The Hollow World of “1984”

1984 posterOur theater company, all for One productions, is entering tech week for our upcoming stage production adapted from George Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty-Four…so naturally it’s the subject uppermost in my mind, even on a Sunday.

We’ve had some great conversations as a cast while working on this script. One thing we’ve wrestled with is the hopelessness in the story. all for One does not typically choose to tell hopeless stories. So why are we doing this one?

We’ve identified several aspects of the story which audiences today may relate to:  loss of privacy; the narrowing of language; and revisionist history.  We’ve talked about the fact that other countries–notably North Korea–are already experiencing a hell on earth which is quite similar to the world described in Orwell’s book. 

Slogan9We’ve asked ourselves if we really believe that anything like The Party could actually take power in our nation today? We may joke about Big Brother and the Thought Police…but could anything so monstrous ever become a reality? Could people ever reach a point where they would–across the board–sell out to Big Brother to save their own skins? Can we imagine a world in which everyone is constantly watchful and ready to accuse their neighbors of “thought crime”?

I contended that, no–despite my brother’s post the other day about heroism, which is being systematically squelched–we could not ever reach this low ebb. Several in the cast agreed with me. Others were not so sure.

No God No HopeBut my contention is based on one premise only: that God is not dead, and that He is faithful.  We Christians know that the enemy is dangerous and powerful, and we know that humans are weak. If God were not involved in our world, intervening in mercy, would we have any hope of surviving the deceiver’s wiles? Jesus Himself warns us, in Matthew 24:21-24,

“For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be.  And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.  Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it.  For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.” (ESV)

Could a Big Brother ever come to power today?  Yes, indeed!  Could a world devoid of hope ever come about? Only if we allow all knowledge of God to be pushed so completely into a cramped corner of our culture that He “disappears” altogether.

Because this is the heartbreaking thing that strikes me now every time I watch a rehearsal of our production:  God is not there. The Party has successfully wiped Him out, along with all sense of altruism, self-sacrifice, nobility and moral integrity. When Winston, thinking that he’s joining a resistance movement to fight against Big Brother, agrees that he will lie, cheat, murder and sabotage…he is demonstrating that he has no moral code which makes him any different or better than those whom he professes to hate. His final self-serving betrayal at the end of the play leaves him a hollow man, a walking corpse…he has no purpose in life any longer.

One ironic moment in the play actually hints at hope: it comes when another character is trying to figure out what thought crime he might have committed; he muses that it must have been when he allowed the word “God” to stand at the end of a line of poetry he was translating into Newspeak. “There was simply no way to avoid it. No way at all,” he whines.

Ah, I think. That’s a true statement. There is no way, finally, to keep God out.  And yet, the very elect may be deceived.

Psalm 139.8

I love that Latin motto, “Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderit.”  Bidden or unbidden, God is present.  It is much better that we bid Him be present to us, is it not?

 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.  For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?  For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.” (Matthew 16:25-27 NKJV)

He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

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6 responses to “The Hollow World of “1984”

  1. Can’t wait to see it, Sis! Now more than ever…

  2. Talk about a conversation starter, this should do it.

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