Winston sits in a holding cell with white porcelain walls, no windows, and a high ceiling. He isn't sure where he is, but assumes that it is the Ministry of Love. The room is filled with light, and there is a low humming sound that Winston assumes is coming from the air system. A bench runs around the outside of the room, there is a telescreen on each of the four walls, and a lavatory pan sits in one corner. Winston is hungry, and has lost track of how long it has been since he has eaten, or even since he was arrested. Perhaps a day, perhaps two. He tries to sit as still as possible to avoid the wrath of the voices behind the telescreen, but after remembering he might have a piece of crust in his pocket, he succumbs to temptation. Immediately, the voice behind the telescreen yells, "Smith! 6079 Smith W.! Hands out of pockets in the cells!" Winston complies.
Before this cell, Winston was in another, far dirtier, cell, with at least ten to fifteen people in it at any given time. Most were proles or common criminals, and a few others were Party political prisoners. The common criminals were far less afraid. They fought against the prison guards, wrote on the walls, yelled back at the telescreen, and blatantly ate the food they had smuggled in, while the Party prisoners sat in terrified, obedient silence. Interestingly, the guards seemed to treat the common criminals more leniently. Winston gathered from what he heard in his cell that the work camps were "all right...so long as you had good contacts and knew the ropes," but the worst jobs in the forced labor camps were always given to political prisoners.
Winston observed the prisoners as they came and went. At one point, the guards brought in a very large woman, kicking and screaming, and unceremoniously dumped her across Winston's lap. She sat up, swore at the guards, and apologized to Winston by saying, "I wouldn't 'a sat on you, only the buggers put me there. They dono 'ow to treat a lady, do they?" Next, she vomited, and then, once recovered, put her arm around Winston and asked his name. Her last name was Smith as well, and she noted that is was even possible that she was his mother. Winston was struck by the possibility, but did not pursue the matter. None of the other prisoners spoke to Winston, but he overheard whispered, fearful conversations regarding Room 101.
In the white-walled cell, Winston thinks about what is going to happen to him. He imagines being beaten and tortured, and screaming for mercy. He rarely thinks of Julia, and finds it hard to fix her image in his mind. He wonders if O'Brien knows he has been arrested, and remembers him saying that even though the Brotherhood cannot ever help a prisoner, it might be able to smuggle him a razor blade. Winston hopes for the razor blade, imagining how quickly he might be able to end his life. Winston loses track of time completely, recognizing that with the lights always on, the Ministry of Love truly is "the place with no darkness." Suddenly, Ampleforth is thrown into the cell. He is dirty, shoeless, and clearly in a poor state. The two men talk, and Ampleforth says that he although he is not sure, he thinks he has been arrested because he left the word "God" in a Kipling poem. There was simply no other way to rhyme the couplet. They continue talking, but the telescreen quickly silences them. The guards return for Ampleforth, and he is sent to Room 101. Some time passes, and the guards return again, this time with Tom Parsons. Winston is shocked: he never expected Parsons to be arrested. Parsons is visibly upset, and begins asking Winston if they will shoot him. He expresses confidence that he will receive a fair trial, and hopes that his loyalty to the Party will keep his labor camp sentence short. Winston asks Parsons whether he is guilty, to which Parsons replies, "Of course I'm guilty! You don't think the Party would arrest an innocent man, do you?" He then tells Winston how his seven-year-old daughter listened at his bedroom door at night and heard him saying "Down with Big Brother!" in his sleep. He absolutely believes that he is guilty of saying it, and is proud of his daughter for doing her duty to the Party in reporting him. Parsons then uses the lavatory in a loud and obscene manner, smelling up the room for hours to come.
Parsons is eventually taken out, and other prisoners come and go. Some are relegated to Room 101, and Winston begins to notice that a few people tremble in great fear upon hearing those words. The guards bring in a man so emaciated that it seems he is being starved to death. One man offers him a piece of bread, but the telescreen quickly shouts him down, "2713 Bumstead J.! Let fall that piece of bread!" He does as he is told. Guards burst into the room, and Bumstead is punched so hard that he is sent flying across the room. Two halves of a dental plate fall out of his mouth, and blood gushes from his face. He pulls himself up to a sitting position, and Winston notices that his mouth is extremely swollen and bruised. All the other prisoners sit quietly. A guard opens the door and tells the starving man to go to Room 101. He immediately gasps and protests, his face turning a shade of green, begging for anything but Room 101, even telling the guard he would rather they cut his wife's and children's throats than take him there. In a panic, he looks around the room, finds Bumstead, the man who tried to give him a piece of bread, and argues that the guards should take him because he is a true enemy to the Party. Finally he throws himself to the ground, grabbing a leg of one of the benches and howling, begging not to go to Room 101. Ignoring his pleas, the guards struggle with him, break his hands free, and escort him from the room while all the other prisoners sit quietly and watch.
