The year is 1984, ironically now in our past, and the entire world is split up into a very few totalitarian states. Never do we learn if in fact these states are ruled by a single dictator and to me that was part of the intrigue because you never quite know how everything works. An rather anonymous office worker by the name of Winston, in charge of forging the past, decides to keep a diary to note down all those facts and thoughts he wants to keep. We get the distinct feeling that Winston isn't sure himself if his memories are truly real and truly his own. Every external piece of evidence to a threatening past is constantly erased or changed. We follow him as he searches for true history and true facts and we learn how someone survives in a state where nothing you do is ever private and where paranoia is simply common sense.
The novel 1984 gives us a protagonist who has no hope, and more sadly: no apparent interest in a better future. He is not even sure if he can remember if there was such a thing as a better past. His main talent, and that thing which appears to drive us mostly in going along with his telling, is his desire to write down everything he experiences in the hopes of coming up with some explanation as to how the world ended up in such a mess. He is curious about what is happening to him and his world but he doesn't seem to have any inclination in changing it. We are told he does indeed want revolution but the true inspiration or insight isn't there. Instead he appears to be eternally searching for answers which he hopes will tell him: was I making the past up or was it really different?
I keep coming back to the central question: why do people read this novel with such great interest? It is not escapist literature in any sense and the book lacks every feel-good trope we've come to expect from works of fiction. Yet, with all the gloom and darkness we're fascinated as to what will happen next and we can't stop wondering how the somber world of Big Brother keeps on ticking.