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 3-4 Summary

Chapter 3 Summary

Brief Summary

Winston has entered the second stage of understanding in the reintegration process. O'Brien explains to Winston why the Party clings to power. Power is collective rather than individual and that an individual will only experience power when he merges himself with the Party. They recognize that power is an object and an end unto itself. Real power is that over the mind and the thought. Through reality control, the Party controls thought and subsequently controls matter. Winston has difficulty accepting the Party's control of matter and nature; partly because he believes the spirit of man will prevail over the Party. Disgusted by Winston's idealism, he forces him to look at his decaying body in the mirror. O'Brien tells Winston that his body represents the spirit of man. Before ending the session, Winston proudly proclaims that he has not betrayed Julia despite the torture he has endured over the weeks and months. O'Brien concedes to Winston's proclamation but lets him know he will be cured before he is shot.

Detailed Summary

Some time has passed since his last session with O'Brien. He is now entering the second stage of what O'Brien calls his reintegration. There are three in total: learning, understanding, and acceptance. Knowing that the question of why has been plaguing Winston, O'Brien obliges him with an answer. He first quotes the line from Winston's diary in which he states that he understands the how but not the why. O'Brien then confirms Winston's reading of Goldstein's book, also revealing to Winston that he is one of the author's of the book. Everything in the book is true except the parts regarding the possibility of a proletarian revolt. The Party will rule forever and Winston needs to make that the starting point of his thoughts.

O'Brien proceeds to explain why the Part clings to power. They seek power for its own sake. For them Power is not a means; it is an end (263). O'Brien explains that power is collective rather than individual and that an individual will only experience power when he merges himself with the Party. He refers to the Party's slogan Freedom is Slavery and tells Winston that he should consider the reverse statement. An individual is never free because he is mortal; however, he becomes immortal when he merges with the collective. The second aspect of power Winston must understand is that power over the mind is real power as opposed to power over matter which that of the Party's is absolute. Winston is disturbed by O'Brien's claim that the Party controls the laws of nature. Winston attempts to dispute it, but O'Brien reminds him that the Party's control over history through the use of doublethink makes his claim true.

Yet, Winston holds on to the idea that the spirit of man will prevail over the Party's megalomania. Upon hearing this, O'Brien instructs Winston to undress and stand in front of the mirror. He asks Winston to look at his emaciated, rotting body. O'Brien tells Winston that the image he sees in the mirror is the spirit of man: broken, filthy, and decaying. Winston dresses and begins weeping. O'Brien demonstrates kindness for the first time by telling Winston he can escape from the torture when he chooses. He reminds Winston of the past degradation he has experienced in the Ministry and asks if there is anything he has not endured. Winston proudly proclaims that he has not betrayed Julia, a fact that O'Brien admits is true. Winston wishes to know when he will be shot. O'Brien tells him that it may take some time because he must be cured first, but in the end he will be shot.

Chapter 4 Summary

Brief Summary

Several weeks have passed since Winston completed the second stage of his reintegration. He is getting stronger and healthier. His captors are treating him fairly well. They have given him new clothes, new dentures, a wash basin, as well as a writing slate and pencil. He begins to reeducate himself with the thoughts imposed on his mind by O'Brien. He finds easy as long as he is able to prevent himself from allowing contradictory thoughts to arise. He practices crimestop, a process used to prevent contradictory thoughts from entering one's mind. Winston has hallucinatory dreams about Julia that cause him to cry out her name. He worries about the effect his behavior will have on his reintegration. O'Brien comes to retrieve Winston for his last stage in the reintegration process: the final stage that will make Winston not only obey Big Brother, but love him as well.

Detailed Summary

Time has passed sine he entered the second stage of understanding. He is getting healthier and stronger. He is also finally permitted to wash frequently in a basin they provided. They also have given him new clothes and a new set of dentures. They feed him three times a day with meat at every third meal. They also provided him with a writing slate and utensil with which he begins reeducating himself. He writes down the thoughts O'Brien forced into his mind during the learning stage: FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, TWO AND TWO MAKE FIVE, and GOD IS POWER. Winston has accepted everything, realizing how easy it is to think as the Party thinks as long as one develops blind spots to the arguments that contradict the Party's fallacies: a process known as crimestop (278).

