1984, Big Brother, and Narrator


With a member of my writing group submitting a novel based on 1984, I thought it was a good time to read the original. It’s been on my To Read list for years, but never a high priority.

I started reading, and was immediately struck by the similarities between 1984 and my novel-in-progress, The Narrator. There are clear parallels between Big Brother and my eponymous antagonist, and between Winston and my protagonist. Who knew?

It was inevitable, I suppose. 1984 explores a theme that crops up in most of my own work: the line between fantasy and reality.

If you’re not familiar with the book, Big Brother constantly alters records to bring them in line with the present. If they’re allied with one country against another, then that’s how it’s always been. If they make a prediction and it doesn’t come true, the predictions are altered to match what really happened. People can be “vanished,” or killed and erased from every record.¬†With the past and present always under revision, Winston has trouble keeping everything straight.

Similarly, the narrator re-writes my protagonist’s history, and he has trouble recognizing which events go with which timeline. He has brothers in one timeline, but otherwise they’re similar enough that he can’t differentiate. Add the fact that the narrator told him he’s a fictional character, and you have a real mess. Which parts of his world are real, and which are the narrator’s creation?

Which life is his real life? Or does he not have a real life at all?

Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.