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Book One: Chapters IV–VI

Summary Book One: Chapters IV–VI

Analysis: Chapters IV–VI

Winston’s life at work in the sprawling Ministry of Truth illustrates the world of the Party in operation—calculated propaganda, altered records, revised history—and demonstrates the effects of such deleterious mechanisms on Winston’s mind. The idea of doublethink—explained in Chapter III as the ability to believe and disbelieve simultaneously in the same idea, or to believe in two contradictory ideas simultaneously—provides the psychological key to the Party’s control of the past. Doublethink allows the citizens under Party control to accept slogans like “War is peace” and “Freedom is slavery,” and enables the workers at the Ministry of Truth to believe in the false versions of the records that they themselves have altered. With the belief of the workers, the records become functionally true. Winston struggles under the weight of this oppressive machinery, and yearns to be able to trust his own memory.

Accompanying the psychological aspect of the Party’s oppression is the physical aspect. Winston realizes that his own nervous system has become his archenemy. The condition of being constantly monitored and having to repress every feeling and instinct forces Winston to maintain self-control at all costs; even a facial twitch suggesting struggle could lead to arrest, demonstrating the thoroughness of the Party’s control. This theme of control through physical monitoring culminates with Winston’s realization toward the end of the book that nothing in human experience is worse than the feeling of physical pain.

Winston’s repressed sexuality—one of his key reasons for despising the Party and wanting to rebel—becomes his overt concern in Chapter VI, when he remembers his last encounter with a prole prostitute. The dingy, nasty memory makes Winston desperate to have an enjoyable, authentic erotic experience. He thinks that the Party’s “real, undeclared purpose was to remove all pleasure from the sexual act.” Sex can be seen as the ultimate act of individualism, as a representation of ultimate emotional and physical pleasure, and for its roots in the individual’s desire to continue himself or herself through reproduction. By transforming sex into a duty, the Party strikes another psychological blow against individualism: under Big Brother’s regime, the goal of sex is not to reproduce one’s individual genes, but simply to create new members of the Party.