1984 Summary

Table of Contents

1984 Summary – Part I Chapter 1

The opening lines of 1984 introduce readers to Winston Smith, Orwell’s main protagonist, as he returns to his dismal apartment in Victory Mansion on a gritty, cold, early spring afternoon. As Winston moves through his cabbage-smelling building he barely notices a poster of Big Brother, “an enormous face, more than a meter wide: the face of a man of about forty-five, with a heavy black mustache and ruggedly handsome face” (p. 3). Plastered all over London, posters of Big Brother and Party slogans “War is Peace,” “Freedom is Slavery,” and “Ignorance is Strength,” constantly remind citizens that their country, Oceania, belongs to the omnipotent, omnipresent Party and that citizens must obey Party rules or face the Thought Police.

Upon reaching his apartment, Winston cautiously begins to write in his new diary. The telescreen in his apartment can see and hear everything that he does, so Winston forces himself to stay calm as his mind races with anxiety. Winston recalls the incident at his work, The Ministry of Truth, that prompted him to buy the diary. Earlier that morning, Winston had made eye contact with O’Brien, a colleague and member of the Inner Party (Winston belongs to the Outer Party), during the Two Minutes Hate. Winston finds this incident deeply significant because not only is it dangerous to make eye contact with people who could be spies, but Winston senses that he and O’Brien share a common hatred of the Party. Winston hopes to make contact with O’Brien again in the future to see if, in fact, O’Brien shares his beliefs.

Winston’s memories of the morning encounter reveal a lot of information about the world in 1984. Orwell introduces readers to Newspeak, the language developed and employed by the Party, and to Emmanuel Goldstein, a mythic Party traitor who is rumored to lead The Brotherhood in a revolt against Big Brother. Orwell also introduces readers to Julia, whose name Winston does not yet know. A member of the Junior Anti-Sex League, Julia appears dangerous to Winston because she behaves like a “thoughtcrime” spy. Having introduced all of the main characters and symbols-Winston, O’Brien, Julia, Big Brother, and Goldstein-Orwell closes the chapter with Winston committing a dramatic thoughtcrime by writing “Down with Big Brother” in his diary.

1984 Summary – Part I Chapter 2

A harsh knock on the door interrupts Winston as he scribbles thoughtcrimes in his diary. For a moment, Winston believes that the telescreen and the Thought Police have already caught him so he is relieved to find his neighbor, Mrs. Parsons, at his door. As Winston enters Mrs. Parsons apartment to help her with her sink, he meets the Parsons children, both Junior Spies. The children harass Winston, calling him a Thought Criminal, a Goldstein, and a Eurasian spy. The Parsons family represent the average Outer Party, Oceania family. They dedicate themselves fully and without question to the Party and, if provoked, would not hesitate to turn Winston over to the Thought Police.

When Winston returns to his apartment, he returns to his diary and his thoughts of O’Brien. Although he cannot explain why Winston connects O’Brien with a dream that he once had. In his dream, Winston “that he was walking through a pitch-dark room. And someone sitting to one side of him had said as he passed: ‘We shall meet in the place where there is no darkness’” (p. 26). The telescreen interrupts Winston’s reverie with news about the war against Eurasia and an announcement of the impending chocolate ration. The chapter closes with more references to Newspeak, Party slogans, and INGSOC, the “scared principles” upon which the Party was built. Reflecting on INGSOC, Winston feels lost: “He felt as though he were wandering in the forests of the sea bottom, lost in a monstrous world where he himself was the monster. He was alone. The past was dead, the future was unimaginable. What certainty had he that a single human creature now living was on his side” (p. 27).

1984 Summary – Part I Chapter 3

Winston dreams about his mother and his childhood. His dreams contradict themselves. At first, he sees his mother and sister sinking into dark waters as he emerges into the light. His sister and mother die so that Winston can live. Suddenly, Winston finds himself in a beautiful meadow meeting an enticing woman whose demeanor flouts the entire Party system. Abruptly, Winston’s telescreen breaks his dream and prompts him to do his Physical Jerks (morning exercise). As Winston painfully executes his morning routine he struggles to remember his childhood. Winston thinks that the year is 1984 but there is no way to tell for sure. He remembers a time before Big Brother but he does not know the exact year that Big Brother took power. Winston also remembers a time when Oceania had not been at war with Eurasia but since the Party said that Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia, he and his comrades had to accept it as fact.

