1984 By George Orwell (1/3) Audiobook

1984 By George Orwell (1/3) Audiobook


GEORGE ORWELL NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR PART I Chapter 1 It was a bright cold day in April, and the
clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort
to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though
not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him. The hallway smelt of boiled cabbage and old
rag mats. At one end of it a coloured poster, too large for indoor display, had been tacked
to the wall. It depicted simply an enormous face, more than a metre wide: the face of
a man of about forty-five, with a heavy black moustache and ruggedly handsome features.
Winston made for the stairs. It was no use trying the lift. Even at the best of times
it was seldom working, and at present the electric current was cut off during daylight
hours. It was part of the economy drive in preparation for Hate Week. The flat was seven
flights up, and Winston, who was thirty-nine and had a varicose ulcer above his right ankle,
went slowly, resting several times on the way. On each landing, opposite the lift-shaft,
the poster with the enormous face gazed from the wall. It was one of those pictures which
are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING
YOU, the caption beneath it ran. Inside the flat a fruity voice was reading
out a list of figures which had something to do with the production of pig-iron. The
voice came from an oblong metal plaque like a dulled mirror which formed part of the surface
of the right-hand wall. Winston turned a switch and the voice sank somewhat, though the words
were still distinguishable. The instrument (the telescreen, it was called) could be dimmed,
but there was no way of shutting it off completely. He moved over to the window: a smallish, frail
figure, the meagreness of his body merely emphasized by the blue overalls which were
the uniform of the party. His hair was very fair, his face naturally sanguine, his skin
roughened by coarse soap and blunt razor blades and the cold of the winter that had just ended. Outside, even through the shut window-pane,
the world looked cold. Down in the street little eddies of wind were whirling dust and
torn paper into spirals, and though the sun was shining and the sky a harsh blue, there
seemed to be no colour in anything, except the posters that were plastered everywhere.
The blackmoustachio’d face gazed down from every commanding corner. There was one on
the house-front immediately opposite. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption said,
while the dark eyes looked deep into Winston’s own. Down at street level another poster,
torn at one corner, flapped fitfully in the wind, alternately covering and uncovering
the single word INGSOC. In the far distance a helicopter skimmed down between the roofs,
hovered for an instant like a bluebottle, and darted away again with a curving flight.
It was the police patrol, snooping into people’s windows. The patrols did not matter, however.
Only the Thought Police mattered. Behind Winston’s back the voice from the telescreen
was still babbling away about pig-iron and the overfulfilment of the Ninth Three-Year
Plan. The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made,
above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it, moreover, so long as he
remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen
as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched
at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any
individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all
the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You
had to live — did live, from habit that became instinct — in the assumption that
every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized. Winston kept his back turned to the telescreen.
It was safer, though, as he well knew, even a back can be revealing. A kilometre away
the Ministry of Truth, his place of work, towered vast and white above the grimy landscape.
This, he thought with a sort of vague distaste — this was London, chief city of Airstrip
One, itself the third most populous of the provinces of Oceania. He tried to squeeze
out some childhood memory that should tell him whether London had always been quite like
this. Were there always these vistas of rotting nineteenth-century houses, their sides shored
up with baulks of timber, their windows patched with cardboard and their roofs with corrugated
iron, their crazy garden walls sagging in all directions? And the bombed sites where
the plaster dust swirled in the air and the willow-herb straggled over the heaps of rubble;
and the places where the bombs had cleared a larger patch and there had sprung up sordid
colonies of wooden dwellings like chicken-houses? But it was no use, he could not remember:
nothing remained of his childhood except a series of bright-lit tableaux occurring against
no background and mostly unintelligible. The Ministry of Truth — Minitrue, in Newspeak(1)
— was startlingly different from any other object in sight. It was an enormous pyramidal
structure of glittering white concrete, soaring up, terrace after terrace, 300 metres into
the air. From where Winston stood it was just possible to read, picked out on its white
