On a cold day in April of 1984, a man named Winston Smith returns to his home, a dilapidated apartment building called Victory Mansions.
Winston is thin, frail, and 39 years old.... it is painful for him to trudge up the stairs because he has a varicose ulcer above his right ankle.
Everywhere Winston goes, even his own home, the Party watches him through telescreens - the words "BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU" is everywhere
Winston feels frustrated by the oppression and rigid control of the Party, which prohibits free thought, sex, and any expression of individuality.
Winston Smith is a low-ranking member of the ruling Party in London, in the nation of Oceania. (the totalitarian political regime that rules all of Airstrip One—the land that used to be called England—as part of the larger state of Oceania)
Winston dislikes the party and has illegally purchased a diary in which to write his criminal thoughts. He has also become fixated on a powerful Party member named O'Brien, whom Winston believes is a secret member of the Brotherhood—the mysterious, legendary group that works to overthrow the Party.
From the window, Winston sees the Ministry of Truth, where he works as a propaganda officer altering historical records to match the Party's official version of past events.
Winston hides his diary in a drawer in a little alcove hidden from the telescreen.
The proles - poor people( impoverished) and insignificant that the Party does not consider them a threat to its power.
Winston begins to write in his diary, although he realizes that this constitutes an act of rebellion against the Party. He describes the films he watched the night before. He thinks about his lust and hatred for a dark-haired girl who works in the Fiction Department at the Ministry of Truth, and about an important Inner Party member named O'Brien—a man he is sure is an enemy of the Party. Winston remembers the moment before that day's Two Minutes Hate, an assembly during which Party orators whip the populace into a frenzy of hatred against the enemies of Oceania. Just before the Hate began, Winston knew he hated Big Brother, and saw the same loathing in O'Brien's eyes.
Winston looks down and realizes that he has written "DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER" over and over again in his diary. He has committed thoughtcrime—the most unpardonable crime—and he knows that the Thought Police will seize him sooner or later. Just then, there is a knock at the door.
- Winston dreams of being with his mother on a sinking ship. He feels responsible for his mother's disappearance in a political purge 20 years ago
- He then dreams of a place called The Golden Country, where the dark-haired girl takes off her clothes and runs toward him.
- He wakes with the word "Shakespeare" on his lips, not knowing where it came from. A high-pitched whistle sounds from the telescreen, a signal that office workers must wake up. It is time for the Physical Jerks exercise
- As he exercises, Winston thinks about his childhood, which he barely remembers. He has no records like photographs and documents to look back - he doesn't even know what year he is living in.
- Winston thinks about Oceania's relationship to the other countries in the world, Eurasia and Eastasia. Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia and in alliance with Eastasia, but Winston knows that the records have been changed. Winston remembers that no one had heard of Big Brother, the leader of the Party, before 1960, but stories about him now appear in histories going back to the 1930 - THIS IS A PROOF THAT THE GOVERNMENT IS CHANGING THE RECORDS TO MAKE PEOPLE BELIEVE THINGS HAPPENED OR EXISTED
- As Winston has these thoughts, a voice from the telescreen suddenly calls out his name, reprimanding him for not working hard enough at the Physical Jerks. Winston breaks out into a hot sweat and tries harder to touch his toes.
Winston is writing in his journal about a time when he had hired a prostitute. The practice is forbidden, but even if Winston had been caught, the sentence would have been light: maybe only five years in a forced-labor camp. The Party says sexual urges occasionally need to be indulged, as long as the sex is joyless. Sex is discouraged except to produce children; couples have to get Party approval to marry, and those who seem attracted to each other are always denied. The Party is trying to kill human instincts, and, if the sexual instinct can't be killed, at least the act should be considered dirty and unpleasant. Winston recalls that the prostitute was old and toothless and that the experience had been dreadful. He hopes that, in writing it down, he will be purged of it, but it doesn't work.
