A Hopeful Orwell?

Introducing Thomas Pynchons intro to the new 1984

But the Party foils them here, too. They do get inside them, beating the spirit of resistance and the will to love right out of them in a long torture scene that would have been unimaginable in a work of English literature before World War II accustomed people to horror, so that at the end it's as if Winston's insides have been scooped out by a rusty trowel. The novel's final words, "He loved Big Brother," seem a thunderous shutting of the door on the hope that the "spirit of Man," as Winston puts it earlier, can survive.

But then here comes Pynchon to the rescue, bless him. He notes that there's an appendix to the novel—"The Principles of Newspeak"—supposedly written by a scholar explaining the totalitarian language Big Brother employs in Oceania. And he reminds us that the appendix is written in the past tense, and that it shows no stylistic signs of having been influenced by Newspeak. Which means Big Brother may have gained Winston's love, but that he lost the ultimate battle. How he was conquered isn't mentioned, but the only hope that Winston ever invests in, beside his momentary dalliance with sex, are the "proles." So maybe that's where Orwell put his faith, or, better, in the ability of a work of literature to inspire a spirit of Man that Winston Smith might not be able to sustain but that Orwell hopes his readers can.

George Orwell, 1984, with a new foreword by Thomas Pynchon. Harcourt, Brace, 339 pp. $14, paperback.
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