face in elegant lettering, the three slogans of the Party: WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH The Ministry of Truth contained, it was said,
three thousand rooms above ground level, and corresponding ramifications below. Scattered
about London there were just three other buildings of similar appearance and size. So completely
did they dwarf the surrounding architecture that from the roof of Victory Mansions you
could see all four of them simultaneously. They were the homes of the four Ministries
between which the entire apparatus of government was divided. The Ministry of Truth, which
concerned itself with news, entertainment, education, and the fine arts. The Ministry
of Peace, which concerned itself with war. The Ministry of Love, which maintained law
and order. And the Ministry of Plenty, which was responsible for economic affairs. Their
names, in Newspeak: Minitrue, Minipax, Miniluv, and Miniplenty. The Ministry of Love was the really frightening
one. There were no windows in it at all. Winston had never been inside the Ministry of Love,
nor within half a kilometre of it. It was a place impossible to enter except on official
business, and then only by penetrating through a maze of barbed-wire entanglements, steel
doors, and hidden machine-gun nests. Even the streets leading up to its outer barriers
were roamed by gorilla-faced guards in black uniforms, armed with jointed truncheons. Winston turned round abruptly. He had set
his features into the expression of quiet optimism which it was advisable to wear when
facing the telescreen. He crossed the room into the tiny kitchen. By leaving the Ministry
at this time of day he had sacrificed his lunch in the canteen, and he was aware that
there was no food in the kitchen except a hunk of dark-coloured bread which had got
to be saved for tomorrow’s breakfast. He took down from the shelf a bottle of colourless
liquid with a plain white label marked VICTORY GIN. It gave off a sickly, oily smell, as
of Chinese rice-spirit. Winston poured out nearly a teacupful, nerved himself for a shock,
and gulped it down like a dose of medicine. Instantly his face turned scarlet and the
water ran out of his eyes. The stuff was like nitric acid, and moreover, in swallowing it
one had the sensation of being hit on the back of the head with a rubber club. The next
moment, however, the burning in his belly died down and the world began to look more
cheerful. He took a cigarette from a crumpled packet marked VICTORY CIGARETTES and incautiously
held it upright, whereupon the tobacco fell out on to the floor. With the next he was
more successful. He went back to the living-room and sat down at a small table that stood to
the left of the telescreen. From the table drawer he took out a penholder, a bottle of
ink, and a thick, quarto-sized blank book with a red back and a marbled cover. For some reason the telescreen in the living-room
was in an unusual position. Instead of being placed, as was normal, in the end wall, where
it could command the whole room, it was in the longer wall, opposite the window. To one
side of it there was a shallow alcove in which Winston was now sitting, and which, when the
flats were built, had probably been intended to hold bookshelves. By sitting in the alcove,
and keeping well back, Winston was able to remain outside the range of the telescreen,
so far as sight went. He could be heard, of course, but so long as he stayed in his present
position he could not be seen. It was partly the unusual geography of the room that had
suggested to him the thing that he was now about to do. But it had also been suggested by the book
that he had just taken out of the drawer. It was a peculiarly beautiful book. Its smooth
creamy paper, a little yellowed by age, was of a kind that had not been manufactured for
at least forty years past. He could guess, however, that the book was much older than
that. He had seen it lying in the window of a frowsy little junk-shop in a slummy quarter
of the town (just what quarter he did not now remember) and had been stricken immediately
by an overwhelming desire to possess it. Party members were supposed not to go into ordinary
shops (‘dealing on the free market’, it was called), but the rule was not strictly kept,
because there were various things, such as shoelaces and razor blades, which it was impossible
to get hold of in any other way. He had given a quick glance up and down the street and
then had slipped inside and bought the book for two dollars fifty. At the time he was
not conscious of wanting it for any particular purpose. He had carried it guiltily home in
his briefcase. Even with nothing written in it, it was a compromising possession. The thing that he was about to do was to open
a diary. This was not illegal (nothing was illegal, since there were no longer any laws),
but if detected it was reasonably certain that it would be punished by death, or at
least by twenty-five years in a forced-labour camp. Winston fitted a nib into the penholder
and sucked it to get the grease off. The pen was an archaic instrument, seldom used even
for signatures, and he had procured one, furtively and with some difficulty, simply because of
a feeling that the beautiful creamy paper deserved to be written on with a real nib
instead of being scratched with an ink-pencil. Actually he was not used to writing by hand.
