Orwell’s Indictment of Life Under Communism

(p. 52) He meditated resentfully on the physical texture of life. Had it always been like this? Had food always tasted like this? He looked round the canteen. A low-ceilinged, crowded room, its walls grimy from the contact of innumerable bodies; battered metal tables and chairs, placed so close together that you sat with elbows touching; bent spoons, dented trays, coarse white mugs; all surfaces greasy, grime in every crack; and a sourish, composite smell of bad gin and bad coffee and metallic stew and dirty clothes. Always in your stomach and in your skin there was a sort of protest, a feeling that you had been cheated of something that you had a right to. It was true that he had no memories of anything greatly different. In any time that he could accurately remember, there had never been quite enough to eat, one had never had socks or underclothes that were not full of holes, furniture had always been battered and rickety, rooms underheated, tube trains crowded, houses falling to pieces, bread dark-coloured, tea a rarity, coffee filthy-tasting, cigarettes insufficient–nothing cheap and plentiful except synthetic gin. And though, of course, it grew worse as one’s body aged, was it not a sign that this was NOT the natural order of things, if one’s heart sickened at the discomfort and dirt and scarcity, the interminable winters, the stickiness of one’s socks, the lifts that never worked, the cold water, the gritty soap, the cigarettes that came to pieces, the food with its strange evil tastes? Why should one feel it to be intolerable unless one had some kind of ancestral memory that things had once been different?

Orwell, George. Nineteen Eighty-Four. New York: The New American Library, 1961 [1949].

By Canadian law, 1984 is no longer under copyright. The text has been posted on the following Canadian web site: http://wikilivres.info/wiki/Nineteen_Eighty-Four

One thought on “Orwell’s Indictment of Life Under Communism”

  1. Orwell understood so well what the west couldn’t see.
    The oddity is that the US propped up for so long the Soviet political/economic system that clearly couldn’t function without our loans, wheat, and stolen technology and yet threatened our destruction with every breath.
    It took Reagan, the cowboy actor from California, to push the Soviets to the brink of bankruptcy in an arms race that they could never keep up with, let alone win – to bring the wall down.
    But Orwell’s novel still bears reading for its grim warning of governments that presume to “know best” for its citizens.
    I just wish the youth of America would read it rather than march in lock-step to the tune of a bureaucracy built of empty promises.
    Write on…
    Richard McCullough

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