Written by Eric Arthur Blair (known as George Orwell) in 1948 and published in 1949. One of my all time favorites.
Winston’s greatest pleasure in life was in his work. Most of it was a tedious routine, but included in it there were also jobs so difficult and intricate that you could lose yourself in them as in the depths of a mathematical problem.
Winston Smith seems to suffer a lot by memory issues.
He tried to squeeze out some childhood memory that should tell him whether London had always been quite like this. But it was no use, he could not remember: Nothing remained of his childhood.
.. the book that he had just taken out of the drawer. He had seen it lying in the window of a frowsy little junk shop on a slummy quarter of the town (just what quarter he did not now remember)..
The thing he was about to do was to open a diary. It was curious that he seemed not merely to have lost the power of expressing himself, but even to have forgotten what it was that he had originally intended to say. All he had to do was to transfer to paper the restless monologue that had been running inside his head, literally for years. At this moment, however, even the monologue had dried up.
This is perhaps due to the Party constantly deleting everything referencing the past.
When there were no external records that you could refer to, even the outline of your own life lost its sharpness. You remembered huge events which had quite probably not happened, you remembered the detail of incidents without being able to recapture their atmosphere, and there were long blank periods to which you could assign nothing.
Heavy physical work, the care of home and children, films, football, beer and gambling filled up their minds.
1 Party members do not have friends, they have comrades.
There is fear, hatred and pain, but no dignity of emotion, no deep or complex sorrows.
London, chief city of Airstrip One, province of Oceania. Posters of Big Brother in every corner on the streets and inside the buildings, with the caption “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU”.
Around 20 bombs exploding in the city weekly.
War is continuous, but to trace out the history of the whole period, to say who was fighting whom at any given moment, is impossible since no written record exists except the current status. Oceania is at war with Eurasia as of year 1984, therefore it was always at war with Eurasia. Even though people know it was not the case, and Oceania was in alliance with Eurasia 4 years ago and was in war with Eastasia, it was the truth.
Very bad economical situation, no means of wealth at any level of society. Electricity not working, shortage of basic needs such as food and clothing.
A Revolution has taken place and the Party is in charge now.
.. there had been demonstrations to thank Big Brother for raising the chocolate ration to twenty grammes a week. And only yesterday, it had been announced that the ration was to be reduced to twenty grammes a week. Was it possible that they could swallow that, after only twenty-four hours? Yes, they swallowed it
deling in the free market)
It was assumed that when he was not working, eating or sleeping he would be taking part in some kind of communal recreation: to do anything that suggested a taste for solitude, even to go for a walk by yourself is considered dangerous
Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. The Party intellectual knows in which direction his memories must be altered; he therefore knows that he is playing tricks with reality; but by the exercise of doublethink he also satisfies himself that reality is not violated. The process has to be conscious, or it would not be carried out with sufficient precision, but it also has to be unconscious, or it would bring with it a feeling of falsity and hence of guilt.
War had been literally continuous though strictly speaking it had not always been the same war. But to trace out the history of the whole period, to say who was fighting whom at any given moment, would have been utterly impossible, since no written record, and no spoken word, ever made mention of any other alignment than the existing one.
At this moment, for example, in 1984, Oceania was at war wit Eurasia and in alliance with Eastasia: therefore Occenia had always been at war with Eurasia. (Actually, it was only four years since Ocenia had been at war with Eastasia and in alliance with Eurasia.)
This process of continuous alteration was applied not only to newspapers, but to books, periodicals.. - every kind of literature or documentation which might conceivably hold any political or ideolagical significance. In no case would it have been possible to prove that any falsification had taken place.
The Ministry of Plenty’s forecast had estimated the output of boots for the quarter at 145 million pairs. The actual output was given as 62 million pairs.. In any case, 62 million pairs was no nearer the truth than 57 million pairs or 145 million pairs. Very likely no boots had been produced at all. Likelier still, nobody knew how many had been produced, much less cared. Perhaps half the population of Ocenia went barefoot. And so it was with every class of recorded fact, great or small.
The women of the Party were all alike. Chastity was as deeply ingrained in them as Party loyalty. By games and cold water, by lectures, parades, songs, sogans and martial music, the natural feeling had been driven out of them.
