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Thursday, March 29, 2012

"Write Like The Masters" by William Cane (5) George Orwell, "1984"

In my continuing endeavor to learn more about what makes master writers masters, I've re-read 1984 by George Orwell, keeping in mind William Cane's discussion in Write Like the Masters.

First, let me say it now. 1984 is the most harrowing book I've ever read. Part of what makes it so harrowing is its plausibility. I so identified with Winston Smith that I felt his confusion and horror. I could very well see myself living in the insane world of Big Brother, Ingsoc, and doublespeak. So this supports Cane's discussion of Orwell's use of limited third person point of view being part of the power of this story.

Cane points out that Orwell uses penumbra, i.e., characterizing individuals through indirect and "more ambiguous suggestion" than through direct positive statements about individuals. In truth, penumbra pervades every character in the book. Smith (and the reader) can never be sure of whom to trust or believe.

According to Cane, Orwell uses a very simple plot. It is simple, but in a complex way. The complexity arises from the the subtext and gives the simple plot extra energy and meaning.

Cane says Orwell makes good use of repetition throughout the novel. The story constantly, in vaious ways, reiterates its themes--the ambiguity, the paradoxes of Oceanian society: War Is Peace, Freedom Is Slavery, Ignorance Is Strength. What is so harrowing is that all of this is accomplished by making the past the present (or the present the past) in such a way that there is no past. This is accomplished by obliterating memory.

Cane stresses how Orwell makes the villain not only bad, but also good. Of course, what is good and bad has been turned upside down in Oceania. Who is the villain? It's Big Brother. It's your neighbor. It's your employer. It's your friend or family member. Perhaps it's even yourself, and what can be more harrowing than that?

19 comments:

Jarmara Falconer said...

It's scary that what is seen as normal isn't. It's scary how quickly people adapt to to the horrors around them and see it as normal and are too frighten to make a stand incase it rocks the boat.

Thank you for a great posting, Richard

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

Great post, Richard. That's a book that made such an impression on both me and my husband at different times. But I loved your analysis of why it worked with such power.

Meanwhile, thanks for your comment on my blog. Now that I've finished up with the trip, I'm eager to read and review your book and, later, interview you. Take care.

Sun2Shine! said...

I always loved that book. It made an impression on me...I used to be careful NOT to let anyone know what I was afraid of after reading that one. Nice analysis.

Matt Hayes said...

Saw that you were following my friend Jackson on his blog, so I figured why not follow yours?

Looking forward to future stuff on your blog!

mattswritinglair.blostpot.com

-Matt

alexia said...

Great analysis. I somehow have never read that book. I need to.

Talli Roland said...

1984 chilled me to the bone for the very reason you pointed out here! *shudder*

Clarissa Draper said...

Now I want to read this book! I'm going to put it on my classic list and look for prenumbra. Thanks for the review.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Great analysis, Richard. I am yet to read this book. There are so many other books waiting to be read, I wonder how I will ever read all the books I want to.

Damyanti said...

1984 is one of those books I keep going back to. Thanks for the analysis in this post.


Co-host, A to Z Challenge.

#atozchallenge
@AprilA2Z

Tanya Reimer said...

Yes. George Orwell is a master. <--(I would capitalize that period but there is no such thing except in my mind.)

Wait... let me try that again;

Yes. George Orwell is a master PERIOD!!

Nope. Still doesn't do him justice.

I do want to write just like him when I grow up. I really really do.

Stephen Tremp said...

Orwell was classic! I need to read 1984. My library carries it so I'll check it out on Monday.

Valentina Hepburn said...

1984 is scary because of it's possibilities and perhaps...probabilities. Brilliant post, Richard.

Emily R. King said...

I should reread 1984. You're right about not being able to detect the villain. It's everywhere!

E.D. said...

Yes - I am with Emily. Definitely time to re-read!!

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

By the way, Richard, I tagged you today with the Lucky 7 Meme on my blog. You can check out the rules there for what you are supposed to do.

Wendy G. Ewurum: Blog Author said...

I have to get a hold of that book. Thank you for pointing it out. I was reading this post on laura's blog and somehow you dame to mind. Perhaps it's of some interest? http://laurapauling.com/?p=2432

Deb Shucka said...

A very interesting and thought-provoking piece. I wonder how your insights here will inform your writing from this point forward.

Lydia Kang said...

That penubra method is so effective! Lately I've been making my villains too villainy. Need to soften them up a tiny bit.

Ann Best said...

The movie was horrifying. It chilled me to the bone! Coming over here, I'm remembering it. And now I'm aware of the penumbra method. It has me so intrigued that I want to read the book.

I'm more than halfway through your novel, though, finally. It's taken me a long time because I had to take my daughter to the what used to be called psychiatric ward of our local hospital last week. She was there five days. I had committed to the A to Z. Denise and I were berating ourselves for doing it, but I did get almost all the posts done before Jen went to the hospital. Anyway, I finally got into your novel while she was there (I could only visit each day for 2 hours). It is SO well written. I wish you could have gotten someone to publish it for you. I don't think my In the Mirror would have found the audience it has or gotten the sales it has without WiDo behind it. They don't do a huge lot of marketing, but what they do is significant, and I'm finding that a self-published book just isn't easy to market!

"Real" life as you know isn't easy. I'm hope you and your wife are having a good week.
Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror & Other Memoirs