the situation in 1984 is. There is also a disturbing absence of forgiveness, not in that it is rejected but in that it does not even exist, there is not one mention of it throughout the book. If one were to mention the term to a citizen of the country of Oceania it is presumed that the word would be alien to them. Furthermore, there is frequent reference to human beings behaving like animals or beasts. The more one sins the less human one becomes and so what has been revealed in private revelation is logical, that persons in hell no longer appear to be persons but horrible beasts, creatures that C.S. Lewis said we could not imagine in the darkest nightmare. The masses in Orwell's novel often give the appearance of being such creatures.
That being said, Orwell is a fantastic writer. Despite the book's overall lack of believability it is chock full of nuggets of truth. Here are a few:
"He wondered, as he had many times wondered before, whether he himself was a lunatic. Perhaps a lunatic was simply a minority of one. At one time it had been a sign of madness to believe that the earth goes round the sun; today, to believe that the past is unalterable. He might be alone in holding that belief, and if alone, then a lunatic. But the thought of being a lunatic did not greatly trouble him; the horror was that he might also be wrong."
"The heresy of heresies was common sense."
"His heart sank as he thought of the enormous power arrayed against him, the ease with which any Party intellectual would overthrow him in debate, the subtle arguments which he would not be able to understand, much less answer. And yet he was in the right! They were wrong and he was right. The obvious, the silly, and the true had got to be defended. Truisms are true, hold on to that! The solid world exists, its laws do not change. Stones are hard, water is wet, objects unsupported fall towards the earth's center."
"Anything old, and for that matter anything beautiful, was always vaguely suspect."
"A curious emotion stirred in Winston's heart. In front of him was an enemy who was trying to kill him; in front of him, also, was a human creature, in pain and perhaps with a broken bone. Already he had instinctively started forward to help her. In the moment when he had seen her fall on the bandaged arm, it had been as though he felt the pain in his own body."
"In a way the world-view of the Party imposed itself most successfully on people incapable of understanding it. They could be made to accept the most flagrant violations of reality, because they never fully grasped the enormity of what was demanded of them, and were not sufficiently interested in public events to notice what was happening."
"Being in a minority, even a minority of one, did not make you mad. There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad . . . He fell asleep murmuring 'Sanity is not statistical,' with the feeling that this remark contained in it a profound wisdom."
"What can you do, thought Winston, against the lunatic who is more intelligent than yourself, who gives your arguments a fair hearing and then simply persists in his lunacy?"