Winston is, in fact, married to a woman named Katharine. His estranged wife is a Party hack incapable of an original thought, but divorce is unlawful and separation discouraged. However, after 15 months the marriage became intolerable, so they were allowed to separate. It has been almost 11 years since Winston has seen Katharine. Winston might have stuck with her except that sexual intercourse with her was "like embracing a jointed wooden image." Winston compares her to a vulgar, old prostitute. Katharine had insisted on intercourse once a week, because she viewed it as their duty to the Party, but Winston couldn't stand that idea. The narrator says that organizations like the Junior Anti-Sex League, of which the dark-haired girl (Julia) is a member, are so successful in convincing Party women that sex is ugly that they believe it. Yet Winston wants to feel love and to destroy the "wall of virtue" that controls sex and other connections between human beings.
"If there is hope," Winston writes, "it lies in the proles." Winston is reflecting on the proletariat, or working class, which makes up 85 percent of Oceania's population. He believes that only a rising up of the wretched, disregarded majority can overthrow the Party. In his alcove he takes out a children's history book loaned to him by Mrs. Parsons. He copies a passage that describes the horrors of capitalism. He wonders how much of what he is copying is true.
Winston thinks back to the one time he held in his hand proof that the Party history is not true. Back in the 1960s, many original leaders of the Revolution were declared traitors. Many others were killed. A few went into hiding, including Goldstein. Three men who survived were Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford. The three "confessed" and were temporarily paroled. Winston had seen them once at the Chestnut Tree Café. Five years later a photograph came across Winston's desk rolled inside another piece of paper; he shouldn't have seen it. It showed the three at a Party function in New York on the date on which the three had confessed to having been on enemy soil. Here was something he could hold onto—proof positive that the Party did lie about history. He did not, of course, hold onto it, but he also never forgot it.
Winston begins questioning his sanity. Even though his job entails "revising" documents, something tells him that history should not be alterable. The Party believes it is. If he is right, Winston wonders, and the Party is wrong, does that make him crazy?
Orwell also poses this for readers to consider: If a person is the only one to believe something, does that make that person a lunatic? Or does it simply make that person a minority of one? There was a time, Winston reflects, when one person (Copernicus) declared that the earth goes around the sun rather than the sun going around the earth. He was proved right and therefore wasn't crazy. The chapter ends with Winston writing "Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four."
Winston wanders into the slums of London. After narrowly escaping a rocket bomb, he sees a severed hand on the street and kicks it to the gutter. As he strolls past a pub, he sees a very old man. Winston decides he might remember life before the Revolution, so he follows the man into the pub, buys him a beer, and asks him to compare his life as a boy with now. The man is eager to talk but can't stay on track.
Winston leaves the pub and finds himself at the junk shop where he'd purchased his diary. It seems spooky. Oddly, late as it is, the shop is still open, so he goes in. The proprietor lets him look around, and Winston buys a glass paperweight with coral inside it. The proprietor, Mr. Charrington, invites Winston to see more antiques in an upstairs room. They climb the stairs, and the room conjures vague memories. On the wall is a picture of an old church (St. Clement's), and Mr. Charrington recites part of a children's rhyme that includes its name. Near the end is the ominous line, "Here comes a chopper to chop off your head." There is no telescreen in this room, and Winston believes he could be alone and secure here. He considers risking renting it for a few dollars a month. As he leaves the shop, he sees the dark-haired girl from the Ministry of Truth and wonders if she is spying on him. While walking home Winston considers the fact that they always come for you at night. As the chapter ends, he recalls O'Brien's words, "We shall meet in the place where there is no darkness."
war is peace
freedom is slavery
ignorance is strength
Winston Smith is walking down a corridor at work when the girl from the fiction department, Julia, falls in front of him, hurting her arm. He notices that her arm is in a sling, and, although he is sure that she is a member of the Thought Police and therefore against him, he helps her to her feet. She slips a small folded scrap of paper into his hand and proceeds on her way. Winston must wait to open it, and when he finally does, it reads "I love you."