Day and night the telescreens bruised your ears with statistics proving that people today had more food, more clothes, better houses, worked shorter hours, were bigger, healthier, stronger, happier, more intelligent, better educated..
A daily activity, where Goldstein is always the main figure. Party members gather in front of the big telescreen, condemn and express their hate towards all enemies of the Party and express their love to Big Brother.
Goldstein was delivering his usual attack upon the doctrines of the Party.. He was denouncing the dictatorship1 of the Party, he was advocating freedom of speech, freedom of the Press, freedom of assembly, freedom of thought..
Party members are being watched by Police Patrol and the Thought Police.
There are devices called Telescreens; metal plaques like dimmed mirros, that can never be turned off and transmit both ways. Any sound that is made around it above a very low whisper and everything in the field of the vision of the device is recorded (by the Thought Police).
People had to live in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every moment scrutinized.
1 Party claims they are the guardian of democracy whereas Goldstein uses the word dictatorship.
An underground network of conspirators dedicated to the overthrow of the State.
It was impossible, in spite of the endless arrests and confessions and executions, to be sure that the Brotherhood was not simply a myth.
Old flats, built around 1930s1 and falling to pieces. The pipes burst in every hard forst, roof leakes whenever there is snow, the heating system usually runs at half steam.
Concerned with the news, entertainment, education and fine arts. Reconstructs the past and supplies the citizens of Oceania with newspapers, films, textbooks, telescreen programmes, plays, novels - any kind of information.
Concerned with war.
Responsible for economic affairs.
Maintains law2 and order. A building impossible to enter except official business and with no windows at all3.
Haunt of painters and musicians. Old, discredited leaders of the Party had been used to gather there before they were finally purged. Goldstein himself, it was said, had sometimes been seen there.
1 1930, most likely before the Revolution.
2 Actually nothing is illegal since there are no laws. There are only punishments.
3 No windows at all.. Where there is no light?Or no darkness perhaps..
Winston is at work in the Ministiry of Truth and it is around eleven hundred where people start to drag chairs to group them in front of the big telescreen in the hall for the Two Minutes Hate and Winston takes place in one of the middle seats. Two people, a girl with a very dark hair1 and O’Brien, come into room as well. Winston knows both by face but has never communicated with them.
The fact that this girl is young and beatiful and that Winston knows he can never have her in any way makes him hate the girl since the very first moment he has seen her. He even thinks she might be an agent of the Thought Police.
On the other hand, without any tangible reason and just by the looks of him, Winston thinks O’Brien is a very intelligent person, and he thinks (or hopes) that his political orthodoxy is not perfect. He hopes to be able to communicate with him one day, if he can cheat the telescreen and get him alone.
The Two Minutes Hate takes place as usual and during the activity, Winston catches O’Brien’s eye momentarily; Winston believes a message gets passed to him.
‘I am with you,’ O’Brien seemed to be saying to him. ‘I know precisely what you are feeling. I know all about your contempt, your hatred, your disgust. But don’t worry, I am on your side!’
This gives Winston the courge to start what he had been withholding for a while and he heads to his apartment, sacrificing his lunch at work.
Winston hides in the alcove found in his apartment that is out of the telescreen’s sight and opens a diary. Since even starting a diary is a Toughtcrime, the moment he notes the date in his book, he becomes aware that Thought Police will evantually get him, but nevertheless continues.
1 Her name is Julia, but Winston will learn her name much later, thus is addressed as girl with very long hair.
Winston continues writing in his diary in his apartment and remembers a dream he had (when he can not exactly remember but maybe around 7 years ago) where in his dream a man passing by him says “We shall meet in the place where there is no darkness” to him. Winston identifies this person in his dream as O’Brien.
His mind further wanders with ideas, questioning the current life as it is. He thinks how Big Brother is everywhere around him, on the face of the coins, on stamps, on the covers of books and so on.
Asleep or awake, working or eating, indoors or out of doors, in the bath or in bed - no escape. Nothing was your own except the few cubicle centimeters inside your skull1.
Winston considers himself as a lonely ghost uttering a truth that nobody would ever hear. But so long as he uttered it, continuity was not broken. He finds courge in himself and notes the following in his diary..