1984 Summary – Part I Chapter 4

This chapter introduces readers to Newspeak and to Winston’s job at the Ministry of Truth. At his job, Winston receives instructions to change the details of articles previously printed in the local Times newspaper. Winston retrieves an article on the war with Eurasia in which Big Brother predicts a Eurasian offensive in North Africa. The predicted offensive actually occurred in South India so Winston changes the speech given by Big Brother to show that Big Brother predicted a South Indian offensive all along. Winston then “corrects” facts about national production issued by the Ministry of Plenty and eliminates positive references to a soldier, Mr. Withers, from a past Times edition because, according to Winston’s instructions, Withers had become an “unperson.”

1984 Summary – Part I Chapter 5

Winston joins his friend, Syme, for lunch in the Ministry of Truth’s cafeteria. Syme and Winston discuss Syme’s progress writing the latest definitive Newspeak dictionary. Excited by his project, Syme exclaims, “We’re getting the language into its final shape-the shape it’s going to have when nobody speaks anything else. When we’ve finished with it, people like you will have to learn it all over again. You think, I dare say, that our chief job is inventing new words. But not a bit of it! We’re destroying words-scores of them, hundreds of them, every day. We’re cutting the language down to the bone. The Eleventh Edition won’t contain a single word that will become obsolete before the year 2050” (p. 51). Syme scolds Winston for clinging to Oldspeak: “You haven’t a real appreciation of Newspeak, Winston.Even when you write it you’re still thinking in Oldspeak. I’ve read some of those pieces that you write in the Times occasionally. They’re good enough but they’re translations. In your heart you’d prefer to stick to Oldspeak, with all its vagueness and its useless shades of meaning. You don’t grasp the beauty of the destruction of words” (p. 52). Syme elaborates on the benefits of Newspeak and the destruction of old language

1984 Summary – Part I Chapter 6

This chapter opens with Winston writing in his diary about an encounter with a prostitute. Orwell devotes this chapter to describing the Party’s rules on sex and marriage. Winston remembers his wife, Katherine, and wonders if she is still alive. Katherine was loyal to the Party and was not interested in sex with her husband unless they intended to make a baby because she believed that procreation was their “duty to the Party.” To the Party, Katherine would have been a model wife because they did not want men and women to form bonds with each other that the Party could not control. In fact, the Party considers desire alone (even for one’s spouse) a thought crime punishable by death.

1984 Summary – Part I Chapter 7

Winston writes in his diary, “If there is hope it lies in the proles” (p.69). He believes that the proles, who make up 85% of Oceania’s population, could overthrow the Party if they had proper leadership. However, this is unlikely to happen. Winston describes proles as “unconscious.” Orwell illustrates Winston’s perspective using a scene in which the proles begin to riot. Excited, Winston thinks that the proles are finally revolting. As he approaches the riot, Winston finds that the proles are fighting over flimsy pots and pans. Again, Winston returns to his diary: “Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot be conscious” (p. 70). Winston thinks of Goldstein and the Brotherhood. He remembers major revolts and mass executions. In particular, he recalls the arrest and trials of three traitors: Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford. Winston remembers seeing the three men in at the Chestnut Tree Caf several years after the men were released by the Thought Police. The men sat motionless in the caf as if they were corpses. Winston wondered what torture could have caused the men to lose their souls.

1984 Summary – Part I Chapter 8

Winston ventures into a prole neighborhood in an effort to find someone old enough to tell him about history before the Party. After dodging a rocket bomb landing in the prole quarter, Winston finds an old man in a local pub and tries to engage him in conversation. The old man is drunk and feisty. He has little recollection of his past and the memories he does share reveal nothing about Oceania’s history. Disappointed, Winston strolls away from the pub and finds himself at the small shop where he bought his diary. The proprietor of the shop, Mr. Charrington, strikes Winston as a kind and honest man. They chat amicably as Winston browses through the antiques in the shop, looking for anything that existed before the Party. Winston finds a glass paperweight that contains a colorful piece of corral. Winston buys the object and leaves the store. Walking back to his own neighborhood, Winston encounters the girl from his office who Winston thought was a spy. Terrified, he imagines killing the girl but instead he rushes back to his apartment.

