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.

Chapter 3 Summary

Brief Summary

Julia and Winston leave the countryside because it is getting late and she has a Junior Anti-Sex League meeting. Julia details their departure before heading back to the main road. They are unable to meet for love-making again as both of them have busy schedules, but take advantage of the crowded streets to snatch installments of conversation. A bomb drops during one of their street conversations, nearly killing them both. When they finally do make love again, it is one month later in the ruins of a church. They are able to meet there a second time, but rather than make love, they talk for several hours about the Party and Winston's wife. He tells her the story about the opportunity he had to kill his wife while the two of them were on a group hike. Julia does not understand Winston's reason for not taking advantage of the perfect opportunity to get rid of a woman he clearly never truly loved.

Detailed Summary

Julia and Winston prepare to leave the country. She explains to him that they will be unable to come back to this meeting place for another month. Her businesslike demeanor assures Winston that she is capable of handling the logistics of returning to the city. Julia also arranges the time and location of their next meeting four nights hence. She leaves the clearing first because she has to attend a Junior Anti-Sex League meeting at nineteen-thirty. They kiss passionately before she heads back through the bushes. Unfortunately, they never return to the country and only meet once more to make love in a ruined church during the following month. Julia and Winston manage talking in installments on the crowded streets in the evening, never touching or looking at one another. During one of their evening walks, a bomb lands near them and the impact throws them to the ground. Winston believes Julia is dead until he pulls her tightly to him and realizes he is kissing a warm body.

Other meetings are either interrupted by a patrol or canceled entirely because their schedules do not coordinate. Julia has many weekly meetings with the numerous organizations of which she is a member and they both have long work weeks. Julia convinces Winston to keep the small rules so that they can break the big ones. He enrolls in part-time munitions work one night a week at her encouragement.

The next time they meet in the ruined church, they speak for hours while constantly keeping a look out for the patrols. Winston discovers that she also enjoyed her work and particularly loves using her hands. He also learns that being as young as she is, Julia has no memories of anything before the Sixties. She does remember her grandfather who died when she was eight and who frequently discussed the days before the Revolution. Julia has always had an active social life from hockey to gymnastics. Her first love affair was at age sixteen with a man who killed himself in order to avoid the Thought Police. She never heard of the Brotherhood and doubts of its existence just as she doubts that an organized revolt against the Party will never succeed. Julia wishes to keep her life simple by breaking the rules she can and adhering to those that she couldn't successfully break.

Winston shares the story of his marriage to Katherine though avoiding to discuss a possible marriage between he and Julia. It is too remote and improbable to consider. Julia knows the type of woman Katherine was because she received the same sex education growing up. She believes that the Party prohibits sex in order to keep citizens from feeling happy because IF you're happy inside yourself, why should you get excited about Big Brother and the Three-Year Plans and the Two Minutes Hate and all the rest of their bloody rot? Winston agrees with her and his mind returns to Katherine who he knows would have reported him to the Thought Police for his unorthodox thoughts. The heat is what put her back in his mind. He tells Julia of an incident that happened when he and Katherine were out for an afternoon hike. They lost the group and found themselves on the edge of an old quarry. Katherine was uncomfortable with being away from the group, but Winston enjoyed the solitude. He noticed bright red floral tufts growing out of a crack just over the cliff. He encouraged her to take a look. As she was leaning over the cliff, it occurred to him that he could push her into the quarry and no one would hear her scream. Julia wants to know why he didn't take advantage of the opportunity to kill Katherine. Winston tells her that he prefers a positive to a negative. In this game that we're playing, we can't win. Some kinds of failure are better than other kinds, that's all (135). Julia doesn't understand Winston's explanation so she shrugs her shoulders and draws a map in the dust on the floor.

Chapter 3 Analysis

Orwell uses this chapter to show the striking dichotomy between Julia and Winston whose similar tendencies to passivity are manifested in different ways. Julia is young, healthy, and energetic. Winston, on the other hand, is old, sickly, and lethargic. She is intently focused on the present such that she takes each day as it comes. She also has no memories of life before the Revolution, something that is difficult for Winston to believe. Winston lives in a past he vaguely remembers while obsessing over a future he will never see come to fruition. His obsession with history and its creation speaks to his high level of introspection and intellectualism. Winston continuously contemplates the various levels of meaning inherent to the Party and its doctrine. One can almost say that doing so has become a second job for him. Julia, though she is not stupid, certainly lacks the intellectual capacity of Winston. More important to note, though, is her disinterest in understanding the Party and its motivations. Her lack of memories is partly responsible for her disinterest; however, her rather superficial understanding of the Party is largely the reason. She believes their sole motivation is to prevent Oceanians from enjoying themselves so that their energy can be expended on fanatical activities in support of Party doctrine (e.g. the Two Minutes Hate).

Although Julia has only scratched the surface of the Party's complexity, the discoveries she has made allows her to live her life in relative freedom. Her strategy is simple: follow the big rules so that you can break the small rules. This presents another interesting aspect of her character. She acknowledges the brutality the Party's doctrine but does not criticize it; she doesn't use Newspeak but also does not lament the limitations it places on language and thought; she recognizes the absurdity of activities like the Two Minutes Hate but she doesn't believe in the existence of Goldstein and the Brotherhood. As stated above, she is using a very simple, somewhat passive approach to maneuvering an oppressive system.

On the other hand, Winston who knows far more about the Party's covert operations still has not discovered a way to peacefully live within the system. One can interpret his difficulty as a byproduct of his obsession with the past and the future. By focusing on the two eras he cannot directly change, he cannot develop the coping skills needed to live peacefully in the present. Unlike Julia, Winston has failed to understand the limited impact he can have on the carefully constructed world of the Party. He also does to recognize his own passive attitude toward it despite his outspokenness against it. His failure to kill Katherine while on the hike is an example of such passivity. The perfect moment was in Winston's hands and he let it slip between his fingers. This is reminiscent of the awkward moment in the prole section when he saw Julia upon leaving Mr. Charrignton's. He knew the threat she posed to him; he recognized the opportunity to kill a potential enemy; he conceived a plan to kill her; yet in the end he did nothing. His cryptic explanation for Julia is that he knows it's impossible to win and some kinds of failure are easier to accept than others. The following questions may provide a more accurate reason for his passivity: what types of failure are acceptable to Winston?; Is Winston merely romanticizing his failure as he has other aspects of his life?; Will Winston ever reach a point where he has the will and ability to forcefully take that which he desires?

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