To the future or to the past, to a time when thought is free when men are different from one another and do not live alone - to a time when truth exists and what is done cannot be undone:
From the age of uniformity, from the age of solitude, from the age of Big Brother, from the age of doubletink - greetings!
1 Maybe this is why Winston likes owning things from the past, that he can own them only for the sake of owning.
Winston wakes up for work and does his morning gymnastics in front of the telescreen. As usual he is constantly thinking about the world he is living in, tries to remember the first time he heard the mention of Big Brother, the first mention of the Party.. Suddenly a voice from the telescreen comes: “Smith, 6079 Smith W.! Yes, you! Bend lower, please! You can do better than that. You’re not trying. Lower please! That’s better, comrade.”
Winston goes to work at usual and he has a challenging work to do today. One Mr. Withers were disgraced by the Party and was vaporized. He is now an unperson. He never existed. Yet, there was a speech by Big Brother in Times about Mr. Withers. Of course, that does not make any sense, since no such person ever existed.. Winstons job is to fix this mistake that exists in the article.
Winston fixes the article completely by making the speech about one respectable Comrade Ogilvy, where Big Brother makes a speech about him for his services and praises him.
It struck him as curious that you could create dead men but not living ones. Comrade Ogilvy, who had never existed in the present, now existed in the past, and when once the act of forgery was forgotten, he would exist just as authentically, and upon the same evidence, as Charlemagne or Julius Caesar.
Winston goes to the cafeteria and eats his lunch together with Syme, where Syme talks about how his work on compiling the definitive edition of the Newspeak Dictionary is going.
We are getting the language into its final shape. You think, our chief job is inventing new words. But not a bit of it! We’re destroying words. We’re cutting the language down to the bone. The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect. Even the literature of the Party will change. Even the slogans will change. How could you have a slogan like “Freedom is Slavery” when the concept of freedom has been abolished? There will be no thought. Orthodoxy means not thinking - not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.
During the conversation, Winston thinks of how intelligent Syme is, and believes he will be vaporized some day.
He sees too clearly and speaks too plainly. The Party does not like such people.
Winston keep writing in his diary, hiding from the telescreen in his apartment, trying to comfort himself, which seems not to work.
He pressed his fingers against his eyelids again .. it made no difference. The theraphy had not worked. The urge to shout filthy words at the top of his voice was as strong as ever.
Winston continues filling his diary, this time copying a passage from a childrens book published by the Party.
In the old days, before the Revolution, London was not the beautiful city that we know today. There were just a few beautiful houses that were lived in by rich men who were called capitalists. The capitalists owned everything in the world. If anyone disobeyed them they could throw them into prison or they could take his job away and starve him to death. 1
Winston remembers a time where he held a small piece from a newspaper that was actually a proof of fake news and thinks he would have kept that piece of paper today instead of immediatly throwing it to a memory hole, as he did when this incident happened, around 10 years ago.
The immediate advantages of falsifying the past were obvious, but the ultimate motive was mysterious.
He makes a note in his diary that he is unable to understand2 the reason..
I understand HOW: I do not understand WHY.
Thinking about the Party and all their activities, he thinks that the Party will evantually announce that two and two made a five, and everyone would have to believe in it. He, himself gets confused, if this could actually be all true. Maybe everyone else knew better than himself? Maybe past was changeable? If nowhere else it was written, maybe two plus two could make a five?
But his mind and level of intelligence is unable to accept any of it. He concludes by writing in his diary:
Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.
1 Resembles the world people actually are living in, isn’t it?
2 And so I do not, what is the ultimate purpose? Are they actually good people and know the best for the society?
Winston skips an evening at the Community Center after work and wanders off into the streets of London. He sees a very old man entering a pub and follows him. He buys the old man a beer and asks him questions on how life was before the Revolution. However Winston is unable to extract any information from this man, since his memory seems to be full of garbage and nothing useful. He then loses all hope on this old man and leaves the pub.
He continues wondering the streets, thinking about the question Was life better before the Revolution? in his mind, Wintson ends up in front of the shop where he had bought his diary.1
He enters the shop, convincing himself in case he get caught, he would just say he was looking for razor blades. He wanders around the shop and sees a coral, a heavy lump of glass that was made at least a 100 years ago. This paperweight appeals to Winston immediately due to it being belonging to a different age2 and its apparent uselessness.