Winston has difficulty focusing for the rest of the day and tries to figure out a way to meet her. He sees her in the canteen a few times in the next few days but is unable to speak with her because of the lack of privacy. When he and she finally talk, they arrange to meet in Victory Square. At the meeting, Julia formulates a plan for the two of them to meet privately. They stand together, holding hands in the midst of a thick crowd watching a prisoner transport go by. Winston finds himself staring into the eyes of an aged prisoner instead of Julia's eyes as he would like, but he cannot risk looking directly at her.
Winston Smith and Julia meet in the countryside. They talk a bit in the hideout that Julia has frequented with other men. They walk to the edge of a pasture, which Winston remembers from his dreams as the Golden Country. A bird lands on a branch near the couple, and Winston muses on its presence. Returning to the hideout, Winston and Julia make love. Winston discovers that Julia likes physical intimacy, unlike his former wife, and partakes in it quite frequently with Party members. Winston is happy in the knowledge that corruption and unorthodox acts happen often within the Party. They leave the hideout and agree to meet there again; instead, they meet in the belfry of a ruined church.
Julia tells Winston more about herself in the belfry, especially about her job, her love affairs, and her hatred of the Party. Winston and Julia discuss being caught. "We are the dead," Winston says to her. Julia is not convinced and keeps a more positive attitude. She draws a map in the dust of the place where they will meet again.
Winston looks around the little room above Mr. Charrington's shop, which he has rented—foolishly, he thinks—for his affair with Julia. Outside, a burly, red-armed woman sings a song and hangs up her laundry. Winston and Julia have been busy with the city's preparations for Hate Week, and Winston has been frustrated by their inability to meet. The problem was exacerbated by the fact that Julia has had her period. Winston wishes that he and Julia could lead a more leisurely, romantic life, like an old, married couple.
Julia comes into the room with sugar, coffee, and bread—luxuries only members of the Inner Party could normally obtain. She puts on makeup, and her beauty and femininity overwhelm Winston. Lounging in bed in the evening, Julia sees a rat; Winston, afraid of rats more than anything else, is horrified. Julia looks through the room, and notices the paperweight. Winston tells her that the paperweight is a link to the past. They sing the song about St. Clement's Church, and Julia says that one day she will clean the old picture of the church. When Julia leaves, Winston sits gazing into the crystal paperweight, imagining living inside it with Julia in an eternal stasis.
One morning, Winston wakes up crying in the room above Mr. Charrington's antiques shop. Julia is with him, and asks him what is wrong. He tells her that he has been dreaming of his mother, and that until that moment, he has subconsciously believed that he murdered her. He is suddenly gripped with a sequence of memories that he had repressed. He remembers his childhood after his father left: he, his mother, and his baby sister spent most of their time in underground shelters hiding from air raids, often going without food. Consumed by hunger, Winston stole some chocolate from them and ran away, never to see them again. He hates the Party for having eliminated human feelings. He believes that the proles are still human, but that Party members like him and Julia are forced to suppress their own feelings to the point that they become virtually inhuman.
Winston and Julia worry because they know that if they are captured, they will be tortured and possibly killed, and that renting the room above Mr. Charrington's shop dramatically increases the likelihood that they will be captured. Fretfully, they reassure one another that although the torture will undoubtedly make them confess their crimes, it cannot make them stop loving each other. They agree that the wisest course of action would be to leave the room forever, but they cannot.
After a ninety-hour workweek, Winston is exhausted. In the middle of Hate Week, Oceania has switched enemies and allies in the ongoing war, heaping upon Winston a tremendous amount of work to compensate for the change. At one rally, the speaker is forced to change his speech halfway through to point out that Oceania is not, and has never been, at war with Eurasia. Rather, the speaker says, Oceania is, and always has been, at war with Eastasia. The people become embarrassed about carrying the anti-Eurasia signs and blame Emmanuel Goldstein's agents for sabotaging them. Nevertheless, they exhibit full-fledged hatred for Eastasia.
