Winston knows that the party's take on history is largely fabricated. Even recent history is changed and manipulated: it is Winston's job to do so. Winston, however, is a man of intense intellect and wants proof. He wanders into the prole section...
Watch the illustrated video summary of the classic novel, 1984, by George Orwell.
In the novel 1984, author George Orwell presents a dystopian world where three totalitarian states—Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia—exist constantly at war with each other. The parties use technological advancements to keep their own members and the masses under careful observation and constant control. The novel's protagonist, Winston Smith, is a citizen of the super-state Oceania—an oligarchy of hierarchical rule under the principles of English Socialism known as Ingsoc.
The Party consists of Inner Party members, who are the ruling elite, and regular Party members, who are citizens of Oceania. The Party's leader, Big Brother, displays massive images of his kind throughout London. The images, complete with dark hair and a substantial mustache, often include the words "Big Brother is Watching You."
Winston works in the Records Department of the Ministry of Truth, which handles all Party literature and propaganda, altering or destroying documents from the Party once published. He often throws evidence into a “memory hole” where it is sucked into the building's internal furnaces. These actions ensure that the Party's version of the Past is never questioned. Such alterations often remove a person from history or make previously flawed predictions accurate.
The other three ministries are the Ministry of Love, which handles all Party prisoners; the Ministry of Peace, which handles war; and the Ministry of Plenty, which manages the production of Party goods. These state-indorsed products include Victory cigarettes, Victory gin, and Victory coffee, all of which are of extremely poor quality.
Winston has never quite accepted the Party and its ideological principles of Ingsoc. He believes in an unalterable past and finds Party politics reprehensible. Winston wishes for privacy, intimacy, freedom, and love but cannot openly express any of this for fear of death. Such thoughts constitute "thought crimes," which are highly punishable offenses resulting in arrest, imprisonment, torture, and often death.
When the book opens, Winston is writing in a diary inside his meager apartment where a telescreen transmits Party information and propaganda. This state-run spying device also allows the propaganda team, known as the “Thought Police,” to listen to and watch Party members in Oceania. Winston is fortunate to have a small nook in his apartment out of the view of the telescreen. There he writes his true memories in a diary purchased from an old junk shop, all related to his life and the violence of the Party which is quite common in the age of Oceania. Penning these thoughts is punishable by death if he is caught.
At the Ministry of Truth Winston sits through the daily “Two Minutes Hate,” which rails against Oceania's enemy, Eurasia. The propaganda is so powerful that the people around him begin shouting at the screen. Of course, Winston must join in to avoid suspicion.
Finding himself increasingly curious about the past, Winston returns to the junk shop where he bought his diary. The proprietor, a kind old man named Mr. Charrington, shows him a room above the shop and Winston imagines what it might be like to live there among old things, free from the constant presence of the telescreen.
One day, at the Ministry of Truth, a dark-haired girl named Julia, trips and falls to ground in front of Winston. As he helps here to her feet, she slips him a note declaring her love for him. Winston is astounded, but extremely excited by the possibility of a love affair. The affair must be secret, as the Party forbids any sort of sexual pleasure. In fact, sexual repression is a tenet of Ingsoc. The Party must approve every marriage, and it is unacceptable for a man and a woman to express any physical attraction for one another. All energy must be devoted to the Party.
With a great deal of effort to remain undetected, Julia and Winston finally meet in a secluded clearing in a wooded area. Winston learns Julia’s name for the first time. They discuss their beliefs regarding the Party then begin their love affair. At one point, Winston notices that the secluded spot she has led them to exactly matches a place he constantly sees in his dreams that he has termed the “Golden Country.” Winston and Julia are limited to public interactions and minimal conversations, but the two discover a mutual hatred of the Party and eventually fall in love. Winston believes that it is possible to overthrow the Party, while Julia is satisfied simply living a double life. Eventually, Winston rents the room above Mr. Charrington's flat where Winston and Julia meet in secret.
Another Party member that Winston often sees at the “Two Minutes Hate” suddenly takes on an important role in his life. He introduces himself to Winston as O'Brien at work one day under the pretense of discussing a new dictionary called” Newspeak,” the official language of Oceania. Its aim is to abolish thoughtcrime by simplifying vocabulary, so one’s range of consciousness is greatly limited. O'Brien gives Winston his home address, supposedly so he can come pick up an advanced copy of the new book. Winston takes the slip of paper with amazement. He knows that O'Brien has approached him because he is part of the underground movement. His true path towards rebellion has begun.
