Winston Smith is a member of the Outer Party. He works in the
Records Department in the Ministry of Truth, rewriting and distorting history.
To escape Big Brother’s tyranny, at least inside his own mind, Winston begins a
diary an act punishable by death. Winston is determined to remain human under
inhuman circumstances. Yet telescreens are placed everywhere in his home, in
his cubicle at work, in the cafeteria where he eats, even in the bathroom
stalls. His every move is watched. No place is safe.
while at the mandatory Two Minutes Hate, Winston catches the eye of an Inner
Party Member, O’Brien, whom he believes to be an ally. He also catches the eye
of a dark-haired girl from the Fiction Department, whom he believes is his
enemy and wants him destroyed. A few days later, Julia, the dark-haired girl
whom Winston believes to be against him, secretly hands him a note that reads,
“I love you.” Winston takes pains to meet her, and when they finally
do, Julia draws up a complicated plan whereby they can be alone.
Alone in the
countryside, Winston and Julia begin their allegiance against the Party and Big
Brother. Winston is able to secure a room above a shop where he and Julia can
go. Winston and Julia fall in love, and, while they know that they will someday
be caught, they believe that the love and loyalty they feel for each other can
never be taken from them, even under the worst circumstances.
Winston and Julia confess to O’Brien, whom they believe to be a member of the
Brotherhood (an underground organization aimed at bringing down the Party),
their hatred of the Party. O’Brien welcomes them into the Brotherhood with an
array of questions and arranges for Winston to be given a copy of “the
book,” the underground’s treasonous volume written by their leader,
Emmanuel Goldstein, former ally of Big Brother turned enemy.
the book at a war rally and takes it to the secure room where he reads it with
Julia napping by his side. The two are disturbed by a noise behind a painting
in the room and discover a telescreen. They are dragged away and separated.
Winston finds himself deep inside the Ministry of Love, a kind of prison with
no windows, where he sits for days alone. Finally, O’Brien comes. Initially
Winston believes that O’Brien has also been caught, but he soon realizes that
O’Brien is there to torture him and break his spirit. The Party had been aware
of Winston’s “crimes” all along; in fact, O’Brien has been watching
Winston for the past seven years.
spends the next few months torturing Winston in order to change his way of
thinking to employ the concept of doublethink, or the ability to simultaneously
hold two opposing ideas in one’s mind and believe in them both. Winston
believes that the human mind must be free, and to remain free, one must be
allowed to believe in an objective truth, such as 2 + 2 = 4. O’Brien wants
Winston to believe that 2 + 2 = 5, but Winston is resistant.
O’Brien takes Winston to Room 101, the most dreaded room of all in the Ministry
of Love, the place where prisoners meet their greatest fear. Winston’s greatest
fear is rats. O’Brien places over Winston’s head a mask made of wire mesh and
threatens to open the door to release rats on Winston’s face. When Winston screams,
“Do it to Julia!” he relinquishes his last vestige of humanity.
Winston is a
changed man. He sits in the Chestnut Tree Café, watching the telescreens and
agonizing over the results of daily battles on the front lines. He has seen
Julia again. She, too, is changed, seeming older and less attractive. She
admits that she also betrayed him. In the end, there is no doubt, Winston loves
The opening image of the work sets the foreboding tone that
prevails throughout as the reader is introduced to Winston Smith, the
fatalistic protagonist of the novel, on a “cold day in April,” when
“the clocks were striking thirteen.” Immediately, the author depicts
a society in decay by describing a setting of “gritty dust,” “hallways
smelling of boiled cabbage and old rag mats,” elevators (the lift) not
working, and electrical current that is turned off during daylight hours.
main characters are introduced through Winston’s perception of them. Julia, the
dark-haired girl from the fiction department (who, in this part, is described
but, as yet, unnamed), causes him “to feel a peculiar uneasiness which had
fear mixed up in it as well as hostility, whenever she was anywhere near
him.” Winston suspects her to be a member of the Thought Police. Initially,
he sees her as a symbol of social orthodoxy, that is, she possesses “a
general clean-mindedness,” an enthusiastic adherent to the Party line.
Conversely, Winston feels a certain comradeship with O’Brien, predicated on his
secretly held belief that “O’Brien’s political orthodoxy was not
perfect.” Winston developed this impression when he and O’Brien had once
exchanged glances. Big Brother (both a person and a concept) is introduced very
early on in posters that appear in Winston’s building bearing the caption
“Big Brother Is Watching You.” Finally, Emmanuel Goldstein, also, a
person and a concept, is introduced during a hate session.
political environment is detailed through Winston’s musings, as well as
narrative descriptions of specific political entities. At the heart of the
political orthodoxy that exists is the process of controlling human thought
through the manipulation of language and information. Crucial to manipulating
the language and the information individuals receive are doublethink and Newspeak.
Doublethink is the act of holding, simultaneously, two opposite, individually
exclusive ideas or opinions and believing in both simultaneously and
absolutely. Doublethink requires using logic against logic or suspending
disbelief in the contradiction. The three slogans of the party — “War Is
Peace; Freedom Is Slavery; Ignorance Is Strength” — are obvious examples
of doublethink. The act of doublethink also occurs in more subtle details.
begins writing in the diary, he commits his first overt act of rebellion
against the Party; he creates a piece of evidence that exists outside himself.
He is still safe because no one else knows of his thoughts or his act, but the
reader shares the ominous mood created when Winston observes, “Sooner or
later they always got you.” Winston, obviously, knows the significance of
his act; nothing will ever be the same for him.
chapter introduces the reader to a host of significant issues and images that
become motifs that set the mood for and recur throughout the novel. The reader
is not so subtlety drawn into a world of constant duplicity, manipulation, and
surveillance. The name of Winston’s apartment, “Victory Mansions,”
for example, creates a particular mental image for the reader that is immediately
contradicted by Orwell’s observation that the ” . . . hallway smelt of
boiled cabbage and old rags,” the lift (elevator) seldom works, and the
electricity is cut off during daylight hours — hardly a description one
imagines of a structure with such an exalted name.
whose countenance purposely mirrors Stalin, and his pseudo omnipresence are
introduced to the reader in the posters and on the telescreen. Although he
never appears in person, Big Brother is the dictator of record in Oceania, and
the posters carry the caption “Big Brother Is Watching You,”
enhancing the menacing feeling of an evil environment.
alerts the reader’s senses of anticipation and dread in his depiction of the
bureaucracy and political structure of Oceania: “The Ministry of
Truth,” which rewrites history to suit the occasion; “The Ministry of
Peace,” which functions to wage war; “The Ministry of Love,”
which maintains law and order and is “the really frightening one”;
and the “Ministry of Plenty” coupled with the Thought Police, two
minute hate sessions, and antithetical national slogans. War Is Peace, Freedom
Is Slavery, and Ignorance Is Strength.