In the room at Mr. Charrington's, Winston reads through Goldstein's The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism, given to him by O'Brien. This lengthy book, with chapter titles taken from party slogans such as "WAR IS PEACE" and "IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH," traces a theory of social classes throughout recent history: High Class, Middle Class, and Low Class—the Inner Party, the Outer Party, and the Proles. According to the manifesto, Eurasia was created when Russia subsumed all of Europe, Oceania was created when the United States absorbed the British Empire, and Eastasia is made up of the remaining nations. These three nations keep their respective populaces preoccupied with a perpetual border war in order to preserve power among the High class. Goldstein writes that the war never advances significantly, as no two allied nations can defeat the third. The war is simply a fact of life that enables the ruling powers to keep the masses ignorant of life in other places—the real meaning of the phrase "WAR IS PEACE."
As Winston reads, Julia enters the room and flings herself into his arms. She is casually glad to know that he has the book. After half an hour in bed together, during which they hear the red-armed woman singing outside, Winston reads to Julia from the book. Goldstein explains that the control of history is a central tool of the Party. He adds that doublethink allows Inner Party members to be the most zealous about pursuing the war mentality, even though they know the falsity of the histories they write. Winston finally asks Julia if she is awake—she is not—and falls asleep himself. His last thought is that "sanity is not statistical."
While Winston lies in bed the next morning, the red-armed woman outside begins to sing, waking Julia. Winston looks at the woman through the window, admires her fertility, and imagines that the proles will one day give rise to a race of conscious, independent individuals who will throw off the yoke of Party control. Winston and Julia look at the woman and realize that although they are doomed, she might hold the key to the future. Both Winston and Julia say, "We are the dead," and out of the shadows a third voice interjects, "You are the dead." Suddenly, the two realize that a telescreen is hidden behind the picture of St. Clement's Church. Stomping boots echo from outside; the house is surrounded. A familiar voice speaks the last lines of the St. Clement's rhyme: "Here comes a candle to light you to bed / Here comes a chopper to chop off your head!" The window shatters, and black-clad troops pour in. They smash the paperweight, and Winston thinks about its smallness. The troops kick Winston and beat Julia. Winston becomes disoriented; he cannot tell the time on the old-fashioned clock in the room. As the troops restrain Winston, Mr. Charrington enters the room and orders someone to pick up the shards from the shattered paperweight. Winston realizes that Mr. Charrington's voice was the one coming from the telescreen, and that Mr. Charrington is a member of the Thought Police. Winston sits in a bright, bare cell in which the lights are always on—he has at last arrived at the place where there is no darkness. Four telescreens monitor him. He has been transferred here from a holding cell in which a huge prole woman who shares the last name Smith wonders if she is Winston's mother. In his solitary cell, Winston envisions his captors beating him, and worries that sheer physical pain will force him to betray Julia.
Ampleforth, a poet whose crime was leaving the word "God" in a Rudyard Kipling translation, is tossed into the cell. He is soon dragged away to the dreaded Room 101, a place of mysterious and unspeakable horror. Winston shares his cell with a variety of fellow prisoners, including his flatulent neighbor Parsons, who was turned in by his own children for committing thoughtcrime.
Seeing starvation, beating, and mangling, Winston hopes dearly that the Brotherhood will send him a razorblade with which he might commit suicide. His dreams of the Brotherhood are wrecked when O'Brien, his hoped-for link to the rebellion, enters his cell. Winston cries out, "They've got you too!" To which O'Brien replies, "They got me long ago," and identifies himself as an operative of the Ministry of Love. O'Brien asserts that Winston has known O'Brien was an operative all along, and Winston admits that this is true. A guard smashes Winston's elbow, and Winston thinks that no one can become a hero in the face of physical pain because it is too much to endure.