Many hours pass. Winston is desperately hungry and thirsty, and his thoughts of Julia and O'Brien wane. The doors open, and O'Brien walks in. Winston thinks O'Brien has also been captured, but O'Brien explains, "The got me a long time ago...You knew this Winston. Don't deceive yourself. You did know it - You have always known it." The guard with O'Brien hits Winston in the elbow, and he buckles in pain. The guard laughs, and Winston realizes that in the face of pain, there are no heroes. Nothing is worse than physical pain.
Winston wakes, and realizes that he is lying on a cot. O'Brien and a man with a hypodermic syringe are standing next to him. He does not know how long he has been unconscious, and has no concept of how long he has been undergoing torture. It might have been months, weeks, days, or only hours. He has been interrogated and forced to admit to a long list of crimes, and has been regularly and viciously beaten, suffering deep bruises and fractures all over his body. Sometimes, he knows, he screamed for mercy before anyone even hit him, and other times he convinced himself he would wait to confess until the pain became unbearable. After some time, the beatings became less frequent. When his questioners became Party intellectuals, he was forced to suffer face slapping, ear ringing, and standing on one foot for long periods of time. The complicated stream of questions could go on for hours, catching him in self-contradictions and leading him to a state of nervous fatigue. Sometimes they were nice to him, and spoke to him as though he were an equal, but then they would turn on him quickly. To gain their approval, he confessed to any and everything he could think of, including the assassination of Party members and various traitorous acts.
Throughout all of this, O'Brien is always nearby, guiding and defining the extent of Winston's torture. Winston finds himself strapped into a chair with O'Brien at his side, sitting next to a dial and a lever. O'Brien turns a lever, and Winston is overcome with pain. O'Brien continues talking to Winston, warning him that the dial goes all the way up to 100. He explains to Winston that he is taking the trouble to truly work with him to correct his mental derangement and defective memory. He begins by asking Winston what country Oceania is at war with, and what country Oceania has always been at war with. He then moves on to the newspaper clipping Winston found regarding Jones, Aaronson and Rutherford. He produces a copy of the photograph, places it in a memory hole, and explains that it never existed. He forces Winston to understand that the past does not exist in space, and therefore only exists in records and in human memory. In controlling these two things, the Party controls the past. Winston argues that the Party has not controlled his memory, and O'Brien counters that in fact, Winston has not controlled his own memory. He is at the Ministry of Love because he "failed in humanity, in self-discipline...would not make the act of submission which is the price of sanity." O'Brien explains, "Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else."
O'Brien begins forcing Winston to destroy this last vestige of his independent spirit. He works to show him that if the Party says that two plus two makes five, it does. Throughout this entire exchange, O'Brien tortures Winston with the dial, turning it up to 60, and perhaps beyond. Finally, O'Brien releases the dial and puts his arm around Winston. In his heart, Winston still has not admitted that two and two can actually make five. O'Brien begins again, the needle travels higher, and Winston becomes increasingly desperate. O'Brien reveals to Winston that people are brought to the Ministry of Love not to force them to confess, but to cure them. He discusses how past regimes tortured and killed their enemies, but did not work to change them. In contrast, the Party converts and changes their enemies, making them "one of their own" before killing them. He tells Winston, "We will crush you down to the point from which there is no coming back...Never again will you be capable of ordinary human feeling...friendship, or joy of living...courage or integrity."
O'Brien orders a new form of punishment similar to electroshock therapy while continuing his line of questioning. Finally, he is successful in convincing Winston that his memory is flawed. At the end of the session, when Winston is almost able to actually see five fingers where there are only four, O'Brien reveals that he likes Winston, because his mind reminds him of his own, except that Winston's mind is deranged. He then allows Winston to ask him questions, and Winston asks about Julia. She has betrayed him, and every part of her independence has been destroyed. Winston asks if Big Brother exists. O'Brien answers that he does, in the way that the Party does, but that he will never die. Winston asks if the Brotherhood exists, and O'Brien says that Winston will never know the answer to that question. Winston asks what is in Room 101. O'Brien answers, "You know what is in Room 101, Winston. Everyone knows what is in Room 101."
Winston is again tied down, flat on his back. O'Brien mentions Winston's diary entry, in which he wrote "I understand how; I do not understand why." In reference to this, O'Brien mentions Goldstein's book and reveals that he collaborated in writing it. Winston asks if it is accurate, and O'Brien replies that the book's notion of enlightenment and proletarian rebellion is nonsense. The Party can never be overthrown: "The Party is forever." After explaining this fact, O'Brien asks Winston why the Party exists. Knowing the correct answer, but not believing it, Winston replies, "You are ruling over us for our own good." O'Brien turns the dial, and explains to Winston that the Party "seeks power entirely for its own sake...We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power." He compares the Party to the German Nazis and Russian Communists, but argues that the Party is far superior because it has no illusions of equality. The Party embraces power for the sake of power, not for any other cause. In utter submission, individuals can become part of a greater, immortal whole: the Party. As such, "Freedom is Slavery...[and] Slavery is Freedom." O'Brien continues, explaining that the Party defines all, including the laws of nature, and explains that before man, there was no world. Without human consciousness, nothing exists. Winston argues that dinosaurs and ancient beasts lives before humans, and O'Brien counters that 19th-century scientists made those stories up. Man is the center of the universe, the earth is the center of the universe: "Outside man there is nothing."