Apart from very short notes, it was usual to dictate everything into the speak-write
which was of course impossible for his present purpose. He dipped the pen into the ink and
then faltered for just a second. A tremor had gone through his bowels. To mark the paper
was the decisive act. In small clumsy letters he wrote: April 4th, 1984. He sat back. A sense of complete helplessness
had descended upon him. To begin with, he did not know with any certainty that this
was 1984. It must be round about that date, since he was fairly sure that his age was
thirty-nine, and he believed that he had been born in 1944 or 1945; but it was never possible
nowadays to pin down any date within a year or two. For whom, it suddenly occurred to him to wonder,
was he writing this diary? For the future, for the unborn. His mind hovered for a moment
round the doubtful date on the page, and then fetched up with a bump against the Newspeak
word doublethink. For the first time the magnitude of what he had undertaken came home to him.
How could you communicate with the future? It was of its nature impossible. Either the
future would resemble the present, in which case it would not listen to him: or it would
be different from it, and his predicament would be meaningless. For some time he sat gazing stupidly at the
paper. The telescreen had changed over to strident military music. It was curious that
he seemed not merely to have lost the power of expressing himself, but even to have forgotten
what it was that he had originally intended to say. For weeks past he had been making
ready for this moment, and it had never crossed his mind that anything would be needed except
courage. The actual writing would be easy. All he had to do was to transfer to paper
the interminable restless monologue that had been running inside his head, literally for
years. At this moment, however, even the monologue had dried up. Moreover his varicose ulcer
had begun itching unbearably. He dared not scratch it, because if he did so it always
became inflamed. The seconds were ticking by. He was conscious of nothing except the
blankness of the page in front of him, the itching of the skin above his ankle, the blaring
of the music, and a slight booziness caused by the gin. Suddenly he began writing in sheer panic,
only imperfectly aware of what he was setting down. His small but childish handwriting straggled
up and down the page, shedding first its capital letters and finally even its full stops: April 4th, 1984. Last night to the flicks.
All war films. One very good one of a ship full of refugees being bombed somewhere in
the Mediterranean. Audience much amused by shots of a great huge fat man trying to swim
away with a helicopter after him, first you saw him wallowing along in the water like
a porpoise, then you saw him through the helicopters gunsights, then he was full of holes and the
sea round him turned pink and he sank as suddenly as though the holes had let in the water,
audience shouting with laughter when he sank. then you saw a lifeboat full of children with
a helicopter hovering over it. there was a middle-aged woman might have been a jewess
sitting up in the bow with a little boy about three years old in her arms. little boy screaming
with fright and hiding his head between her breasts as if he was trying to burrow right
into her and the woman putting her arms round him and comforting him although she was blue
with fright herself, all the time covering him up as much as possible as if she thought
her arms could keep the bullets off him. then the helicopter planted a 20 kilo bomb in among
them terrific flash and the boat went all to matchwood. then there was a wonderful shot
of a child’s arm going up up up right up into the air a helicopter with a camera in its
nose must have followed it up and there was a lot of applause from the party seats but
a woman down in the prole part of the house suddenly started kicking up a fuss and shouting
they didnt oughter of showed it not in front of kids they didnt it aint right not in front
of kids it aint until the police turned her turned her out i dont suppose anything happened
to her nobody cares what the proles say typical prole reaction they never — Winston stopped writing, partly because he
was suffering from cramp. He did not know what had made him pour out this stream of
rubbish. But the curious thing was that while he was doing so a totally different memory
had clarified itself in his mind, to the point where he almost felt equal to writing it down.
It was, he now realized, because of this other incident that he had suddenly decided to come
home and begin the diary today. It had happened that morning at the Ministry,
if anything so nebulous could be said to happen. It was nearly eleven hundred, and in the Records
Department, where Winston worked, they were dragging the chairs out of the cubicles and
grouping them in the centre of the hall opposite the big telescreen, in preparation for the
Two Minutes Hate. Winston was just taking his place in one of the middle rows when two
people whom he knew by sight, but had never spoken to, came unexpectedly into the room.
One of them was a girl whom he often passed in the corridors. He did not know her name,
but he knew that she worked in the Fiction Department. Presumably — since he had sometimes
seen her with oily hands and carrying a spanner — she had some mechanical job on one of
the novel-writing machines. She was a bold-looking girl, of about twenty-seven, with thick hair,
a freckled face, and swift, athletic movements. A narrow scarlet sash, emblem of the Junior
Anti-Sex League, was wound several times round the waist of her overalls, just tightly enough
to bring out the shapeliness of her hips. Winston had disliked her from the very first
moment of seeing her. He knew the reason. It was because of the atmosphere of hockey-fields
and cold baths and community hikes and general clean-mindedness which she managed to carry
about with her. He disliked nearly all women, and especially the young and pretty ones.