1984 Summary – Part II Chapter 1

Back at work, Winston again encounters the girl that he met in the prole quarter the night before. This morning, however, the girl has her arm in a sling and stumbles as she approaches Winston. Instinctively, Winston bends to help the girl who, without notice, slips a piece of paper into his pocket. Worried that the telescreens will catch him reading the note, Winston waits until he returns to his cubicle and has begun working again before he opens the paper. The note reads, “I love you” (p. 109). No longer suspecting that the girl is a spy, Winston tries several times unsuccessfully to sit next to her in the cafeteria. When they finally manage to sit together, the girl instructs Winston to meet her at Victory Square. Extremely curious, Winston arrives at Victory Square early, meets the girl, and agrees to meet her again later in the country.

1984 Summary – Part II Chapter 2

Although the journey is fraught with danger, Winston eagerly ventures to the countryside to meet his new girlfriend. The beautiful scenery that greets him outside the city reminds readers of Winston’s dreams of the Golden Country. Winston meets the girl in a serene clearing where they quietly introduce themselves. The girl, Julia, does not care the Winston is old, in poor health, and probably married. As she wrapped her arms around him, Winston was overcome with pride and warmth-experiencing human contact for the first time in years. Julia tells Winston about herself. She is an Outer Party member, like himself, but she actively rebels against the Party in small ways. For example, she enjoys sex with Party members and she purchases banned products such as chocolate and coffee on the Black Market. Julia’s philosophy: as long as you pretend to be loyal to the Party in word and deed, you can revolt against the Party in other, less noticeable ways. Winston finds Julia’s animal instincts hopelessly attractive, however, their relationship was still politically motivated: “Their embrace had been a battle, the climax a victory. It was a blow struck against the Party. It was a political act” (p. 128).

1984 Summary – Part II Chapter 3

Julia and Winston struggle to see each other. Over the next several months, they find it too dangerous to meet so they settle with passing each other in the streets and making love once in the belfry of an abandoned church. At the church, Winston learns more about Julia and tells Julia about his wife, Katharine. Essentially, Julia just wants to enjoy herself but she knows that the Party will do everything it can to stop her. So, outwardly, she appears steadfast in her loyalty-she is a member of the Junior Anti-Sex League and she contributes a lot of time to Party campaigns such as Hate Week preparations. Before they part again, Winston admits to Julia that he wishes he had killed his wife when he had a chance. Although they express their rebellious ideologies in different ways, Winston and Julia share the same values and beliefs about the Party.

1984 Summary – Part II Chapter 4

Winston rents the room above Mr. Charrington’s shop in the prole quarter. Although he knows that renting the room is a rash and dangerous move, his desire to meet Julia and to have time away from telescreens (prole neighborhoods do not usually have telescreens) overwhelms him. Winston and Julia re-unite in the rented apartment. Julia brings real sugar, coffee, and tea that she had purchased on the Black Market. For the first time, the lovers feel secure and spend a blissful afternoon together until Winston sees a rat in the room. Winston reacts violently to the rat, “Of all the horrors in the world-a rat!” (p. 145) Julia calms Winston’s nerves and promises to plaster the hole where the rat had emerged. His love for Julia grows and he imagines that their relationship is like the glass paperweight he had purchased from Mr. Charrington, “The paperweight was the room he was in, and the coral was Julia’s life and his own, fixed in a sort of eternity at the heart of the crystal” (p. 148).

1984 Summary – Part II Chapter 5

Syme, Winston’s colleague who had been writing the Newspeak dictionary, disappears-he becomes an unperson. Winston had known that the Party would destroy Syme because Syme was too smart and understood too much. Winston met Julia in their secret apartment six times during June as bombs fell on the surrounding neighborhood and the proles united in protest against Goldstein. During their illicit encounters, Winston and Julia share their philosophies on rebellion and the Party. “In the ramifications of Party doctrine she had not the faintest interest. Whenever he began to talk of the principles of Ingsoc, doublethink, the mutability of the past and the denial of objective reality, and to use Newspeak words, she became bored and confused and said that she never paid any attention to that kind of thing. One knew that it was all rubbish, so why let oneself be worried by it? She knew when to cheer and when to boo, and that was all one needed” (p. 157).