O'Brien oversees Winston's prolonged torture sessions. O'Brien tells Winston that his crime was refusing to accept the Party's control of history and his memory. As O'Brien increases the pain, Winston agrees to accept that O'Brien is holding up five fingers, though he knows that O'Brien is actually holding up only four—he agrees that anything O'Brien wants him to believe is true. He begins to love O'Brien, because O'Brien stops the pain; he even convinces himself that O'Brien isn't the source of the pain. O'Brien tells Winston that Winston's current outlook is insane, but that torture will cure him.
O'Brien tells Winston that the Party has perfected the system practiced by the Inquisition, the Nazis, and the Soviets—it has learned how to eliminate its enemies without making martyrs of them. It converts them, and then ensures that, in the eyes of the people, they cease to exist. Slowly, Winston begins to accept O'Brien's version of events. He begins to understand how to practice doublethink, refusing to believe memories he knows are real. O'Brien offers to answer his questions, and Winston asks about Julia. O'Brien tells him that Julia betrayed him immediately. Winston asks if Big Brother exists in the same way that he himself does, and O'Brien replies that Winston does not exist. Winston asks about the Brotherhood, and O'Brien responds that Winston will never know the answer to that question. Winston asks what waits in Room 101, and O'Brien states that everyone knows what waits in Room 101.
After some time, Winston is transferred to a more comfortable room and the torture eases. He dreams contently of Julia, his mother, and O'Brien in the Golden Country. He gains weight and is allowed to write on a small slate. He comes to the conclusion that he was foolish to oppose the Party alone, and tries to make himself believe in Party slogans. He writes on his slate "FREEDOM IS SLAVERY," "TWO AND TWO MAKE FIVE," and "GOD IS POWER."
One day, in a sudden, passionate fit of misery, Winston screams out Julia's name many times, terrifying himself. Though he knows that crying out in this way will lead O'Brien to torture him, he realizes his deep desire to continue hating the Party. He tries to bottle up his hatred so that even he will not recognize it. Therefore, when the Party kills him, he will die hating Big Brother—a personal victory. But he cannot hide his feelings. When O'Brien arrives with the guards, Winston tells him that he hates Big Brother. O'Brien replies that obeying Big Brother is not sufficient—Winston must learn to love him. O'Brien then instructs the guards to take Winston to Room 101.
Winston, now free, sits at the Chestnut Tree Café, where dismissed Party members go to drink. He enjoys a glass of Victory Gin and watches the telescreen. He accepts everything the Party says and does. Without acknowledging it to himself, he can still smell the rats. On the table, Winston traces "2 + 2 = 5" in the dust. He remembers seeing Julia on a bitter-cold day that March. She had thickened and stiffened, and he now found the thought of sex with her repulsive. They acknowledged that they had betrayed one another, and agreed to meet again, though neither is truly interested in continuing their relationship. Winston thinks he hears the song lyrics "Under the spreading chestnut tree / I sold you and you sold me," which he heard when he saw the political prisoners there many years earlier. He begins to cry. He remembers a moment of happiness with his mother and sister, but thinks it must be a false memory. He looks up and sees a picture of Big Brother on the telescreen, making him feel happy and safe. As he listens to the war news, he reassures himself of both the great victory he has won over himself and his newfound love for Big Brother.
NOTE about this chapter:
Many consider 1984's pivotal scene—in which O'Brien threatens to release the cage of rats on Winston's face—an anticlimax. It has been argued that the cage of rats is not horrible enough to make the reader feel Winston's torment, and that it is an arbitrary device, unrelated to the powerful, sophisticated workings of the Party. At first glance, these criticisms seem valid. Winston's collapse does follow hard upon his passionate restatement of his love for Julia and hatred for Big Brother in Chapter IV. However, it is important to remember the theme of physical control, which manifests itself in the Party's manipulation of the body: Orwell consistently argues that physical pain and the sense of physical danger can override human reason. Winston, facing a writhing swarm of rats prepared to devour his face, cannot act rationally. That his betrayal of Julia occurs so soon after he restates his love for her is precisely the point, as physical pain eliminates the possibility of defending emotional conviction. As Winston notes earlier in the novel, he is a prisoner of his own nervous system. Turning against Julia is an instinctive lunge for self-preservation. Rather than the rats themselves, it is the awareness, foisted upon him by the Party, that he is a prisoner of his own body that ultimately breaks Winston. Once he believes that he is limited by his body, he has no reason to think, act, or rebel.
