SparkNotes Blog

Blogging 1984: XI, Come Inside Room 101 (Part 3, Chapters 3, 4 & 5)

Previously in Blogging 1984, Winston learned the ways of the Ministry of Love, by which I mean he got whupped by various torture machines day and night in the company of O’Brien, without his boy-crush ever fading.

III

Winston is still strapped to the Reiki table and getting regular doses of torture from O’Brien as we begin. Today, O’Brien asks him if Goldstein’s book told him anything he didn’t already know.

Given Goldstein’s book cost me an entire post of Blogging 1984 and stretched my gif-library to about the max, I would say, uh yuh, it wasn’t all that obvious.

Anyway, O’Brien confesses that HE wrote Goldstein’s book, like a Bond villain who can’t help himself from explaining in detail how his death machine works to his victim.


“So you see, Mr. Bond, a system of class divisions, controlled insanity, and terrible, just truly awful coffee keeps the populace enslaved.” (Eon Productions.)

O’Brien quizzes Winston on the motivation behind the Party, but he gets the answer wrong—Family Feud buzzer sound—and is zapped in response. Survey says the Party seeks power not for the greater good, but for its own sake; that “power is not a means, it is an end.”

For his part, O’Brien is looking a little worse for wear after decades of writing propaganda, torturing heretics, and speaking inside other people’s minds, and don’t think he doesn’t know it:

“‘You are thinking,’ he said, ‘that my face is old and tired. You are thinking that I talk of power, and yet I am not even able to prevent the decay of my own body. Can you not understand, Winston, that the individual is only a cell? The weariness of the cell is the vigour of the organism. Do you die when you cut your fingernails?”

Basically, O’Brien is saying that by allowing the Party to subsume his individuality, he can become immortal. As great as Oceania sounds (/s), I can think of at least five better ways to achieve immortality:

  1. Take up religion
  2. Have your body cryogenically frozen
  3. Eat a ghost pepper
  4. Write a book
  5. Heck, make a horcrux, what have you got to lose

All fired up, O’Brien then tries to claim that because the Party controls reality, it controls matter. Here is a real thing he says:

“I could float off this floor like a soap bubble if I wished to. I do not wish to, because the Party does not wish it.”

Winston looks at O’Brien like he has just announced he is David Bowie and off now on a trip to the moon, brb.

The only sane person in this entire book tries to reason with his puppet master—

Winston: But you’re subject to the laws of physics. Gravity, for one thing. A lack of extra-atmospheric oxygen for another. You’d last two seconds in outer space. Man is about the smallest thing in the universe, in fact.

O’Brien: Nonsense. *applies purple eyeshadow and zips up silver body suit* The universe does whatever I ask of it.

Winston’s cognitive dissonance-o-meter is dialed up fully to eleven by now.


source

*solipsistic interlude music*

He sees how pointless it is arguing with the kind of blundering nonsense being espoused by O’Brien. After all, he is strapped to a table; he has no power at all. This, O’Brien prattles on, is the endpoint—total subjugation in a world dominated by the repeated destruction of every human impulse:

Children will be taken from their mothers at birth, as one takes eggs from a hen. The sex instinct will be eradicated. Procreation will be an annual formality like the renewal of a ration card. We shall abolish the orgasm.

The money phrase for your workbooks, however, is:

“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.

Winston tries to argue that a world founded on hatred could never endure; that, essentially, love is stronger than fear.


source

O’Brien: Nah.

Winston: What about the Spirit of Man—you know, humanity? What about the inviolable sense of morality inside my brain cave?

O’Brien: *hits play on a recording of Winston swearing to poison children, encourage prostitution and kill in service of the resistance*

Winston: Oh come ONNN, that?

I *told* you that visiting O’Brien’s house was bad news.

It is now time for O’Brien to drag Winston in front of a mirror and show him what he has become: a “bowed, grey-colored skeleton” with a hunched-over carriage. Something barely human. A broken pile of bones. (Foreshadowing here.) The only piece of old Winston that remains is the knowledge that he hasn’t betrayed Julia.*

*Yet.

IV

We leap forward some months and Winston is healthier; his body has become more body-like, and his wrenched-out teeth have been replaced with dentures. He has made progress on his torture thesis and spends most of his time zoned out imagining himself out in the “Golden lands” with his mother, with Julia, with O’Bri<3n.

He scribbles out the Party slogans on a ledger—”TWO PLUS TWO EQUALS FIVE”—and we see from this that he is basically an intellectual slave. He expects that, eventually, death will come, and you know what? He’s okay with it.

“He was walking down the corridor, waiting for the bullet… He walked easily, with a joy of movement and with a feeling of walking in sunlight.”

Just then, he involuntarily cries out for Julia.

>o< YOU HAD ONE JOB, WINSTON.

O’Brien is back, and we are off to Room 101.

V

What is in Room 101? Why, the worst thing in the world, according to each victim, so basically your boggart.

Image result for gif boggarts
Warner Bros/source

In Winston’s case, it is rats.

Rats!

The wainscoting!

I have to say I did *not* see that Chekhovian detail coming when we were back at Mr. Charrington’s shop.

O’Brien has a face cage and a crate of very hungry rats for Winston, squealing and writhing to a chance to nibble on his eyeballs. This, this is what the novel has been building toward. A face-cage of rats.

Horrified, Winston reaches his “Operating Thetan” level of fear very quickly, crying out for them to apply the punishment to Julia instead.

*UNLOCK BETRAYAL ACHIEVEMENT*

At laaaaast, he has made it through the program.

Notes:

  1. The #facecage reveal in Room 101 felt, for me, like something of an anticlimax. In a sort of reverse Inception, we didn’t get closer to any kind of philosophical mystique inside the ministry; rather, we learned that, at it’s core, the Party’s entire machinery rests on some very steam-punk strategies: vanity-publishing fake novels, lying about reality, and strapping rats to people’s faces. The Matrix, this is not. How did you feel about it?

2. Nicholas Face-cage:


GIPHY

3. This whole “O’Brien teaches Winston how to command Doublethink” sequence was basically the worst version of the “Yoda trains Luke to use the Force” montage I have ever come across.

4. I think we all need a particularly upbeat taste of real 1984 to cleanse our palates after this:


GIPHY

Find all of Janet’s 1984 blog here, and find our Blogging the Classics index page here.