It was always the women, and above all the young ones, who were the most bigoted adherents
of the Party, the swallowers of slogans, the amateur spies and nosers-out of unorthodoxy.
But this particular girl gave him the impression of being more dangerous than most. Once when
they passed in the corridor she gave him a quick sidelong glance which seemed to pierce
right into him and for a moment had filled him with black terror. The idea had even crossed
his mind that she might be an agent of the Thought Police. That, it was true, was very
unlikely. Still, he continued to feel a peculiar uneasiness, which had fear mixed up in it
as well as hostility, whenever she was anywhere near him. The other person was a man named O’Brien,
a member of the Inner Party and holder of some post so important and remote that Winston
had only a dim idea of its nature. A momentary hush passed over the group of people round
the chairs as they saw the black overalls of an Inner Party member approaching. O’Brien
was a large, burly man with a thick neck and a coarse, humorous, brutal face. In spite
of his formidable appearance he had a certain charm of manner. He had a trick of resettling
his spectacles on his nose which was curiously disarming — in some indefinable way, curiously
civilized. It was a gesture which, if anyone had still thought in such terms, might have
recalled an eighteenth-century nobleman offering his snuffbox. Winston had seen O’Brien perhaps
a dozen times in almost as many years. He felt deeply drawn to him, and not solely because
he was intrigued by the contrast between O’Brien’s urbane manner and his prize-fighter’s physique.
Much more it was because of a secretly held belief — or perhaps not even a belief, merely
a hope — that O’Brien’s political orthodoxy was not perfect. Something in his face suggested
it irresistibly. And again, perhaps it was not even unorthodoxy that was written in his
face, but simply intelligence. But at any rate he had the appearance of being a person
that you could talk to if somehow you could cheat the telescreen and get him alone. Winston
had never made the smallest effort to verify this guess: indeed, there was no way of doing
so. At this moment O’Brien glanced at his wrist-watch, saw that it was nearly eleven
hundred, and evidently decided to stay in the Records Department until the Two Minutes
Hate was over. He took a chair in the same row as Winston, a couple of places away. A
small, sandy-haired woman who worked in the next cubicle to Winston was between them.
The girl with dark hair was sitting immediately behind. The next moment a hideous, grinding speech,
as of some monstrous machine running without oil, burst from the big telescreen at the
end of the room. It was a noise that set one’s teeth on edge and bristled the hair at the
back of one’s neck. The Hate had started. As usual, the face of Emmanuel Goldstein,
the Enemy of the People, had flashed on to the screen. There were hisses here and there
among the audience. The little sandy-haired woman gave a squeak of mingled fear and disgust.
Goldstein was the renegade and backslider who once, long ago (how long ago, nobody quite
remembered), had been one of the leading figures of the Party, almost on a level with Big Brother
himself, and then had engaged in counter-revolutionary activities, had been condemned to death, and
had mysteriously escaped and disappeared. The programmes of the Two Minutes Hate varied
from day to day, but there was none in which Goldstein was not the principal figure. He
was the primal traitor, the earliest defiler of the Party’s purity. All subsequent crimes
against the Party, all treacheries, acts of sabotage, heresies, deviations, sprang directly
out of his teaching. Somewhere or other he was still alive and hatching his conspiracies:
perhaps somewhere beyond the sea, under the protection of his foreign paymasters, perhaps
even — so it was occasionally rumoured — in some hiding-place in Oceania itself. Winston’s diaphragm was constricted. He could
never see the face of Goldstein without a painful mixture of emotions. It was a lean
Jewish face, with a great fuzzy aureole of white hair and a small goatee beard — a
clever face, and yet somehow inherently despicable, with a kind of senile silliness in the long
thin nose, near the end of which a pair of spectacles was perched. It resembled the face
of a sheep, and the voice, too, had a sheep-like quality. Goldstein was delivering his usual
venomous attack upon the doctrines of the Party — an attack so exaggerated and perverse
that a child should have been able to see through it, and yet just plausible enough
to fill one with an alarmed feeling that other people, less level-headed than oneself, might
be taken in by it. He was abusing Big Brother, he was denouncing the dictatorship of the
Party, he was demanding the immediate conclusion of peace with Eurasia, he was advocating freedom
of speech, freedom of the Press, freedom of assembly, freedom of thought, he was crying
hysterically that the revolution had been betrayed — and all this in rapid polysyllabic
speech which was a sort of parody of the habitual style of the orators of the Party, and even