1984 Summary – Part II Chapter 6

“It had happened at last. The expected message had come. All his life, it seemed to him, he had been waiting for this to happen” (p. 157). Winston encounters O’Brien who invites him to his home under the pretense of looking at a Newspeak dictionary. O’Brien, a member of the Inner Party, gives Winston his home address. Winston believes that O’Brien could be a member of the Brotherhood but he also realizes the danger awaiting him should he accept O’Brien’s summons. “He had the sensation of stepping into the dampness of a grave, and it was not much better because he had always known that the grave was there and waiting for him” (p. 160).

1984 Summary – Part II Chapter 7

Winston emerges abruptly from a painful dream about his mother. Winston remembers his mother sacrificing her food rations so that he could eat more. He remembers how selfish he had been as a child; how he had stolen chocolate from his dying sister’s hands and never saw his family again. Julia, stirring beside him in bed, tries to comfort Winston. They agree that someday they will be caught by the Thought Police and torn apart. While the thought of losing Julia kills Winston, he realizes that the Party can never make him stop loving her: “They could not alter your feelings; for that matter you could not alter them yourself, even if you wanted to. They could lay bare in the utmost detail everything that you had done or said or thought; but the inner heart, whose workings were mysterious even to yourself, remained impregnable” (p. 168).

1984 Summary – Part II Chapter 8

Winston and Julia arrive at O’Brien’s home expecting to join the Brotherhood. O’Brien invites the couple into the study, turns off his telescreen, and proceeds to ask them to profess their loyalty to the Brotherhood. Winston and Julia declare that they will commit the following acts for the Brotherhood: give their lives, commit murder, commit sabotage that will kill innocent people, betray Oceania to foreign powers, corrupt the minds of children, distribute habit-forming drugs, encourage prostitution, disseminate venereal disease, lose their identity, and commit suicide. However, they refuse to dissolve their relationship for the cause. O’Brien seems pleased by this answer. He gives the eager couple further instructions and information about the Brotherhood and he tells Winston that he will pass his a secret book in due time.

1984 Summary – Part II Chapter 9

Winston roams the streets as crowds celebrate Hate Week. As Winston watches a fiery orator proclaim that Oceania was now at war with Eastasia, an unidentifiable man casually switches briefcases with him. Inside the briefcase, Winston finds the book, “The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism,” by Emmanuel Goldstein. Dizzy with anticipation, Winston struggles to contain his excitement over the prospect of finally working for the Brotherhood. Winston waits impatiently for an opportunity to read the book. At last, he finds a moment to take the book to his apartment in the prole quarter. Winston begins reading chapters one, “Ignorance is Strength,” and three, “War is Peace.” The book details the rise of Oceania, Eastasia, and Eurasia. The book also outlines how the Inner Party uses the principles of INGSOC to control people and maintain power. However, as he reads, Winston still feels as if he understands how the Party controls Oceania but not why it takes such measures. Julia joins Winston in the apartment but seems uninterested by the book. Winston tries to read portions of the book to his lover but the couple soon falls asleep together.

1984 Summary – Part II Chapter 10

Julia and Winston wake peacefully. They set about making coffee and listen to a prole woman singing outside their window. This tranquil scene, however, is violently disrupted by an “iron voice” that states, “You are the dead” (p. 222). The lovers quickly realize that the Thought Police have caught them. They find a telescreen behind an old painting on the wall and Mr. Charrington reveals his true identity-a Party spy. Thought Police surround Winston and Julia, wrench them apart brutally, and take them into custody separately.

1984 Summary – Part III Chapter 1

Winston finds himself imprisoned in the Ministry of Love. Orwell introduces readers to the horrific but efficient conditions of the prison where telescreens is Winston’s cell monitor his every move. Winston meets several strange characters in jail including a fat old woman who acts as if she could be his mother, and an old colleague, Ampleforth. Dazed and confused Ampleforth and Winston discuss their situation until guards take Ampleforth to Room 101. After Ampleforth leaves the cell, Parsons, Winston’s former neighbor moves in. Vaguely proud, Parsons tells Winston that his young daughter turned him over to the Thought Police. Guards take Parsons to Room 101 and send in a frail, emaciated man to share Winston’s cell. Winston tries to give the frail man a piece of bread but when the man accepts the food, the telescreens command him to drop the bread. Promptly, a guard approaches to take the man to Room 101. The man cries, “You’ve been starving me for weeks. Finish it off and let me die. Shoot me. Hang me. Sentence me to twenty-five years. Is there somebody else you want me to give away? Just say who it is and I’ll tell you anything you want. I don’t care who it is or what you do to them. I’ve got a wife and three children. The biggest of them isn’t six years old. You can take the whol lot of them and cut their throats in front of my eyes, and I’ll stand by and watch it. But not room 101!” (p. 240) Winston momentarily believes that O’Brien will save him but soon realizes that he has been deceived. O’Brien, who had never been a member of the Brotherhood, enters Winston’s cell and orders a guard to beat him.