1. Censorship and The Dangers of Totalitarianism
1984 is a political novel written with the purpose of warning readers in the West of the dangers of totalitarian government. Having witnessed firsthand the horrific lengths to which totalitarian governments in Spain and Russia would go in order to sustain and increase their power, Orwell designed 1984 to sound the alarm in Western nations still unsure about how to approach the rise of communism.
2. Equality vs Sameness (Gov't must MAKE everyone the same)
3. Physical control
In addition to manipulating their minds, the Party also controls the bodies of its subjects. The Party constantly watches for any sign of disloyalty, to the point that, as Winston observes, even a tiny facial twitch could lead to an arrest. A person's own nervous system becomes his greatest enemy. The Party forces its members to undergo mass morning exercises called the Physical Jerks, and then to work long, grueling days at government agencies, keeping people in a general state of exhaustion. Anyone who does manage to defy the Party is punished and "reeducated" through systematic and brutal torture. After being subjected to weeks of this intense treatment, Winston himself comes to the conclusion that nothing is more powerful than physical pain—no emotional loyalty or moral conviction can overcome it. By conditioning the minds of their victims with physical torture, the Party is able to control reality, convincing its subjects that 2 + 2 = 5
By means of telescreens and hidden microphones across the city, the Party is able to monitor its members almost all of the time. Additionally, the Party employs complicated mechanisms (1984 was written in the era before computers) to exert large-scale control on economic production and sources of information, and fearsome machinery to inflict torture upon those it deems enemies. 1984 reveals that technology, which is generally perceived as working toward moral good, can also facilitate the most diabolical evil.
1) "war is peace
freedom is slavery
ignorance is strength"
This is the slogan of the party.... the idea that by weakening the independence and strength of individuals' minds and forcing them to live in a constant state of propaganda-induced fear, the Party is able to force its subjects to accept anything it decrees, even if it is entirely illogical—for instance, the Ministry of Peace is in charge of waging war, the Ministry of Love is in charge of political torture, and the Ministry of Truth is in charge of doctoring history books to reflect the Party's ideology.
2) "Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."
The slogan is an important example of the Party's technique of using false history to break down the psychological independence of its subjects. Control of the past ensures control of the future, because the past can be treated essentially as a set of conditions that justify or encourage future goals: if the past was idyllic, then people will act to re-create it; if the past was nightmarish, then people will act to prevent such circumstances from recurring. The Party creates a past that was a time of misery and slavery from which it claims to have liberated the human race, thus compelling people to work toward the Party's goals.
The Party has complete political power in the present, enabling it to control the way in which its subjects think about and interpret the past: every history book reflects Party ideology, and individuals are forbidden from keeping mementos of their own pasts, such as photographs and documents. As a result, the citizens of Oceania have a very short, fuzzy memory, and are willing to believe anything that the Party tells them. In the second appearance of this quote, O'Brien tells Winston that the past has no concrete existence and that it is real only in the minds of human beings.
3) " In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it (when 2+2 is actually 4). It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality was tacitly denied by their philosophy"
This quote occurs in Book One, Chapter VII, as Winston looks at a children's history book and marvels at the Party's control of the human mind. These lines play into the theme of psychological manipulation. In this case, Winston considers the Party's exploitation of its fearful subjects as a means to suppress the intellectual notion of objective reality. If the universe exists only in the mind, and the Party controls the mind, then the Party controls the universe.
4) "And when memory failed and written records were falsified—when that happened, the claim of the Party to have improved the conditions of human life had got to be accepted, because there did not exist, and never again could exist, any standard against which it could be tested".
This quote from Book One, Chapter VIII, emphasizes how one's understanding of the past affects one's attitude about the present.