1984 summary – Part 1 Chapter 1

Part 1 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.