Why was Winston released?

O'Brien repeatedly tells him that he will be shot once his brain is cleaned. In the final page, Winston says, 'The long-hoped-for bullet was entering his brain.' It doesn't make sense that he should be released into the normal world, because Winston is supposed to be an 'unperson'. Is the whole final section an illusion before he is shot?

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The bullet entering Winston's brain is complete psychological control. He is an unperson, he was broken, and the party had won. In other words, Winston is brain dead....... he was not physically shot.

By the end of the novel Winston loves big brother, the bullet is psychological, he cannot stop the bullet, just as he could not stop his love for big brother. O'brien broke him physically, emotionally and mentally. Winston wanted to be shot as he could die hating big brother, however he will now die loving big brother and knowing that he betrayed himself and Julia, a far more painful ending for him than the instant death that the bullet offered.