When 2+2=22

“You may have a reason why two and two should make five, but they will still make but four.” -Samuel Johnson

We all know, if we’ve even so much as heard of Orwell’s 1984, that a totalitarian government can brainwash its citizens into believing that 2+2=5. Well, maybe it could happen. It would actually be very hard to accomplish. The novel is an exercise in imagining the power of language to erase and impose.

And while Orwell’s ’84 does an astounding job at creating a world alien and familiar where the state has coerced us to accepting any lie imaginable, the truth is that it doesn’t have to take an all-powerful oligarchy to do so. Continue reading

Dave Eggers’ The Circle, part 1: SECRETS ARE LIES

In his novel The Circle Dave Eggers branches out into dystopian fiction. You’d think a writer like Eggers wouldn’t bother with a genre many contemporary literary writers might find too cliche, commercialized, and predictable. “Society looks perfect, but it all goes downhill. Seen it before.” But Eggers doesn’t go for a distant, war-torn future. He takes us back to the roots of modern dystopian masterpieces: 1984 and Brave New World. What we get is a glimpse of the near future that is—I’ll admit—more relevant than one of my favorites, The Hunger Games.
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My Students Get 1984 More than Capitol Hill

My students immediately saw the relevance of 1984’s endless wars with Eastasia/Eurasia and the omnipresent surveillance of Big Brother.  Who knew they’re smarter than Washington?  Free Manning.  Lower the sabre over Syria.  Ignorance is strength.  It’s time we show the world our weak side.