1984 Study Guide

1984

1984 by George Orwell

Nineteen Eighty-Four is an allegorical dystopian novel about the dangers of police states, groupthink, and surveillance of the public. It follows the hapless government employee Winston Smith as he dreams secretly and fruitlessly of rebellion against the all-powerful Big Brother and the Inner Party. Smith's England has been renamed Airstrip One, its citizens stripped of their individuality, its world locked in a constant state of manufactured war. It is a grim vision of the future intended as a commentary on the policies of England at the time of its writing.

Chapters 1-2 Summary

Chapter 1 Summary

Brief Summary

On his way to the lavatory one morning, Winston finds the young, dark-haired girl walking towards him with her arm in a sling. Just before passing him, she trips and falls on her injured arm. While Winston is helping her up, she passes him a note that tells him she loves him. He is agitated the rest of the day and attempts to distract his mind from the young girl's motives by spending the evening at the Community Center. After considering his options for arranging a meeting with her, he decides he will have to catch her alone in the canteen during lunch. When he finally gets her alone, they arrange a meeting in Victory Square where she gives him detailed directions to another meeting place in the country.

Detailed Summary

While he is on his way to the bathroom, Winston encounters the dark-haired girl he believes has been spying on him, noticing that her are is in a sling. As they are about to pass each other beneath the telescreen in the hall, she trips and falls directly on her injured arm. She cries out in excruciating pain. Despite his suspicion and distrust, Winston helps her get up and inquires if she experienced further injury. With a denial and a thank you, the young girl continues to walk down the passage. Winston is left feeling a slightly startled because she slipped him a note as he helped her up from the floor. He slips the note into his pocket and continues to the lavatory.

When he returns to his cubicle, he tosses the paper among the others on his desk. He waits for five minutes before reading it so as not to draw suspicion. During these five minutes, Winston considers the two possible messages the girl could be sending him: either it is the Thought Police telling him that his unorthodoxy has been discovered, it is the underground organization the Brotherhood that the Party claims is led by Goldstein, or it was notice of impending death. After waiting eight minutes, Winston reads the note in which is written I love you (108). Stunned, he reads it a second time before throwing it into the memory hole. For the rest of the morning, Winston is agitated and distracted. He cannot even concentrate on a lunch time conversation he and Parsons have about Hate Week. The afternoon is easier for him because he is able to immerse himself in a difficult alteration.

To help keep his mind of the young black-haired girl, he goes to the Community Center after work until twenty-three hours. In bed, shielded by darkness from the telescreen, he thinks about how will he will be able to arrange a meeting with her. He gives up the idea that she was a spy and replaces it with thoughts of her naked body as he had seen it in his dream. Unable to follow her home, write her a letter, or without knowing where in the Fiction Department she worked Winston resolves to attempt to sit with her in the canteen during lunch. A week later, he finally runs into her in the lunch line where she sits alone at her usual table; however, he is called to join some comrades at another table before being able to join her. They are in the canteen together again the following day and he is bale to join her. They quickly and inconspicuously make plans to meet in Victory Square at nineteen hours. When the time arrives, he sees her but must wait until a larger crowd has formed before approaching her. A convoy of captured Eurasian prisoners draws enough people to the square to allow Winston and the girl to get closer. As they stand together watching the passing prisoners, she gives him detailed directions to a meeting place for Sunday afternoon. Before leaving each other, she grabs and squeezes his hand.

Chapter 2 Summary

Brief Summary

On a Sunday afternoon, they meet in a heavily wooded area no more than one hundred kilometers outside of London. Winston arrives early and picks a bouquet of bluebells for the young-girl before she arrives. She warns him not to speak until they are deep enough into the woods where no microphones can be hidden. They exchange personal information as well as initial impressions each has of the other. Winston finally learns that her name is Julia. Having believed that she was a loyal Party member, Winston is surprised by her behavior and fails to respond to her sexually. It isn't until Julia tells him that it is safer for her to pretend she subscribes to Party orthodoxy than to publicly rebel and that she often arranges similar rendezvous that Winston is aroused. They make love, an act Winston believes is a political act against the Party.