contained Newspeak words: more Newspeak words, indeed, than any Party member would normally
use in real life. And all the while, lest one should be in any doubt as to the reality
which Goldstein’s specious claptrap covered, behind his head on the telescreen there marched
the endless columns of the Eurasian army — row after row of solid-looking men with expressionless
Asiatic faces, who swam up to the surface of the screen and vanished, to be replaced
by others exactly similar. The dull rhythmic tramp of the soldiers” boots formed the background
to Goldstein’s bleating voice. Before the Hate had proceeded for thirty seconds,
uncontrollable exclamations of rage were breaking out from half the people in the room. The
self-satisfied sheep-like face on the screen, and the terrifying power of the Eurasian army
behind it, were too much to be borne: besides, the sight or even the thought of Goldstein
produced fear and anger automatically. He was an object of hatred more constant than
either Eurasia or Eastasia, since when Oceania was at war with one of these Powers it was
generally at peace with the other. But what was strange was that although Goldstein was
hated and despised by everybody, although every day and a thousand times a day, on platforms,
on the telescreen, in newspapers, in books, his theories were refuted, smashed, ridiculed,
held up to the general gaze for the pitiful rubbish that they were — in spite of all
this, his influence never seemed to grow less. Always there were fresh dupes waiting to be
seduced by him. A day never passed when spies and saboteurs acting under his directions
were not unmasked by the Thought Police. He was the commander of a vast shadowy army,
an underground network of conspirators dedicated to the overthrow of the State. The Brotherhood,
its name was supposed to be. There were also whispered stories of a terrible book, a compendium
of all the heresies, of which Goldstein was the author and which circulated clandestinely
here and there. It was a book without a title. People referred to it, if at all, simply as
the book. But one knew of such things only through vague rumours. Neither the Brotherhood
nor the book was a subject that any ordinary Party member would mention if there was a
way of avoiding it. In its second minute the Hate rose to a frenzy.
People were leaping up and down in their places and shouting at the tops of their voices in
an effort to drown the maddening bleating voice that came from the screen. The little
sandy-haired woman had turned bright pink, and her mouth was opening and shutting like
that of a landed fish. Even O’Brien’s heavy face was flushed. He was sitting very straight
in his chair, his powerful chest swelling and quivering as though he were standing up
to the assault of a wave. The dark-haired girl behind Winston had begun crying out ‘Swine!
Swine! Swine!’ and suddenly she picked up a heavy Newspeak dictionary and flung it at
the screen. It struck Goldstein’s nose and bounced off; the voice continued inexorably.
In a lucid moment Winston found that he was shouting with the others and kicking his heel
violently against the rung of his chair. The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate
was not that one was obliged to act a part, but, on the contrary, that it was impossible
to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds any pretence was always unnecessary. A hideous
ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with
a sledge-hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current,
turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic. And yet the
rage that one felt was an abstract, undirected emotion which could be switched from one object
to another like the flame of a blowlamp. Thus, at one moment Winston’s hatred was not turned
against Goldstein at all, but, on the contrary, against Big Brother, the Party, and the Thought
Police; and at such moments his heart went out to the lonely, derided heretic on the
screen, sole guardian of truth and sanity in a world of lies. And yet the very next
instant he was at one with the people about him, and all that was said of Goldstein seemed
to him to be true. At those moments his secret loathing of Big Brother changed into adoration,
and Big Brother seemed to tower up, an invincible, fearless protector, standing like a rock against
the hordes of Asia, and Goldstein, in spite of his isolation, his helplessness, and the
doubt that hung about his very existence, seemed like some sinister enchanter, capable
by the mere power of his voice of wrecking the structure of civilization. It was even possible, at moments, to switch
one’s hatred this way or that by a voluntary act. Suddenly, by the sort of violent effort
with which one wrenches one’s head away from the pillow in a nightmare, Winston succeeded
in transferring his hatred from the face on the screen to the dark-haired girl behind
him. Vivid, beautiful hallucinations flashed through his mind. He would flog her to death
with a rubber truncheon. He would tie her naked to a stake and shoot her full of arrows
like Saint Sebastian. He would ravish her and cut her throat at the moment of climax.
