1984

by: George Orwell

Book One: Chapters VII–VIII

On the way home, Winston sees a figure in blue Party overalls—the dark-haired girl, apparently following him. Terrified, he imagines hitting her with a cobblestone or with the paperweight in his pocket. He hurries home and decides that the best thing to do is to commit suicide before the Party catches him. He realizes that if the Thought Police catch him, they will torture him before they kill him. He tries to calm himself by thinking about O’Brien and about the place where there is no darkness that O’Brien mentioned in Winston’s dreams. Troubled, he takes a coin from his pocket and looks into the face of Big Brother. He cannot help but recall the Party slogans: “WAR IS PEACE,” “FREEDOM IS SLAVERY,” “IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.”

Analysis: Chapters VI–VII

After a trio of chapters devoted largely to the work life of minor Party members, Orwell shifts the focus to the world of the very poor. The most important plot development in this section comes with Winston’s visit to Mr. Charrington’s antiques shop, which stands as a veritable museum of the past in relation to the rest of Winston’s history-deprived world. The theme of the importance of having knowledge about the past in order to understand the present is heavily emphasized here. Orwell demonstrates how the Party, by controlling history, forces its members into lives of uncertainty, ignorance, and total reliance upon the Party for all of the information necessary to function in the world.

Winston’s trip to the prole district illustrates the relationship between social class and awareness of one’s situation. Life in the prole district is animalistic, filthy, and impoverished. The proles have greater freedom than minor Party members such as Winston, but lack the awareness to use or appreciate that freedom. Winston’s desire to attain a unilateral, abstract understanding of the Party’s methods and evils in order to consider and reject them epitomizes his speculative, restless nature. He obsesses about history in particular, trying to understand how the Party’s control of information about the past enhances its power in the present. In contrast, the old man in the bar whom Winston addresses is too concerned with his bladder and feet to remember the past, and has no sense of the Party’s impact on his life. Winston knows that the Party does not “reeducate” the proles because it believes the proles to be too unintelligent to pose a threat to the government. Nevertheless, Winston believes that the proles hold the key to the past and, hence, to the future.

Like Winston’s dream phrase “the place where there is no darkness,” which reappears in Chapter VIII, the picture of St. Clement’s Church hanging in Mr. Charrington’s upstairs room functions as a motif tied to Winston’s fruitless hope. Like the paperweight, an important symbol of Winston’s dreams of freedom, the picture represents Winston’s desire to make a connection with a past that the Party has suppressed. However, his attempt to appropriate the past as a means of exposing the Party, like his attempt to appropriate the room as a safe harbor for his disloyalty, is ultimately thwarted by the Party’s mechanisms. The phrase associated with the picture ends on an ominous note—“Here comes a chopper to chop off your head.” This rhyme foreshadows the connection between the picture (behind which a telescreen is hidden) and the termination of Winston’s private rebellion.