Nineteen Eighty-Four (Orwell)

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Summary of the Novel

Part 1

1984 London, capital of Runway I, Province of Oceania. Winston Smith, a 39-year-old, short and frail, long-time employee of the Ministry of Truth, walks up to his apartment. In the lobby hangs a poster depicting a huge, gruff face with bushy black eyebrows. "Big Brother is looking at you," reads the caption. In Winston's room, as in any other, there is a machine (a TV screen) mounted in the wall, working 24 hours a day, both for reception and transmission. The thought police overhear every word and watch every movement. From the window you can see the facade of his ministry with party slogans: "War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength."

Winston decides to keep a diary. This crime is punishable by death or hard labor camps, but he needs to get his thoughts out. It is unlikely that they will reach the future: the thought police will get to him anyway, a thought crime cannot be hidden forever. Winston doesn't know where to start. He recalls this morning's two-minute hate meeting at the ministry.

The main object of the two-minute hatred was always Goldstein, the traitor, the chief desecrator of party purity, the enemy of the people, the counter-revolutionary: he appeared on the TV screen. In the hall Winston met a freckled maiden with thick dark hair. He disliked her at first sight: so young and pretty were "the most fanatical adherents of the party, swallowers of slogans, voluntary spies and sniffers of heresy. O'Brien, a high-ranking member of the party, also entered the hall. The contrast of his manners and the physique of a heavyweight boxer was puzzling. In the back of his mind, Winston suspected that O'Brien was "not politically correct.

He recalls a dream he had had a long time ago: someone told him, "We will meet where there is no darkness. It was O'Brien's voice.

"Winston could not distinctly recall a time when the country was not at war...Officially the ally and the enemy never changed...The party says that Oceania has never made an alliance with Eurasia. He, Winston Smith, knows that Oceania was in alliance with Eurasia only four years ago. But where is this knowledge stored? Only in his mind, and it will soon be destroyed, one way or another. And if everyone accepts the lies imposed by the party ... then those lies settle into history and become truth.

Now even children denounce their parents: the offspring of Winston Parsons' neighbors are sure to try to catch their mother and father out of ideological intransigence.

In his office, Winston gets to work. He alters the data in the newspapers released earlier in accordance with today's assignment. Incorrect predictions, Big Brother's political errors, are eliminated. The names of undesirables were scratched from history.

In the dining room at lunchtime, Winston meets Syme, a philologist who specializes in Novoyasse. He says of his work, "It's wonderful to destroy words... Eventually we'll make thoughtcrime simply impossible--there will be no words left for it." "Sime will undoubtedly atomize," Winston thinks. "Can't say he's unfaithful... But there's always been some sort of low-grade whiff coming from him."

Suddenly he notices that the girl with dark hair who met him yesterday at the two-minute hate meeting is watching him intently.

Winston recalls his wife Catherine. They separated eleven years ago. Already early in their life together he realized that "he had never met a more stupid, vulgar, empty creature. Every single thought in her head consisted of slogans.

Smith believes that only the proles, the lowest caste in Oceania, who make up 85% of the population, can destroy the party. The proles don't even have TV screens in their apartments. "In all moral matters they are allowed to follow the customs of their ancestors."

"With the feeling that he is saying this to O'Brien," Winston writes in his diary, "Freedom is an opportunity to say that two times two is four."

Part 2

At work, Winston meets this freckled girl again. She stumbles and falls. He helps her up, and the girl slips a note into his hand containing the words, "I love you." In the dining room they arrange a date.

They meet outside the city, among the trees, where they cannot be overheard. Julia - that's the girl's name - confesses that she has had dozens of connections with party members. Winston enthuses: it is this kind of depravity, this kind of animal instinct that can tear the party to shreds! Their love embrace becomes a fight, a political act.

Julia is 26 years old, working in the literature department on a novel-writing machine. Julia understood the meaning of party puritanism: "When you sleep with a man, you waste energy; then you feel good and don't care about anything. They've got it down their throats." They want energy to be used only for party work.

Winston hires a room above Mr. Charrington's junk shop for meetings with Julia - there is no telescreen. One day a rat shows up from the hole. Julia is indifferent to it; Winston is disgusted by the rat: "There is nothing scarier in the world.

Sime disappears. "Syme ceased to exist; he never existed."

