1984 Study Guide


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 6-8 Summary

Chapter 6 Summary

Brief Summary

Winston has a brief encounter with O'Brien in the same hallway he and Julia spoke for the first time. O'Brien tells Winston that he has been hoping to have an opportunity to speak with him about a recent article he's written in Newspeak. O'Brien senses that Winston has a scholarly interest in the new language based on his elegant use of it. He also makes a comment referring to Syme and his work with Newspeak, but claims he has forgotten his name. Winston is invited to come to O'Brien's house one evening in order to borrow his advanced copy of the Tenth Edition of the Newspeak dictionary. After giving him his address, O'Brien leaves Winston in the hallway feeling both joy and dread.

Detailed Summary

Winston encounters O'Brien in the same hallway where he has first spoken with Julia. O'Brien addresses him in the eloquent and courteous manner that Winston feels sets him apart from other Inner Party members. O'Brien tells Winston that he has been hoping to find a moment to speak with him. He recently read an article Winston wrote in Newspeak and wants to discuss what appears to be Winston's scholarly interest in the language. O'Brien then makes an inadvertent comment about Syme, though without mentioning his name, and a recent conversation he had with him about the current work being conducted on Newspeak. He tells Winston that he noticed two now obsolete words in his article and asks if he has seen the Tenth Edition of the Newspeak dictionary. Winston informs him that he has not as it is not yet distributed. O'Brien offers Winston the opportunity to borrow his advanced copy. He gives him his address and instructs him to come when he has a free evening. After this brief exchange directly in front of the telescreen, O'Brien walks away. Winston finds himself simultaneously feeling hope for the conspiracy of which he has dreamed as well as a sense of foreboding that this is the beginning of his end.

Chapter 7 Summary

Brief Summary

Winston has another dream about his mother causing him to wake up in tears next to Julia. It reminds him of the dream in which she is sinking away from him as he watches from above. He wants to talk to Julia about his mother and how he always felt responsible for her death; however, Julia is too tired. He remembers the last time he ever saw his mother and sister just after stealing his sister's portion of the chocolate ration. He realizes the Party has made human emotions and relationships obsolete thus turning all Party members into animals. He tells Julia that the proles are the only real humans left. He knows that soon he and Julia will be arrested and forced to confess. However, he believes that the true betrayal would be allowing the Thought Police to force them in denying their love for each other.

Detailed Summary

Winston wakes up crying. Julia asks him if anything is the matter, but Winston cannot describe the dream from which he as awoken. It was about an arm gesture his mother made that was then made by the Jewish woman to protect a small boy from gunshot in a news film thirty years later. He reveals to Julia that up until this dream, he believed he was responsible for his mother's death. Memories of the days following his father's disappearance flood his mind. He, his sister, and their mother were living in the poor section of the city without enough food to eat. Even though his mother and younger sister were starving, Winston always demanded more food from his mother. He felt as though it was his right to do so. On a day that the chocolate ration had been issued, Winston demanded the entire piece from his mother. She refused to give him his sister's piece, telling him not to be greedy. He wrenched it from the little girl's hand and fled the house. When he returned home, neither his sister nor his mother was there. He never saw them again. The two had left everything behind, leaving Winston uncertain as to what happened to them.

The dream reminds him of the one he had in which they are sinking in a ship as he watches.

He wishes to speak about his mother with Julia, but she is drifting in and out of sleep. He

quietly thinks about human emotions individual relationships and the Party's eradication of

their value. He remembers the evening when he kicked a severed hand into the gutter right

after a bombing. He realizes that the proles are more human than Party members. He tells

this to Julia who does not understand. He goes on to tell her that the best thing for them

to do is to end their affair and never see each other again. They will be arrested and forced

to confess to their crimes as well as betray each other by admitting they are one another's

accomplice. Julia responds If you mean confessing... we'll do that right enough.Everybody always confesses... (166). However, Winston does not consider confessing

to be a betrayal. Rather, allowing the Thought Police to make them stop loving each other

is the betrayal. Julia doesn't believe they can force them into relinquishing their love.