1984 Summary – Part III Chapter 2

Winston’s brutal torture begins. At the hands of O’Brien, Winston endures constant beatings, electric shock treatment, and psychological abuse. Winston fights valiantly to endure the excruciating pain but he is powerless. Slowly, as he administers increasingly painful shocks, O’Brien reveals that he had watched Winston for seven years and that he was taking special care to re-train Winston. Winston hates and loves O’Brien at the same time. The process of loving his torturer is part of his conversion to INGSOC. Like a tutor preparing a pupil for a test, O’Brien quizzes Winston on the history of Oceania and the meaning of subjective reality. He tries to force Winston to believe that two plus two equals five because that is what the Party says. As the intensity of the electric shocks increase, Winston begins to lose his mind. Slowly, he begins to concede that O’Brien could be holding up five fingers when, in fact, he only held up four fingers. As the brainwashing torture overcomes Winston, O’Brien continues to educate his pupil on the myth and power of Big Brother. Winston asks O’Brien to tell him about Room 101. O’Brien responds, “You know what is in Room 101, Winston. Everyone knows what is in Room 101” (p. 263).

1984 Summary – Part III Chapter 3

“‘There are three stages in your reintegration,’ said O’Brien. ‘There is learning, there is understanding, and there is acceptance. It is time for you to enter upon the second stage” (p. 264). In this chapter Winston finally learns why the Party acts as it does. O’Brien explains that the Party seeks power for its own sake. O’Brien states, “The more the Party is powerful, the less it will be tolerant; the weaker the opposition, the tighter the despotism. Goldstein and his heresies will live forever. Every day, at every moment, they will be defeated, discredited, ridiculed, spat upon-and yet they will always survive. This drama that I have played out with you during seven years will be played out over and over again, generation after generation.That is the world we are preparing, Winston.You are beginning, I can see, to realize what that world will be like. But in the end you will do more than understand it. You will accept it, welcome it, become part of it” (p. 271). Winston tries to resist. He argues with O’Brien that he is still a man and that there will always be men who will revolt. In response to Winston’s argument, O’Brien forces Winston to view himself in a mirror. The torture has turned Winston into a savage, beaten shell. He no longer looks human. To further illustrate his point, O’Brien yanks Winston’s last teeth out of his jaw and pulls clumps of hair from his scalp. “We have beaten you, Winston. We have broken you up. You have seen what your body is like. Your mind is in the same state” (p. 277).

1984 Summary – Part III Chapter 4

O’Brien’s torture ends momentarily. The guards feed Winston three meals a day for several months as Winston regains his strength and continues his evolution toward total loyalty to Big Brother. To his captors, Winston seems to make rapid progress as he writes “Freedom is Slavery,” “Two and two make five,” and “God is power.” One night, however, Winston reveals that his mind has not fully succumbed to the brainwashing as he emerges from a dream screaming Julia’s name. Immediately, O’Brien returns to Winston’s cell and orders him to Room 101

1984 Summary – Part III Chapter 5

O’Brien escorts Winston to Room 101. He tells Winston that Room 101 represents the worst thing in the world for each person. He explains, “The worst think in the world varies from individual to individual. It may be burial alive, or death by fire, or by drowning, or by impalement, or fifty other deaths. There are cases where it is some quite trivial thing, not even fatal.In your case.the worst think in the world happens to be rats” (p. 286). O’Brien taunts Winston with a cage full of grotesque rats. He describes a macabre mask that will fit over his face and allow the rats in the cage to eat him alive. As O’Brien moves the mask over Winston’s face, the rats just inches away, Winston screams, “Do it to Julia! Do it to Julia! Not me! Julia! I don’t care what you do to her. Tear her face off, strip her to the bones. Not me! Julia! Not me!” (p. 289) In victory, O’Brien pulls the cage away from Winston’s face.