Better than before, moreover, he realized why it was that he hated her. He hated her
because she was young and pretty and sexless, because he wanted to go to bed with her and
would never do so, because round her sweet supple waist, which seemed to ask you to encircle
it with your arm, there was only the odious scarlet sash, aggressive symbol of chastity. The Hate rose to its climax. The voice of
Goldstein had become an actual sheep’s bleat, and for an instant the face changed into that
of a sheep. Then the sheep-face melted into the figure of a Eurasian soldier who seemed
to be advancing, huge and terrible, his sub-machine gun roaring, and seeming to spring out of
the surface of the screen, so that some of the people in the front row actually flinched
backwards in their seats. But in the same moment, drawing a deep sigh of relief from
everybody, the hostile figure melted into the face of Big Brother, black-haired, black-moustachio’d,
full of power and mysterious calm, and so vast that it almost filled up the screen.
Nobody heard what Big Brother was saying. It was merely a few words of encouragement,
the sort of words that are uttered in the din of battle, not distinguishable individually
but restoring confidence by the fact of being spoken. Then the face of Big Brother faded
away again, and instead the three slogans of the Party stood out in bold capitals: WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH But the face of Big Brother seemed to persist
for several seconds on the screen, as though the impact that it had made on everyone’s
eyeballs was too vivid to wear off immediately. The little sandy-haired woman had flung herself
forward over the back of the chair in front of her. With a tremulous murmur that sounded
like ‘My Saviour!’ she extended her arms towards the screen. Then she buried her face in her
hands. It was apparent that she was uttering a prayer. At this moment the entire group of people
broke into a deep, slow, rhythmical chant of ‘B-B!… B-B!…’ — over and over again,
very slowly, with a long pause between the first ‘B’ and the second-a heavy, murmurous
sound, somehow curiously savage, in the background of which one seemed to hear the stamp of naked
feet and the throbbing of tom-toms. For perhaps as much as thirty seconds they kept it up.
It was a refrain that was often heard in moments of overwhelming emotion. Partly it was a sort
of hymn to the wisdom and majesty of Big Brother, but still more it was an act of self-hypnosis,
a deliberate drowning of consciousness by means of rhythmic noise. Winston’s entrails
seemed to grow cold. In the Two Minutes Hate he could not help sharing in the general delirium,
but this sub-human chanting of ‘B-B!… B-B!’ always filled him with horror. Of course he
chanted with the rest: it was impossible to do otherwise. To dissemble your feelings,
to control your face, to do what everyone else was doing, was an instinctive reaction.
But there was a space of a couple of seconds during which the expression of his eyes might
conceivably have betrayed him. And it was exactly at this moment that the significant
thing happened — if, indeed, it did happen. Momentarily he caught O’Brien’s eye. O’Brien
had stood up. He had taken off his spectacles and was in the act of resettling them on his
nose with his characteristic gesture. But there was a fraction of a second when their
eyes met, and for as long as it took to happen Winston knew — yes, he knew! — that O’Brien
was thinking the same thing as himself. An unmistakable message had passed. It was as
though their two minds had opened and the thoughts were flowing from one into the other
through their eyes. ‘I am with you,’ O’Brien seemed to be saying to him. ‘I know precisely
what you are feeling. I know all about your contempt, your hatred, your disgust. But don’t
worry, I am on your side!’ And then the flash of intelligence was gone, and O’Brien’s face
was as inscrutable as everybody else’s. That was all, and he was already uncertain
whether it had happened. Such incidents never had any sequel. All that they did was to keep
alive in him the belief, or hope, that others besides himself were the enemies of the Party.
Perhaps the rumours of vast underground conspiracies were true after all — perhaps the Brotherhood
really existed! It was impossible, in spite of the endless arrests and confessions and
executions, to be sure that the Brotherhood was not simply a myth. Some days he believed
in it, some days not. There was no evidence, only fleeting glimpses that might mean anything
or nothing: snatches of overheard conversation, faint scribbles on lavatory walls — once,
even, when two strangers met, a small movement of the hand which had looked as though it
might be a signal of recognition. It was all guesswork: very likely he had imagined everything.