After some time, Winston and Julia visit O'Brien, an Inner Party member who has a lush apartment, a servant, and the freedom to turn off his telescreen. Winston renounces the Party and discusses his belief in the Brotherhood. O'Brien welcomes Winston and Julia into the Brotherhood and tells them that they must be willing to do anything to work towards its cause. They agree but say that they will not do anything that would prevent them from seeing each other ever again. Winston leaves after a final toast with O'Brien, in which Winston finishes O'Brien's statement, saying that they "will meet in the place with no darkness."
During “Hate Week,” the Party's enemy becomes Eastasia rather than Eurasia, and Winston must work long hours—sometimes even staying overnight—to "correct" all Party publications referring to war with Eurasia. The Party is at war with Eastasia and has always been at war with Eastasia. During Hate Week, a man brings Winston a briefcase then leaves. Inside is a book that Winston reads aloud to Julia later at Mr. Charrington's apartment. He reads about the history of Oceania, capitalism versus totalitarianism, and the main goals of the Party.
Winston and Julia eventually fall asleep. They wake hours later and stand at the window. Winston repeats his oft-stated phrase, "We are the dead." Suddenly, a voice coming from the wall echoes him, "You are the dead." There is a telescreen hidden behind a picture on the wall. They are caught. “The Thought Police” storm the room. Mr. Charrington walks in, and it becomes clear that he is a member of the “Thought Police.” He has been disguised as a kind old man, but is far younger than Winston imagined, with different hair and eyes. Winston and Julia are arrested, separated, and brought to the Ministry of Love.
While in a holding cell, O'Brien arrives. It becomes clear that he was never part of the underground movement, but actually works in the Ministry of Love. Winston is violently tortured at first and he is forced to admit to a litany of crimes he did not commit, including murder and espionage. Eventually, the torture becomes less violent and O'Brien takes over. He begins to break Winston's spirit, telling him that his memory is flawed and that he is insane. Winston's discussions with O'Brien dwell on the nature of the past and reality and reveal much about the Party's approach to those concepts. The Party, O'Brien explains with a lunatic intensity, seeks absolute power, for power's own sake. This is why it will always be successful, is always right, and will ultimately control the entire world.
Winston cannot argue; every time he does, he is faced with obstinate logical fallacies, a completely different system of reasoning that runs counter to all reason. Winston believes in a past that never existed and is hounded by false memories. To be cured, Winston must overcome his own insanity and win the war against his own mind. Little by little, O'Brien shows Winston, with the use of electric shock machines, beatings and starvation, the way of the Party. He forces Winston to accept that if the Party says so, two plus two equals five.
Broken to the core, Winston finally submits to his re-education. He is no longer beaten, is fed at regular intervals, is allowed to sleep (though the lights never go out), and begins to regain his health. Although he seems to accept the Party’s reality, Winston still clings to the last remaining kernel of himself and his humanity: his love for Julia.
O'Brien attempts to force Winston to betray Julia. He takes Winston to Room 101, containing the worst thing in the world, which is different for everyone. For Winston, "the worst thing in the world" is a rat. Winston is tied to a chair, and O'Brien begins to attach a mask-cage contraption containing huge, hungry, carnivorous rats to his face. Winston feels a desperate, deep, panicked fear. He cannot take it, and finally screams for O'Brien to put someone else in his place—anyone, even Julia. O'Brien has succeeded.
Winston, a damaged, changed, empty shell of a man, is released into the world. In his new life, he sees Julia once, by chance, but they are no longer in love. Each betrayed the other, and prison changed them powerfully. There is no hope for their relationship. Winston obtains a somewhat trivial, meaningless job that pays surprisingly well. He spends his time at a cafe drinking Victory Gin and playing chess.
In the final pages of the novel, we find Winston in his regular seat at the café. He suddenly recalls a very happy day in his childhood spent playing board games with his mother and little sister. Upon hearing that Oceania has successfully repelled Eurasian’s war advances, he stares reverently into the eyes of a man with dark hair and a big mustache. Winston cries. He has finally completed the rehabilitation he started in the Ministry of Love: he loves Big Brother.