Entertainment, Review

The Book That Changed My Life: Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

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By Ryan Geraghty

It is difficult to imagine the person I would be today, had I never picked up George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. It’s true that many of the ideas in this book have been covered in subsequent literature, and it’s perfectly possible that my life may have been similarly affected by a different book. Nevertheless, the absence of this book from my life is very much unthinkable.

I’ve always enjoyed stories. Ever since being read to as a child, I have loved books, films and television programmes, and the places they could take me, but stories had only ever really been a source of entertainment. To really learn about the world through fiction was not something I had considered. I was completely uninterested in politics, I knew that I should be and that it was important, but I didn’t really understand why.

My family were loyal Labour supporters at a time when Labour were securely in power. I was lucky enough to have a good upbringing, and a happy childhood. We were far from wealthy, but we had enough that I was content with life. I knew there were problems in the world, but to my young naïve self I assumed that the true challenges humanity faced had been left behind among the rubble of the Berlin wall. It was within the pages of Nineteen Eighty-Four that I found that this was not so.

As I progressed through the story, my eyes were opened by Orwell’s unparalleled powers of observation. For the first time, I began to understand how the world was run, and how much worse it would be if people neglected to fight for human equality and liberty. Revealed to me was the horrific truth that mankind’s ultimate defeat lies not in subjugation, but in the acceptance of subjugation, in the domination of not just the body, but the mind, in the complete and utter eradication of the human spirit.

Whilst my blissful ignorance had been lost, a sense of excitement had awakened. A thirst to better understand politics and the world that we live in. I remember enthusiastically recommending the book to my girlfriend at the time, stressing the importance of its contents. In many ways, she was much more of a reader than I was, so when she gave up reading the book due to lack of interest, I felt betrayed. How could someone I was so close to not understand how important this book was? I never expressed at the time my disappointment, but the way I felt made me realise how big a part of my life this book had become, and that it had changed me.

The impact Nineteen Eighty-Four has had on me became even more evident when I picked it up this week for the first time in eight years. The majority of the events that transpire in its narrative I remembered well, yet it felt like a completely different book. The knowledge and beliefs I have acquired in the years since I first read it meant that I was reading it from an entirely different perspective. I had a much deeper understanding of Orwell’s words, and I empathised with them even more than the first time.

So now, as I look back on how this book has affected me, I realise that I have developed strong left-wing political views. I am pursuing a career in journalism with politics being my subject of choice, George Orwell has become one of my favourite authors of all time and I have read many of his books; I even named my band The Thought Police. Nineteen Eighty-Four is the book that opened my eyes to the world, the book that led me down the path to where I am now; it is the book that changed my life.

Ryan Geraghty is a freelance journalist and political writer based in Manchester. He is a contributor to The Word newspaper and is currently studying M.A. in Multimedia Journalism. Follow him on Twitter: @RP_Geraghty


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