O'Brien pauses this philosophical discussion to return to the main issue of power over man, which is achieved through making men suffer. Progress will work towards more pain, more hatred, and more destruction. Art, science and literature will disappear. There will be no way to distinguish beauty from ugliness. O'Brien describes "a world of victory, triumph after triumph after triumph: an endless pressing, pressing, pressing on the nerve of power." Winston disagrees, claiming that such a society would die of its own accord. He tells O'Brien that the Party will never overcome "the spirit of Man." O'Brien counters that if Winston is a man, he is the last one on earth. Winston admits feeling superior to O'Brien, at which point O'Brien plays a tape revealing the irony of Winston's statement in which Winston agrees to do anything in support of the Brotherhood, including murder, espionage, etc.
O'Brien forces Winston to look at his naked body in a mirror. Winston is horrified to see his gray, weak, bowed body. He is emaciated, has gone partially bald, is extremely dirty, and carries innumerable scars. He can barely recognize himself. O'Brien ridicules his appearance, showing him how he is rotting away, and even pulling out one of his remaining teeth. Winston breaks down, and O'Brien assures him that he can escape from this hell if he so chooses. Winston refuses to accept defeat, claiming that he still has not betrayed his love for Julia. Winston asks when he will be shot, and O'Brien says it might be a long time, but that in the end, it will happen.
Part Two describes both the beginning and the end of Winston and Julia's affair. Their arrest separates them for the entirety of their time at the Ministry of Love. In this way, Winston's only true act of rebellion is over. Winston's torture proves to be as horrific as he always imagined. He easily concludes that physical pain is the worst thing in the world, and entirely unbearable. During the process of torture, O'Brien quickly gains control over him and begins to penetrate his mind through deep psychological manipulation, assisted by electroshock therapy. In the hands of O'Brien and the Ministry of Love, Winston cannot stop the process of his psychological and physical destruction.
O'Brien is a pivotal character throughout this section, and it is here that we finally gain insight into his thus far mysterious mind. He is an ardent Party supporter and believes deeply in the purity of his mission and work. Interestingly, Winston's fatalistic outlook continues in prison, as he acknowledges that somewhere deep down, he probably knew all along that O'Brien was a Party supporter. In truth, Winston knew he would be arrested before he met with O'Brien, and therefore the meeting neither increased nor decreased his risk. Perhaps Winston did imagine O'Brien was a Party supporter, but wanted to trust him and believe in the Brotherhood so badly that he disregarded these thoughts. Winston's dream, seven years ago, of O'Brien's voice telling him they would "meet in the place where there is no darkness" led Winston to obsess over O'Brien and gave him hope that he might be a source of support. O'Brien becomes Winston's hero; even in his torture sessions he is calmer when O'Brien is near. As O'Brien points out, Winston once wrote in his diary that it did not matter whether O'Brien was on his side or not, because he felt the man understood him. Ironically, Winston seems to love O'Brien, even throughout the torture process, and as such comes to believe the Party propaganda he has so long rebelled against.
In this section, Winston finally gets an answer to his question, "Why?" O'Brien reveals to him that the Party pursues power for the sake of power, and for no other goal. This is why the Party is able to define the present, the past, and every facet of society. Here, we also see how the Party has broken from Socialism and the Revolution to embrace totalitarian rule. This is Orwell's greatest frustration with totalitarian regimes. Orwell watched as supposedly Socialist revolutions broke down into totalitarian regimes, specifically in the case of the Stalinist Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Hitler's Nazi Germany. These regimes spoke of their goal of improving life for the common man, yet in actuality simply sought power. In 1984, the Party admits to its goal of power for power's sake. This totalitarian society, efficient in quelling all dissent and individuality, and in defining itself and the world, is the ultimate dystopia.
Winston's torture process reveals the degree of violence prisoners are subjected to. They are starved, beaten, and deformed; brought to their weakest point, and then finally given salvation. When wholly broken, the prisoner's spirit and mind will finally give in to manipulation. Winston is almost physically destroyed in the process of his torture, but only after he sees the shell he has become does he submit to O'Brien. O'Brien becomes his savior in the next chapters, allowing him to eat, heal and grow strong. As his savior, O'Brien greatly influences Winston's mind and thought processes, guiding him to the ways of the Party and removing all sense of individuality and independence.