RISMEDIA, February 26, 2009-I was helping my daughter, who is in grade 11, with her assignment on the George Orwell classic “1984” and we were discussing the symbolism of the diary in the story. Now, here is a quick re-cap for those of you who read this book many years back. “1984” is Orwell’s peek into a future totalitarian society where all individual expression is stifled. The protagonist of the story, Winston Smith, rebels by buying a diary and writing about life in Oceana. He writes about how he feels about Big Brother, truth, love, and all things that are banned by the ruling Party. The diary serves as a symbol of hope and freedom.
I thought this symbolism was very interesting and decided to take an academic stab at comparing the symbolism of the diary in the novel to the kind of journaling that we do here at Frame of Mind Coaching. The first thought that sprang to mind was to question if journaling is the new word for diary or are they two very different animals? As I researched this on the Internet it became apparent that diary and journal are interchangeable, but journal seems to be the more current term. Both have the same meaning, which is a written daily record. Some theorists observed that a diary was something that one kept when one was younger, whereas a journal felt more grown up and allowed for more serious reflection and philosophical wanderings. One blogger had a lovely interpretation that a journal is a paper soul, suggesting that it is a place to open one’s soul. Another idea I liked was the connection between journal and journey, because our journals are, in fact, the place where we ‘journey’ with our thoughts, ideas, dreams and also where we recount our physical daily travels.
The diary/journal is a place where it’s okay to write anything you want; where you can disagree with common thought, stretch beyond your comfort zone, reflect on your innermost demons and desires. It provides a place to let it all hang out and get in touch with oneself and provides an environment where individual thought is welcomed.
When I think about these ideas in reference to “1984,” I can see that Orwell very consciously chose an extremely powerful symbol in the diary. In fact, it provided a forum for Winston to work through all of his conflicts and issues, and within these pages he drew the strength to rebel against the Party. Even though, his diary was found by the Party and his crime of writing and the treason of falling in love were discovered and punished, he understood that from the beginning keeping the diary was a huge risk, but the freedom of expression and the hope that his writing provided was well worth it.
For me, it underscores the significance of journaling today in 2009. We have passed the ominous date of 1984. The technological revolution has provided us with more freedom, and one can argue that with this global liberty of information comes a certain loss of self and the feeling that our thoughts are exposed. We have definitely become a society that is obsessed with the lives, thoughts, dreams and desires of others, as is apparent by the mass wave of ‘reality’ television shows, where people’s lives are unabashedly exposed.
The journal of the twenty first century, in the midst of our advanced technological world provides a place for us to grow our dreams, search for our identity and process the minutia of details of our lives for the liberty of ourselves.
Jacqui Markowitz is the Director of Communications for Frame of Mind Coaching. You can reach Jacqui at Jacqui@fom52.com.