Summary of 1984 by George Orwell

Summary of 1984 by George Orwell

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What do you think a normal human being needs to have a good, hearty life? I believe that you need the freedom of thought, the rights of love, the right to express yourself on paper, and freedom of speech. In Orwell’s world of totalitarianism you don’t have any of these freedoms. You are to obey the party and do nothing but obey the party. The only way of temporarily escaping totalitarianism is through conspiracy and lies. The characters in 1984 give us readers an idea of how INGSOC ruins lives and makes the very idea of conspiracy hopeless.

Winston Smith is your “average Joe” in Oceania. He struggles with how to determine what is true or not. Winston is a fatalist because, “no matter what he does, he believes that the party will eventually kill him. At the beginning of the book, Winston buys a diary from a junk shop, which is against the party’s will because he buys the diary he is committing a crime against the party. Simply by purchasing the diary made no difference if he wrote in it or not he would still be killed. On pg. 19 of the book Orwell wrote, “Whether he wrote DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER, or whether he refrained from writing it, made no difference. Whether he went on with the diary or whether he did not go on with it, made no difference. The thought police would get him the same.” This shows Winston’s sense of fatalism.

While in the shop where Winston bought the diary, he spies a piece of coral enclosed in glass. He immediately takes an interest in it and decides to buy it. This piece of coral symbolizes his ability to connect to the past.

Winston’s first inclination once he sees Julia following him is to kill her, and smash her head on the cobblestone. Winston thinks to himself, “I could keep on her track till they were in some quiet place, and then smash her skull with a cobblestone. The piece of glass in my pocket should do the job.” By smashing the piece of glass into Julia’s head Winston would be destroying two things. One is Julia and his hopes of having a decent life but his obsessive desire to know the truth and the second is the piece of coral which is Winston’s way of linking the past to the present. Winston is afraid that Julia could be part of the thought police.

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However, once Julia gives Winston her note, saying, “I love you,” Winston is immediately sent into a state of bewilderment. Because Winston had relied on his fatalist traits, he suspected that Julia was part of the thought police. However his fear that Julia might have actually been part of the thought police is the fear that INGSOC relies on to rule the people of Oceania.

Ever since writing the words DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER in his diary Winston believes that he is doomed. He believes that the thought police will eventually find him and kill him for “thoughtcrime.” This allows Winston to take unnecessary risks like having a love affair with Julia and renting out a room in Mr. Charrington’s shop. This sense of fatalism will eventually lead to the defeat of his rebellion.

Winston and Julia had a love affair, not only because they loved each other but because it was against the party, a form of rebelling against the Party. Winston says to Julia, “I hate purity, I hate goodness. I don’t want any virtue to exist anywhere. I want everybody to be corrupt to the bones.” This is an example of Winston’s frustration towards the party. The real answer to the lack of rebellion is the fear by which the party governs.

The telescreens represent the fact that the Party is always watching. There is no where that you are not being watched or not being heard. Therefore the Party instills yet another drop of fear into the people. The telescreens show how the inner party only uses the technology for their benefit, not for improving the civilization of the outer party. Winston believes that he is safe in only a few places: his nook in his house, the forest with Julia, Mr. Charrington’s Room, and in his mind. However out of the four places, he is only semi-safe in one of them. That is his alcove. As it turns out, O’Brien finds out about all of these places and finds ways of monitoring him. Telescreens are the key way of doing that. As a result the telescreens are the most visible symbol of the fact that BIG BROTHER IS ALWAYS WATCHING.

On pg 220 Winston wonders, “It was curious to think that the sky was the same for everybody, in Eurasia or Eastasia as well as here. And the people underneath the sky were also very much the same-everywhere, all over the world, hundreds or thousands or millions of people just like this, people ignorant of one another’s existence, held apart by walls of hatred and lies, and yet almost exactly the same-people who had never learned to think but were storing up in their hearts and bellies and muscles the power that would one day overturn the world.” I believe that this shows that Winston has fantasized what his perfect world would be. He has set his mind on striving to accomplish in making this “perfect world” Winston has a determination that only sparks more hatred and frustration with Big Brother.

Once Julia and Winston are found in the room above Mr. Charrington’s shop, they are arrested. From behind the picture of St. Clements church emerges a telescreen. The picture shatters, representing a part of the past. One of the arresting officers knocks over the paperweight with the coral surrounded with glass in it. These events completely shatter Winston’s ability and attempts to try and connect with the past. From that moment on, Winston sees no more hope in connecting with the past again.

When Winston is brought into his jail cell, he is immediately in pain from starvation. Winston thinks on pg. 226, “What he longed for above all were a few breadcrumbs in the pocket of his overalls……..he slipped his hand into his pocket, “Smith!” said the voice “hands out of your pockets!”” This represents how the party controls the people and the way they maintain them on the brink of life.

On pg. 245 Winston meets O'Brien in the place where there is no darkness. O'Brien uses a dial to determine how much pain is inflicted upon Winston if needed. This shows how the party controls by pain. O’Brien also remarks on pg. 245, “You are afraid.” to Winston. This signifies the Party’s ability to also control by fear.

O’Brien says to Winston, “We control all minds, all records, then don’t we control the past.” Winston says to O'Brien, “You don’t control all minds, you have not controlled mine.” O'Brien replies, “In actuality, you have not controlled your mind.” Then how do we know what is true or not? Once again the question that Winston is pondering over comes into the picture, Does the past exist concretely in space? Is there a world of solid objects no its records and human memory the party controls all memories but how? The answer to that question is training, learning, understanding and acceptance are the answer.

