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Winston writes in his diary that any hope for revolution against the Party must come from the proles. He believes that the Party cannot be destroyed from within, and that even the Brotherhood, a legendary revolutionary group, lacks the wherewithal to defeat the mighty Thought Police. The proles, on the other hand make up eighty-five percent of the population of Oceania, and could easily muster the strength and manpower to overcome the Police. However, the proles lead brutish, ignorant, animalistic lives, and lack both the energy and interest to revolt; most of them do not even understand that the Party is oppressing them.
Winston looks through a children’s history book to get a feeling for what has really happened in the world. The Party claims to have built ideal cities, but London, where Winston lives, is a wreck: the electricity seldom works, buildings decay, and people live in poverty and fear. Lacking a reliable official record, Winston does not know what to think about the past. The Party’s claims that it has increased the literacy rate, reduced the infant mortality rate, and given everyone better food and shelter could all be fantasy. Winston suspects that these claims are untrue, but he has no way to know for sure, since history has been written entirely by the Party.
In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it.
Winston remembers an occasion when he caught the Party in a lie. In the mid-1960s, a cultural backlash caused the original leaders of the Revolution to be arrested. One day, Winston saw a few of these deposed leaders sitting at the Chestnut Tree Café, a gathering place for out-of-favor Party members. A song played—“Under the spreading chestnut tree / I sold you and you sold me”—and one of the Party members, Rutherford, began to weep. Winston never forgot the incident, and one day came upon a photograph that proved that the Party members had been in New York at the time that they were allegedly committing treason in Eurasia. Terrified, Winston destroyed the photograph, but it remains embedded in his memory as a concrete example of Party dishonesty.
Winston thinks of his writing in his diary as a kind of letter to O’Brien. Though Winston knows almost nothing about O’Brien beyond his name, he is sure that he detects a strain of independence and rebellion in him, a consciousness of oppression similar to Winston’s own. Thinking about the Party’s control of every record of the truth, Winston realizes that the Party requires its members to deny the evidence of their eyes and ears. He believes that true freedom lies in the ability to interpret reality as one perceives it, to be able to say “2 + 2 = 4.”
When memory failed and written records were falsified . . .
Winston goes for a walk through the prole district, and envies the simple lives of the common people. He enters a pub where he sees an old man—a possible link to the past. He talks to the old man and tries to ascertain whether, in the days before the Party, people were really exploited by bloated capitalists, as the Party records claim. The old man’s memory is too vague to provide an answer. Winston laments that the past has been left to the proles, who will inevitably forget it.
Winston walks to the secondhand store in which he bought the diary and buys a clear glass paperweight with a pink coral center from Mr. Charrington, the proprietor. Mr. Charrington takes him upstairs to a private room with no telescreen, where a print of St. Clement’s Church looks down from the wall, evoking the old rhyme: “Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St. Clement’s / You owe me three farthings, say the bells of St. Martin’s.”