He had gone back to his cubicle without looking at O’Brien again. The idea of following up
their momentary contact hardly crossed his mind. It would have been inconceivably dangerous
even if he had known how to set about doing it. For a second, two seconds, they had exchanged
an equivocal glance, and that was the end of the story. But even that was a memorable
event, in the locked loneliness in which one had to live. Winston roused himself and sat up straighter.
He let out a belch. The gin was rising from his stomach. His eyes re-focused on the page. He discovered
that while he sat helplessly musing he had also been writing, as though by automatic
action. And it was no longer the same cramped, awkward handwriting as before. His pen had
slid voluptuously over the smooth paper, printing in large neat capitals — DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER
DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER
DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER over and over again, filling half a page. He could not help feeling a twinge of panic.
It was absurd, since the writing of those particular words was not more dangerous than
the initial act of opening the diary, but for a moment he was tempted to tear out the
spoiled pages and abandon the enterprise altogether. He did not do so, however, because he knew
that it was useless. Whether he wrote DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER, or whether he refrained
from writing it, made no difference. Whether he went on with the diary, or whether he did
not go on with it, made no difference. The Thought Police would get him just the same.
He had committed — would still have committed, even if he had never set pen to paper — the
essential crime that contained all others in itself. Thoughtcrime, they called it. Thoughtcrime
was not a thing that could be concealed for ever. You might dodge successfully for a while,
even for years, but sooner or later they were bound to get you. It was always at night — the arrests invariably
happened at night. The sudden jerk out of sleep, the rough hand shaking your shoulder,
the lights glaring in your eyes, the ring of hard faces round the bed. In the vast majority
of cases there was no trial, no report of the arrest. People simply disappeared, always
during the night. Your name was removed from the registers, every record of everything
you had ever done was wiped out, your one-time existence was denied and then forgotten. You
were abolished, annihilated: vapourized was the usual word. For a moment he was seized by a kind of hysteria.
He began writing in a hurried untidy scrawl: theyll shoot me i don’t care theyll shoot
me in the back of the neck i dont care down with big brother they always shoot you in
the back of the neck i dont care down with big brother — He sat back in his chair, slightly ashamed
of himself, and laid down the pen. The next moment he started violently. There was a knocking
at the door. Already! He sat as still as a mouse, in the
futile hope that whoever it was might go away after a single attempt. But no, the knocking
was repeated. The worst thing of all would be to delay. His heart was thumping like a
drum, but his face, from long habit, was probably expressionless. He got up and moved heavily
towards the door. ____ 1) Newspeak was the official language of Oceania.
For an account of its structure and etymology see Appendix. [back] Chapter 2 As he put his hand to the door-knob Winston
saw that he had left the diary open on the table. DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER was written all
over it, in letters almost big enough to be legible across the room. It was an inconceivably
stupid thing to have done. But, he realized, even in his panic he had not wanted to smudge
the creamy paper by shutting the book while the ink was wet. He drew in his breath and opened the door.
Instantly a warm wave of relief flowed through him. A colourless, crushed-looking woman,
with wispy hair and a lined face, was standing outside. ‘Oh, comrade,’ she began in a dreary, whining
sort of voice, ‘I thought I heard you come in. Do you think you could come across and
have a look at our kitchen sink? It’s got blocked up and—’ It was Mrs. Parsons, the wife of a neighbour
on the same floor. (‘Mrs.’ was a word somewhat discountenanced by the Party — you were
supposed to call everyone ‘comrade’ — but with some women one used it instinctively.)
She was a woman of about thirty, but looking much older. One had the impression that there
was dust in the creases of her face. Winston followed her down the passage. These amateur
repair jobs were an almost daily irritation. Victory Mansions were old flats, built in
1930 or thereabouts, and were falling to pieces. The plaster flaked constantly from ceilings
and walls, the pipes burst in every hard frost, the roof leaked whenever there was snow, the
heating system was usually running at half steam when it was not closed down altogether
from motives of economy. Repairs, except what you could do for yourself, had to be sanctioned
by remote committees which were liable to hold up even the mending of a window-pane
for two years. ‘Of course it’s only because Tom isn’t home,’
said Mrs. Parsons vaguely. The Parsons” flat was bigger than Winston’s,
and dingy in a different way. Everything had a battered, trampled-on look, as though the
place had just been visited by some large violent animal. Games impedimenta — hockey-sticks,
boxing-gloves, a burst football, a pair of sweaty shorts turned inside out — lay all
over the floor, and on the table there was a litter of dirty dishes and dog-eared exercise-books.