Mr. Charrington informs Winston that there is another room upstairs, with just a few pieces and continues by informing that they will do with a light3 if they are going. Winston accepts this offer.
Once there, Winston notices the room is arranged as though meant to be lived in, with a very bid bed with a matress on it in the middle, a carpet on the floor, an arm chair in the corner and a fireplace. There also exists a picture in a frame, facing the bed4, which is fixed to the wall but can be unscrewed if Winston desires, we learn from Mr. Charrington. Winston thinks about maybe renting the place for a few days a week..
After a very short while, Winston realises that no telescreen exists in the room and can not help himself and murmurs. Mr. Charrington hears this and replies by saying
I never had one of those things. Too expensive. And I never seemed to feel the need of it, somehow.5.
On his way back to home, after leaving the shop, Winston sees the girl with the dark hair. She looks directly in the eyes of Winston and quickly walks away. Winston makes sure that she is spying on him, he gets very confident that she is either an amateur spy or an agent of Thought Police.
Once at home, Winston, thinking of O’Brien for whom the diary is being written, opens his diary.
We shall meet in the place where there is no darkness6 O’Brien had said to him. Winston tought he knew what was meant: it was the imagined future, which one would never see7.
1 Either Winston is blind to the Big Brother posters, or there are no posters in this neighborhood, since the novel does not mention Winston seeing any posters while he walks in the back streets of London. Maybe he does not want to see them?
2 Winston wonders a lot about how life was before the Revolution. Does this artifact make him go to the times he wonders about?
3 Is this a hint that Winston will be watched if he goes upstairs? Remember how the effects of the telescreen was portraited to the reader: You had to live in the assumption that, except in darkness, every moment was scrutinized.
4 A big frame, screwed to the wall, facing the bed..? We were warned several times we were being watched; something that must never be forgotten.
5 Is a telescreen something a person would need anyway? Or never needed one because..?
6 This was only in Winston ‘s dream actually. O’Brien had never said such thing to him for real. But Winston (consciously or not) alters the past when thinking about his memory. This statement seems to be significant for another reason: where there is no darkness. Does that mean, a place where you are watched always, and not even a smallest space exists where one can hide?
7 Deep down, Winston seems to have no hope.
Middle of the morning, Winston leaves his cubicle to go to the lavatory and on his way at the corridor, he sees the girl with the dark hair coming towards him. Just about the pass each other, the girl falls down and Winston offers is hand to help her. The girl slips a small piece of paper to Winston’s head, which Winston checks to see what it says a little later..
I love you.
Heads Up! The rest of the book is for you to read! My summary ends up here, I hope you enjoyed it!
For whom, for what, was that bird singing? No mate, no rival was watching it. What made it sit at the edge of the lonely wood and pour its music into nothingness?
Part 2, Chapter 2
This is me singing.. The best I can do.
If you kept the small rules, you could break the big ones.
Part 2, Chapter 3
Witnessed so many times..
In this game that we’re playing, we can’t win. Some kinds of failure are better than other kinds, that’s all.
Part 2, Chapter 3
Exactly what I feel about job interviews!
By lack of understanding they remained sane.
Part 2, Chapter 5
Sometime I just wish I could understand enough to go insane.
If you loved someone, you loved him, and when you had nothing else to give, you still gave him love. When the last of the chocolate was gone, his mother had clasped the child in her arms. It was no use, it changed nothing, it did not produce more chocolate, it did not avert the child’s death or her own; but it seemed natural to her to do it. The refugee woman in the boat had also covered the little boy with her arm, which was no more use against the bullets than a sheet of paper.
Part 2, Chapter 7
This is my favorite chapter in the book.
You will have to get used to living without results and without hope.
Part 2, Chapter 8
Suddenly, as one sometimes does with a book of which one knows that one will ultimately read and re-read every word, he opened it at a different place..
Part 2, Chapter 9
Feels very familiar.
‘She’s beautiful,’ he murmured.
‘She’s a metre across the hips, easily,’ said Julia.
‘That is her style of beauty,’ said Winston.
Part 2, Chapter 9
I lost my style of beauty, something I am hoping to find. Something I had once..