As is the case with most of you, I read 1984 in high school. I have done a tremendous amount of reading in my life, but virtually none of it fiction. Indeed, I think I’ve only read two or three fiction books in my entire life that weren’t required by school.
Having read 1984 only a single time, and way back in – – well – – 1983 – – I was shocked that I had any recollection of it. Yet, on Friday, in a flash, the closing words hit me like a brick:
The voice from the telescreen was still pouring forth its tale of prisoners and booty and slaughter, but the shouting outside had died down a little. The waiters were turning back to their work. One of them approached with the gin bottle. Winston, sitting in a blissful dream, paid no attention as his glass was filled up. He was not running or cheering any longer. He was back in the Ministry of Love, with everything forgiven, his soul white as snow. He was in the public dock, confessing everything, implicating everybody. He was walking down the white-tiled corridor, with the feeling of walking in sunlight, and an armed guard at his back. The long-hoped-for bullet was entering his brain. He gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark moustache. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.
The reason this came to me, I think, is because at some point on Friday afternoon I reached sort of……..I’m not sure whether to call it a breaking point, which sounds so negative, or a point of recognition, which sounds a bit wiser. In any case, an internal voice was uttering things I never though I’d heard it say: “This market is going to go up for years. Everyone is supporting it. And that’s OK. Just get on board, and you’ll be just fine, just like everyone else.“
And I thought about the bullet entering my brain. And I understood what it was really like to love Big Brother. Something snapped. And it was a peculiar combination of relief, resignation, and loss of self. Quite odd. I think I’d better take a few breaths before figuring out what comes next.