If I could sum up 1984 in one sentence, here’s what I would say:
Hope cannot exist in totalitarian states.
This sentence means two things. One is that hope must not be allowed to exist in totalitarian states, and two, that ‘hope’ finds a very short life in totalitarian states.
1984 puts that idea forward by being a tragedy. Our main protagonist ends up betraying his true love, he does not overthrow the government, and his hopes of finding the Resistance (unlike in The Hunger Games) are squashed violently. The fact that much of what drove the first 4/5ths of the novel is obliterated by Orwell in the last fifth for being a fantasy is a knife in the reader’s back, because there is no happy ending. And so all of the hope of the first 4/5ths of the novel is dashed too, because hope cannot exist in totalitarian states.
The second, very impressive thing about 1984 is how eerily similar it is to Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago. Working through 1984, I would highlight sections which were nearly copies of sections from the Gulag Archipelago. The G.A. came out in the 70s, whereas 1984 came out in the late 40s, making Orwell a heck of a person who could see through the Soviet and communist systems. Absolutely amazing.
The last thing that struck me about 1984 is that it is an amazing warning for people to see when state action is becoming totalitarian at the individual level. Without it, most people (me included 100%) would be hardpressed to pinpoint where and why exactly government action was becoming totalitarian.
So hats off to Orwell for writing such a tragic, insightful, and admonitive book.