can anyone tell me why he is so afraid of rats?
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Probably for the same reason that people fear spiders or bats--they're just . . . ughghghghg!!
The important thing is that he cannot tolerate them, and O'Brien knows this and takes advantage of this fear in Room 101.
even if rats were dear to you and you loved them very much you would not want to have very hungry ones in a cage strapped to your face.
I am reading it for the second time and have not got to this place in the book yet where this happens.
It is an insightful observation that we have this weak place in our minds that can be used in this way, quite chilling really!
In a society in which practically any normal form of communication is made impossible, concepts like 'Love' or 'Affection' have no natural outlet.
Instead 'Big Brother' is the only possible focus for love in Oceania.
He is like the plus-pole of a battery- with Goldstein being the minus-pole.
Goldstein's figure up on the Telescreen is not just the focus of hatred- but the means by which people receive their daily fill of hate: The fuel which runs the machinery of power.
The reason why Winston observes that it is possible to shift one's hate from Goldstein to Big Brother lies in the fact that he already has taken one tiny step towards becoming a follower of Goldstein:
He has bought the old diary- from an antiques-shop whose owner is a member of the Thought-Police.
It is the Thought-Police which generates Goldstein's followers, in the same way in which Goldstein himself is a creation of the rulers.
The reason why Winston is so afraid of rats is quite simply the fact that while the reader is presented with the illusion of a 'rebel' who acts in defiance of an inhuman world, he is still very much a part of that inhuman world.
When he is asked if he is willing to throw acid into a child's face for the sake of supporting Goldstein, he replies with "Yes".
That means that he is willing to be just as inhuman as the system he pretends to fight- while at the same time, he is doing exactly what the rulers expect him to do:
By becoming one of Goldstein's followers, he helps to create the minus-pole of the battery.
He is absolutely horrified of rats- because he acts like a laboratory-rat running through a maze...
With O'Brien being the mad scientist who makes him run.
The rats in front of his face become like a mirror-image of himself.
He does not like the image he sees there...
And so he acts like a true rat:
"Not me...Do it to her...Do it to Julia!"
I believe that Winston is so afraid of the rats because in his childhood when his mother and sister disapear he comes back to the house and all he sees are rats. Rats remind him of his past scary experiences.
"Anyone can rat...
But it takes a certain amount of ingenuity to re-rat!"
(Sir Winston Churchill)
Rats in Winston's life are really his greatest phobia, they for one thing might have eaten his mother and his sister, but also even if you possibly might like rats very much, you possibly might not very much want them very hungry eating up (on) your face, I think if I was in Winston's place, I think I should have tried first to eat up their beeks, but then if that was impossible for me I should have screemed out from fear, I think I like rats, but I really am not all that sure cause, it is known for example that some kinds of rats might easily attack human beings, and it is also known that rats cary a lot of microbes, bacterias and viruses with them!