Winston Smith was Black

Philadelphia novelist and educator Simone Zelitch tackles the Orwellian state of police-citizen relationships in this thoughtful and provocative essay. Check it out! #ICantBreathe #GeorgeOrwell #1984

Simone Zelitch

George Orwell 1903-1950 George Orwell 1903-1950

I’m always afraid to teach George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four. Frankly, I feel too close to the book. Full disclosure: my husband gave me a facsimile edition of the original manuscript as an engagement present.   It’s the size of a coffee-table and has insertions in Orwell’s spidery handwriting.   We quote lines of the novel to each other like a secret code.

What motivated me to teach it last Fall?   I’d read an excerpt from David Eggers’ The Circle, a the-circlesatirical novel about the seductive power of internet transparency, and I decided that the only way to help my students understand that novel’s  ironies would be to open with the Orwell. I thought I’d teach the first hundred pages of Nineteen Eighty-four, show the film version to fill in the narrative gaps, and move on to the breezier, easier world of Eggers’ social-media addicts.


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