Winston begins practicing crimestop while thinking about when the Party was going to shoot him. He has hallucinatory dreams of walking in the Golden Country and seeing Julia. He wakes up with a start and yells her name. He fears that this moment of weakness will push back is reintegration period. He again obsesses over the moment they will come to shoot him from behind as they always do. Suddenly, O'Brien enters the cell and tells Winston that he knows he's been having deceptive thoughts. However, he also notes the improvements Winston has made since they began the reintegration process. He asks Winston how he feels about Big Brother. Winston admits to hating him. O'Brien insists that Winston must love Big Brother as well as obey him. He takes him once more to Room 101.

Chapters 3-4 Analysis

Chapter 3 is devoted to finally providing Winston with an answer to the why for which he's been exhaustively searching. However, Winston endures another terrible blow when he discovers that Goldstein's book was written by the Party and that O'Brien is one of its authors. However, Winston has not earned as much sympathy one would presume under the circumstances. The chapter outlining the book provided obvious clues as to the book's usefulness. Winston noted that it shared little more than what he already knew. He also neglected to finish the book just when he reached the most important piece of the Party's socially and politically absurd puzzle. In the previous chapter, the reader learns that O'Brien has been watching Winston for the past seven years. When taken together, the inauthentic nature of the book and the years-long surveillance operation performed on Winston lead one to believe that his downfall was premeditated. Yet the reason for premeditating Winston's arrest and interrogation is not made evident. The reader can assume from O'Brien's explanation for the Party's use of doublethink, that Winston's well planned arrest is one aspect of the Party's lust for power. As mentioned previously, O'Brien demonstrates a power-lust at its worst during Winston's interrogation. The reader learns in this chapter that lying at the heart of Oceanic society is the Party's insatiable hunger for power.

It is important to note that the power sought by the Party is not just power over matter; rather it is power of thought which is prevailing theme in the novel. Throughout the text, the reader will find many examples of the mind manipulation committed by the party. The reader can also find exampled of the success rate of such a strategy. The change in enemy at the height of Hate Week is one of many examples. No one, except for Winston and only for a brief moment, recognized the blatant falsification of history occurring right before their eyes. They will do and say anything to both maintain and increase their current level of power. This includes permanently altering the minds and emotions of transgressors and then killing them; this is also an act of doublethink. The inevitable end for all violators is death. Interestingly, though, death has a separate meaning for the perpetrators of torture and the victims of it. This is demonstrated by Winston's and O'Brien's final exchange in this chapter. Winston would like to know when he will be shot because he is eager to end his current and ongoing suffering. O'Brien tells him that it may not be for a long time though he assures him it will happen as soon as he is cured of his insanity. Therefore, O'Brien views death as a preventative measure taken against those who may violate Party doctrine again.

Chapter 4 marks the beginning of Winston's reeducation process. He has begun to relearn the false lessons of the Party that directly contradict the thoughts in his mind prior to the interrogation. Yet the task proves arduous because he still recognizes the blatant contradictions of the Party's claims. The reader should consider Orwell's placement of this section. Besides the fact that it continues the logical narrative thread, there is another possible motive. Despite the months of torture Winston endured and despite the startling revelations he's made regarding Oceanic society, he is still holding on to the possibility that he knows the truth. Unfortunately, O'Brien proved to him that the only truth that exists is the truth created by the Party. Winston's internal struggle with his reeducation process is evidentiary of how broken and desperate he has become. This is further supported by his desperate cry for Julia after months of reintegration therapy. While it can be read as true love prevailing over the Party as Winston and Julia believed it would, Orwell marks it as a tragic beginning to an unfortunate end for Winston. Perhaps, subconsciously, Winston sensed that the end was near at hand and wanted to take a final stand against Big Brother. Unfortunately, in true Winston style, his bravery is short-lived.

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