Detailed Summary

On Sunday afternoon, Winston is in the country after a long and pleasant train ride. He has arrived early and decides to pick a bouquet of bluebells for the girl. The girl arrives while he is lost in the picking of the flowers. As he looks up at her, she warns him not to speak and leads him through the bushes and down a wooded path. They don't speak until they reach a clearing far from the lane for fear of a hidden microphone. He looks into her brown eyes and admits he did not know their color. He then disparages himself by telling her that I'm thirty-nine years old. I've got a wife I can't get rid of. I've got varicose veins. I've got five false teeth (120). She casually dismisses his remarks as unimportant. They kiss but Winston is in too much awe to become aroused. They finally exchange names and he discovers that the young girl is Julia. Julia already knows Winston's full name. He admits to his one time hatred and suspicion as well as his compulsion to commit violence against her and, again, she casually responds with a laugh.

They share a piece of black market chocolate while Winston wonders at her interest in him because of her impenetrable front as a devout Party member. She tells him that she Always yells with the crowd...It's the only way to be safe (122). When Winston tells her that he is ready to sleep with her, Julia stands in front of him and tore off her clothes just as she had done in his dream. He is astonished by her brazenness and asks how many other times she has done this. Julia admits that these rendezvous are regular occurrences. This arouses him on even more and prompts him to tell her I hate purity, I hate goodness. I don't want any virtue to exist anywhere. I want everyone to be corrupt to the bones (126). Feeling that it is the only weapon he has against the party, he wants nothing more than the animal instinct from Julia. He did not solely want love because No emotion was pure, because everything was mixed up with fear and hatred. Their embrace had been a battle, the climax a victory. It was a blow struck against the Party. It was a political act (126).

Chapters 1-2 Analysis

Chapter 1 should be read as a more direct statement about one of the main themes of the novel: the deception of appearances. Winston discovers that the young, black haired girl is not the devout Party member that she appears to be. Her act was so convincing that until this chapter he believed she was an aspiring spy working for the Thought Police. However, as with everything else in Oceania, something different lays beneath the surface. The note she hands him is also deceptive in that it doesn't simply request a secret rendezvous; rather it declares her love for Winston. This is a subversive act in and of itself given the Party's mission to destroy all emotional exchanges between individuals. Winston is not as surprised by the discovery of her duplicity a he is by the possibility that another person shares is thoughts of unorthodoxy. For this reason, the young girl becomes as important to Winston as O'Brien. In fact, the reader can consider her to be more important than O'Brien because she is a woman. After his experience with Katherine, Winston had abandoned the hope that there were any subversive women, to whom he could relate, remained in Oceania. Excited by the young girl's seeming impurity, Winston makes every attempt to speak with her alone. What is interesting about Winston's sudden initiative is that he is taking a significant risk in seeking her out. Although the young girl has already made a reckless move in giving him the not, Winston is not certain that she isn't a spy. This is further evidence of Winston's tendency to romanticize both the past and the future.

Winston finds himself living his dream of the Golden Country in Chapter 2 which serves a two-fold purpose. The first purpose speaks to the sexual implications inherent to the Golden Country. It is the location that he has his first sexual encounter with Julia, as he had dreamed. She defiantly tears off her clothes and stands before Winston inviting him to do what he pleases with her body. Another fantasy is fulfilled by this meeting. As a response to the Party's distortion of sexual relations, Winston has continued to seek elicit encounters with women who are outside of the Party system. Julia's brazen proclamation of her love for sex combined with her unapologetic admittance to having had many similar encounters satisfies Winston's desire to corrupt the Party system. It should be noted, though, that the corruption for which he strives is not so much the sex act as it is the complete submission to the basic animal instinct of lust: essentially the desires of the id rather than the moral ideals of the collective ego.

The second purpose speaks to the role of nature in the novel. The location of the meeting presents a striking contrast to London and Air Strip One proper. As the reader observes throughout the text, Air Strip One is a contrived province in every sense of the word. The food is artificial, the entertainment is artificial, interpersonal relationships are artificial, etc. The Golden Country, on the other hand, contains the beauty of a nature the Party endeavors to destroy. As mentioned above, this natural beauty includes the very basic instincts of man. Unfortunately, the structure of Oceanic society forces nature to become a symbol of and weapon for debasement or Party doctrine and Party members.

Chapter 2 also gives the reader another reason for Winston's sudden infatuation with Julia. She brought real chocolate with her to their rendezvous (her bearing of authentic food items because a recurring event). The chocolate reminds him of the unpleasant period of time before his mother disappeared, yet the blissful nature of his and Julia's encounter acts a sort of redemption and escape for Winston. He too can alter the meaning of the past if and when it suits him.

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