Winston responds No,...no; that's quite true. They can't get inside you. If you can feel that staying human is worth while, even when it can't have any result whatever,you've beaten them (166).

Chapter 8 Summary

Brief Summary

Winston and Julia arrive separately to O'Brien's flat in the luxurious neighborhood of the Inner Party. They are ushered into his sitting room by his servant Martin. Before speaking to them, O'Brien turns off the telescreen. He then gives Winston the opportunity to admit his reason for the visit. During the course of the meeting, O'Brien explains to them the difficult life they will be expected to lead for the Brotherhood. He also ensures them that there is no doubt that they will be arrested; it is only a matter of when. However, before they can begin working for the conspiracy, they must read the book Goldstein has written that explains the Brotherhood's plan for destroying Big Brother and the Party system. Before he leaves, Winston asks O'Brien for the last line of the nursery rhyme about the churches which he courteously gives him.

Detailed Summary

Winston and Julia are standing in the living room of O'Brien's flat. O'Brien is working at a table on the other side of the room. They did not arrive together, but came by different routes as is their routine. O'Brien's apartment is swathed in the luxury typical of Inner Party homes and neighborhoods. The two wait for O'Brien to acknowledge them after his servant Martin shows them in. He finally rises from his desk and waits for a few minutes, with a stern look on his face, before speaking. He then walks over to the telescreen on the wall and turns it off. Both Winston and Julia are shocked to discover that the Inner Party members are permitted to turn them switch off the power at will. O'Brien encourages them to admit the reason for their visit. Winston finally proclaims that wishes to join the Brotherhood and the conspiracy to oust Big Brother from power. Martin enters with a tray carrying a decanter of wine and glasses. O'Brien lets them know that Martin is one of them and allows him to stay in the room for the meeting. Again, Winston and Julia are shocked, this time by the wine which neither of them ever tasted. O'Brien toasts to Goldstein, confirming his existence though he has never met him personally.

Immediately, he asks Winston and Julia what they are prepared to do for the Brotherhood. Both agree to do what is required of them including committing murder, spreading disease, and corrupting children. However, neither one of them are prepared to never see each other again. Upon hearing this, O'Brien tells them that they must understand there is a possibility that they both will have to undergo radical cosmetic surgery if and when discovered. They agree to this. Martin is instructed to return to the pantry after O'Brien notices he only has fifteen minutes left before he has to turn on the telescreen. He instructs Martin to memorize Winston's and Julia's faces because he may see them again.

In the last fifteen minutes of the meeting, O'Brien details the structure of the Brotherhood and how information is passed among members. He tells Winston and Julia that they will never know the number of members nor their identities. They will only have three to four contacts who will periodically be changed. Orders will only be given by O'Brien through Martin. This is to ensure that the conspiracy will not be compromised when they are arrested, an event he assures them will happen. He impresses upon them the futility of hope as no change will be seen in their lifetime. He echoes a statement made by Winston in Chapter 3 We are the dead (136). He is referring to the investment they must make in a future victory over Big Brother. O'Brien then tells them that they have to read the book Goldstein has written about the nature of Oceania and the Party in order for them to understand the means by which the Brotherhood will destroy the present society. He instructs Julia to leave before telling Winston the means by which the book will be given to him. With the details worked out, O'Brien tells him that they will meet again. Winston asks him if they will meet In the place where there is no darkness? (178) O'Brien answers in the affirmative by repeating the statement. Before leaving the apartment, Winston inquires into the last line of the nursery rhyme about the churches. O'Brien tells him When I grow rich, say the bells of Shoreditch (178).