Winston wants to be equal to have the right to use to the goods that the inner party has. He has a sense that Big Brother is power hungry and only builds up more hate towards him. As described in Orwell’s other book Animal Farm, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” This means that, although Big Brother is looked at as their leader, he is really just a person like every one else in the party and can be defeated just like a normal human being.

Julia is described by Winston as “rebel from the waist down” on pg. 156. She is not interested in the future of the party and what will happen after they die. She only cares about her and Winston and not getting caught. As said, “Party beats all, love cannot withstand it. There is a possibility of doing normal things, there are probably other people rebelling in some way, but the party beats all.” There seems to be no communication outside of what the party limits them to have. The red sash that Julia wears around her neck makes it seem like she is proud of the party, she fits in perfectly. She is forced to fit in and forced to be like everyone else, even though the frustration and the anger inside of her is building up like a volcano ready to spew lava. Once she met Winston, she let it all out and gave a sigh of relief. She is waltzing around like she is invulnerable to the fear that the party tries to govern her by. Julia is the only person that Winston knows that he can tell all of the things he wants to say. Julia is the only concrete evidence that Winston has of a known rebellion. Julia wants to make the best of her life and she uses sex and affection to do it. Julia doesn’t give a damn about politics, just about herself, she is a hedonist. The only things that Julia likes are sex and the game.

O'Brien is the bad guy of the novel, he is the character from whom you get a surprise from in the end. The way that O'Brien was able to capture Winston and eventually contradict all of his hopes of reconnecting to the past was by trickery. He tricked Winston into thinking he was a member of the Brotherhood, Winston is delighted to hear that there is finally someone on his side, only to be proved wrong later when O'Brien starts inflicting colossal amounts of pain and fear into Winston in search of answers and reasons. Again this shows that the party is controlling by pain and fear. Again the horrors of INGSOC are expressed when O’Brien used physiological manipulation to weasel out the truth from Winston. This is also the tactic that the party uses to force the people to think that there has always been at war with one country. This makes it hard for the people to understand what has happened in History and what has been going on. Once Oceania is at war with another country all of the sudden the Party has been at war with the other country since beginning of the party’s existence. This is the way the party wants it to be.

When O'Brien walks into Winston’s cell Winston exclaims, “They got you too!?” O'Brien replies, “They got me a long time ago.” This may perhaps symbolize that O'Brien had once been a rebellious type. This may also symbolize that O'Brien has been with the party since the beginning of his life. We do not know for sure. He did say on page 266 that he had helped to collaborate and write the book. This could mean that he might have once been like Winston.

The mind control that O'Brien uses to heal Winston is psychotic. On page 249 in the novel O'Brien asks Winston how many finger he is holding up. Winston replies, “Four.” Now O'Brien asks Winston, “If the party says that the number of fingers that I am holding up is five, how many finger am I holding up?” Winston replies, “Four.” O'Brien sends pain shooting into him at the most extreme levels imaginable. After the pain has ceased, Winston doesn’t care how many fingers he has up. All he cares about is not dying. This is the way you would feel in a totalitarianism society.

Because the party believes that every party member should be a hard worker use newspeak words and do everything he can to enhance the party this is the kind of person that the party recognizes as a model citizen, a model citizen like Comrade Ogilvy. Comrade Ogilvy flashed on the telescreen. A war hero who died despite his valiant efforts was to be commemorated for the day by Big Brother and the party. He had an immaculate and heartbreaking story, as described on page 47, “at the age of three he refused all toys except a drum, a submachine gun, and a model helicopter. At six—a year early, by a special relaxation of the rules--he had joined the spies, at nine he had been a troop leader. At eleven he had denounced his uncle to the thought police after overhearing a conversation which appeared to him to have criminal tendencies. At seventeen he had been a district organizer of the Junior-anti-sex league. At nineteen he had designed a hand grenade which had been adopted by the ministry of peace and which, at its first trial, killed thirty one Eurasian prisoners in one burst…” Big Brother ended the presentation with a speech about his loyalties to the party.

Comrade Ogilvy never existed before Big Brother gave that presentation, he is just an icon for the people to follow as a role model. On page 48, Winston thinks, “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 exists in the past, and when once the act on forgery was forgotten, he would exist just as authentically, and upon the same evidence, as Charlemagne or Julius Caesar.” This is yet another model of how the party uses mind control to control the people.

Syme is a very smart man who works with Winston at the Ministry of Truth. He is always on top of his game at work and never fails to meet the party’s expectations. The only problem with Syme is the fact that he might be a little too smart. The Part controls the people with the fear. This fear is not no more than in the people it is in the party itself. From O'Brien to Big Brother, there is fear that one day someone or some group will find it in them to start a potential party destroying rebellion. This is why the party uses so much fear to control the people.

The party fears Syme and his vast quantity of knowledge. They dread he will become to smart for the party to deal with. Because of this fear Syme is vaporized. Had the party not vaporized Syme, there would be the possibility that Syme would figure out what the party is really up to and spread the word. The Party could not deal with with this happening so they put an end to it while they still can.

Can you ever envision life lacking the freedom to think what you want, the freedom to talk liberally to your best friend without somebody watching, or even the modest things in life, like chocolate and coffee? Could you live without knowing what the actual truth is? This is how you would be living if the United States was a Totalitarian society. There would be nothing but fear in your body. You would be forced to stay quiet and keep to yourself. You will be forced to live in the depths of despair. As George Orwell did when he decided to put pen to paper and compose this beautiful novel. If you don’t comply with the party, you won’t be living for much longer.
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