When Winston once let slip that there was a war with Eurasia, "Julia stunned him by nonchalantly saying that, in her opinion, there was no war. The rockets falling on London may have been launched by the government itself 'to keep people in fear.

Finally a fateful conversation with O'Brien takes place. He approaches Smith in the hallway and gives him his address.

Winston dreams of his mother. He recalls his hungry childhood. How his father disappeared, Winston does not remember. Even though food had to be shared between his mother, his sickly two- or three-year-old sister, and Winston himself, he demanded more and more food and got it from his mother. One day he took from his sister her portion of chocolate and ran away. When he returned, neither his mother nor his sister were there. After that, Winston was sent to the juvenile detention center, the "foster care center.

Julia decides to see Winston until the very end. Winston speaks of torture if revealed: "A confession is not a betrayal. What you said or didn't say doesn't matter, it's the feeling that counts. If they make me fall out of love with you, that's the real betrayal."

Winston and Julia come to O'Brien and confess that they are enemies of the party and thought criminals. O'Brien confirms that a conspiracy organization against the party, called the Brotherhood, exists. He promises that Winston will be given Goldstein's book.

On the sixth day of Hate Week, it is announced that Oceania is not at war with Eurasia. The war is with Oceania. Eurasia is an ally. "Oceania is at war with Eastasia: Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia." Over the course of five days, Winston works on destroying data from the past.

Winston begins reading Emmanuel Goldstein's The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism in a room in Mr. Charrington's shop. Later, Julia and Winston listen by the window as a female proletarian sings. "We are dead men," they take turns saying. "You're dead men," comes an iron voice from behind them. Julia is struck and taken away. A television screen has been hidden in the room. Mr. Charrington enters. "He looked like his old self, but it was a different man...It was the face of a wary, cold-blooded man of about thirty-five. Winston thought that for the first time in his life he saw before him, with complete certainty, a member of the thought police."

Part 3

"Winston didn't know where he was. He had probably been brought to the Ministry of Love, but there was no way of ascertaining that." Parsons appears in his cell, where the lights are constantly on. In his sleep he shouted: "Down with Big Brother!" and the daughter denounced him. Winston is left alone in the cell, O'Brien enters. "And they have you!" - Shouts Winston. O'Brien replies: "They've had me for a long time... Don't kid yourself. You knew it-always knew it."

The nightmare begins. Winston is beaten and tortured. He learns that he has been watched for seven years. Finally O'Brien appears. Winston is chained to some kind of torture instrument. O'Brien recalls a phrase Smith wrote in his diary: "Freedom is an opportunity to say that two times two is four"? He shows four fingers and asks Winston to say how many. Winston stubbornly repeats that there are four, although O'Brien increases the arrestee's pain with a lever. Finally, unable to endure the pain, Winston shouts, "Five!" But O'Brien says, "You're lying. You still think there are four... Do you realize, Winston, that whoever has been here does not leave our hands unhealed?"

O'Brien says the party only seeks power for its own sake. He is one of those who wrote the Fraternity book. The party will always be, it cannot be overthrown. "Winston, you are the last man. Your species is extinct... You are beyond history, you do not exist." O'Brien notes Winston's descent, but he objects, "I did not betray Julia." "Quite right. You didn't betray Julia," O'Brien agrees.

Winston continues to be locked up. Half-awake, Winston cries out: "Julia, my love!" Waking up, he realizes his mistake: O'Brien will not forgive him. Winston hates Big Brother. "To die hating them is freedom." Winston is sent to room one hundred and one. A cage of disgusting rats is brought to his face - this he cannot bear: "Give them Julia! Not me! Julia!" - he shouts.

Winston sits in the Cafe Under the Chestnut. He reflects on what happened to him, "They can't get into you," Julia said. But they could get in. O'Brien correctly said: "What is done to you here is done forever."

Winston met Julia already after the torture at the Ministry of Love. She had changed: "Her face had taken on an earthy hue, a scar stretched across her forehead to her temple... But that was not the point. Her waist, when Winston embraced Julia, seemed stony: like the corpse Winston had once had to pull out from under the rubble. Both confessed their betrayal to each other. Julia noted the most important thing: when a man cries out to be given to someone else instead of him, he's not just saying that, he wants it. Yes, Winston wanted her, not him, to be given.

There is a triumphant fanfare in the café: Oceania has defeated Eurasia. Winston wins, too - over himself. He loves Big Brother.