Chapters 6-8 Analysis

Chapter 6 presents the reader with another of Winston's fantasies fulfilled. Ironically, while he is walking down the same corridor in which he first meets Julia, he encounters O'Brien. Despite the innocence behind O'Brien's motivation for stopping Winston (though the reader should note that Winston has only used Newspeak for his falsification work and is not involved in the development of Newspeak as a language), one can interpret his calm demeanor as a show put on for the sake of the telescreen in front of which they stood. This becomes even more clear when O'Brien makes a dangerous reference to the linguistic work Syme was doing for the Ministry before his vaporization. O'Brien's subtle reference coupled with his obviously false pretenses confronts Winston with the inevitable conclusion of his journey: the Ministry of Love and vaporization. Yet the possibility of learning the truth for which he has been searching is enough motivation for him to accept those consequences.

The dream from which Winston awakens in Chapter 7 speaks to several key points about the development of Winston's humanity as a natural consequence of his relationship with Julia. The dream of his mother making a protective gesture towards him takes place within the coral and glass paperweight. Orwell is giving emphasis to the glass paperweight as a symbol of both the romanticized yet unknown past and the love that Winston associates with it. He only speaks of absolute or pure love in the past because the Party has destroyed the human capacity for love; to be more specific, they've destroyed this capacity in the Party members. Winston's vile mindless and disrespectful kicking of the severed hand after the bombing in the prole section as well as his violent tendencies speak to the arrested development of compassion in Party members. However, as Winston notes, the proles bear the remaining vestiges of a presumed humanity that existed before the Revolution. An example of the proles' non-discriminating nature can be found in the same scene in which Winston kicks the severed hand. Just before the bomb hits, a prole runs past Winston warning him of the coming steamer (84). No such warning would have been issued from a Party member's mouth.

The dream also provides the reader with a sense of the economic conditions just before the Revolution happened. The Smith family lived in the poor section of London. Winston's father had left and Winston's mother had a difficult time feeding him and his little sister. In fact, both his mother and sister were starving so that he may have enough food to eat. It wasn't until he had taken the last of what his mother had to offer in the way of food that Winston was left to fend for himself. At that moment, Winston saw absolute love manifested. His mother had nothing except love to give his little sister after he had taken her piece of the chocolate ration. Yet it seemed enough to let the little girl know that at least she had the unconditional love of another who shared in her suffering. He now recognizes the healing effects of love given his own physical and emotional improvement since beginning his affair with Julia. The sacrifice made by his mother left an indelible impression on Winston. From this springs Winston's belief that the only true betrayal one person can commit against another is that of giving up one's love for that person. What you say or do doesn't matter; only feelings matter (166). This is one of the most basic of human instincts: to give of your heart when you cannot give anything else. Winston recognizes the value of such emotions in a world built on the negation of such emotion and the destruction of humanity.

Chapter 8 presents another dramatic shift in the novel. Winston takes Julia with him to O'Brien's apartment in the luxurious Inner Party section of town. Orwell cleverly places this scene immediately following Winston's rediscovery of love and humanity. Now that he understands the depth of both, he is ready to become more pro-active in creating the future of which he dreams. Here the reader is given the answers to the questions posed in a previous analysis regarding Winston's limitations. This chapter implies that Winston never possessed anything for which a sacrifice was worth making. Any act committed in the name of an ill-defined ideal would have been devoid of power. However, his love for Julia has not only helped him identify his personal values, but also helped him identify a motive to fight for those values.

The meeting between O'Brien and the two lovers serves as a confirmation of what both Julia and Winston presumed to be true about the party. It also satisfied Winston's curiosity about the existence of the Brotherhood. One interesting aspect of the meeting is the lovers' newfound commitment to the struggle. Although they have only just learned about the existence of the Brotherhood and its structure, they are prepared to do anything and everything- except for relinquishing their love for each other- in support of the organizations mission to destroy Big Brother and the Party. The reader must wonder to what end this overzealousness will bring Julia and Winston. O'Brien tells them honestly that there is no question they will be arrested; however, the manner in which they'll be arrested is left as a question begging to be answered. Winston was preoccupied with how and when the Thought Police will take him away, but up to this point is seemed to be only an absurd obsession of an unreliable character. Now the reader, as are Winston and Julia, is confronted with impending horrors of the Ministry of Love.

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