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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About kellymcquain

Kelly McQuain has published fiction, poetry and essays in such places as The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Pinch, Painted Bride Quarterly, and Assaracus. He's also illustrated comics and book covers. He teaches writing in Philadelphia.

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