Banned Book Highlight: Literature lifts the veil in Orwell’s “1984”


Amidst Josef Stalin’s rise, George Orwell wrote “1984” while suffering from tuberculosis. No doubt the treachery of an illness influenced the gloomy undertones of this novel, but more importantly, his main inspiration was his passion for freedom of speech.

In this novel, Orwell writes of an omnipresent government that sucks away individuality and life from its citizens. One of those citizens is Winston Smith. Smith’s job is to alter articles to fit the liking of the party and to revere its leader, Big Brother.

Orwell showcases the ways communist parties alter humanity and history. One of the most popular quotes from the book is: “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”

Because “1984” offers insight to those under the leadership of oppressive regimes, this book has been banned and even burned.

This censorship began with Stalin in the 1950s. Recently, China banned all copies of “1984” in their country.

Like the fictional government presented in “1984,” the Chinese Communist Party takes substantial measures when it comes to surveilling its people and censoring adverse news.

By limiting the content in literature and in the news, the government removes the public’s capability of keeping them in check. Even if individuals are aware of the conditions they are residing in, they have no mouthpiece to speak.

Censoring books in any capacity is a sign that the government is too heavy-handed and fragile. How scared do you have to be to starve your people of consciousness?

Reading books like “1984” is vital to ensure people are informed of the potential capabilities of a broken government. Although Orwell’s novel is fiction, its gruesome habitation is all too real for those under communist control.

This book has also been challenged in the United States. For example, it was challenged in Florida in 1981 for its supposed pro-communist themes. When a situation like this arises, I must question, did they even read the book before they dictated its’ censorship?

The main character continually challenges the government in frightened secrecy. This book showcases how poorly the standard of life is under Big Brother’s restricted control. Thus being anything but a pro-communist story.

A more recent attempt of censoring this novel was made in Idaho in 2017. Parents of high school seniors feared the book shared in their children’s government class had “violent, sexually charged language.”

They referred to a passage where Orwell writes, “He would flog her to death with a rubber truncheon. He would tie her naked to a stake and shoot her full of arrows like Saint Sebastian. He would ravish her and cut her throat at the moment of climax.”

Although it does contain graphic language, pinpointing a section and disregarding the content of a book as a whole for educational purposes is disadvantageous.

Orwell’s word choice is startling so he can further portray how terrifying a society like this is and can be. These words are probably not unfamiliar to most almost-18-year-old children.

By censoring books, we take away authenticity and creativity. Tell me, how much have you learned from a book that is stale and devoid of intrigue? Has it stuck with you years past when you closed its binding? Probably not.

I encourage you to rebel against hovering parents and governments. Read a banned book.

Katelin Woods is the culture editor of the Collegian and a junior in theatre and public relations. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to

My name is Katelin Woods and I graduated with a Bachelor's of Arts in public relations in May 2020. I worked as the first audience engagement manager of the Collegian from 2019 to 2020 and took photos for the multimedia staff. I was also the founding editor of the culture desk in 2018. I am an enthusiast of a poetry, pizza roll and pajamas.