On the walls were scarlet banners of the Youth League and the Spies, and a full-sized poster
of Big Brother. There was the usual boiled-cabbage smell, common to the whole building, but it
was shot through by a sharper reek of sweat, which — one knew this at the first sniff,
though it was hard to say how — was the sweat of some person not present at the moment.
In another room someone with a comb and a piece of toilet paper was trying to keep tune
with the military music which was still issuing from the telescreen. ‘It’s the children,’ said Mrs. Parsons, casting
a half-apprehensive glance at the door. ‘They haven’t been out today. And of course—’ She had a habit of breaking off her sentences
in the middle. The kitchen sink was full nearly to the brim with filthy greenish water which
smelt worse than ever of cabbage. Winston knelt down and examined the angle-joint of
the pipe. He hated using his hands, and he hated bending down, which was always liable
to start him coughing. Mrs. Parsons looked on helplessly. ‘Of course if Tom was home he’d put it right
in a moment,’ she said. ‘He loves anything like that. He’s ever so good with his hands,
Tom is.’ Parsons was Winston’s fellow-employee at the
Ministry of Truth. He was a fattish but active man of paralysing stupidity, a mass of imbecile
enthusiasms — one of those completely unquestioning, devoted drudges on whom, more even than on
the Thought Police, the stability of the Party depended. At thirty-five he had just been
unwillingly evicted from the Youth League, and before graduating into the Youth League
he had managed to stay on in the Spies for a year beyond the statutory age. At the Ministry
he was employed in some subordinate post for which intelligence was not required, but on
the other hand he was a leading figure on the Sports Committee and all the other committees
engaged in organizing community hikes, spontaneous demonstrations, savings campaigns, and voluntary
activities generally. He would inform you with quiet pride, between whiffs of his pipe,
that he had put in an appearance at the Community Centre every evening for the past four years.
An overpowering smell of sweat, a sort of unconscious testimony to the strenuousness
of his life, followed him about wherever he went, and even remained behind him after he
had gone. ‘Have you got a spanner?’ said Winston, fiddling
with the nut on the angle-joint. ‘A spanner,’ said Mrs. Parsons, immediately
becoming invertebrate. ‘I don’t know, I’m sure. Perhaps the children—’ There was a trampling of boots and another
blast on the comb as the children charged into the living-room. Mrs. Parsons brought
the spanner. Winston let out the water and disgustedly removed the clot of human hair
that had blocked up the pipe. He cleaned his fingers as best he could in the cold water
from the tap and went back into the other room. ‘Up with your hands!’ yelled a savage voice. A handsome, tough-looking boy of nine had
popped up from behind the table and was menacing him with a toy automatic pistol, while his
small sister, about two years younger, made the same gesture with a fragment of wood.
Both of them were dressed in the blue shorts, grey shirts, and red neckerchiefs which were
the uniform of the Spies. Winston raised his hands above his head, but with an uneasy feeling,
so vicious was the boy’s demeanour, that it was not altogether a game. ‘You’re a traitor!’ yelled the boy. ‘You’re
a thought-criminal! You’re a Eurasian spy! I’ll shoot you, I’ll vaporize you, I’ll send
you to the salt mines!’ Suddenly they were both leaping round him,
shouting ‘Traitor!’ and ‘Thought-criminal!’ the little girl imitating her brother in every
movement. It was somehow slightly frightening, like the gambolling of tiger cubs which will
soon grow up into man-eaters. There was a sort of calculating ferocity in the boy’s
eye, a quite evident desire to hit or kick Winston and a consciousness of being very
nearly big enough to do so. It was a good job it was not a real pistol he was holding,
Winston thought. Mrs. Parsons” eyes flitted nervously from
Winston to the children, and back again. In the better light of the living-room he noticed
with interest that there actually was dust in the creases of her face. ‘They do get so noisy,’ she said. ‘They’re
disappointed because they couldn’t go to see the hanging, that’s what it is. I’m too busy
to take them. and Tom won’t be back from work in time.’ ‘Why can’t we go and see the hanging?’ roared
the boy in his huge voice. ‘Want to see the hanging! Want to see the
hanging!’ chanted the little girl, still capering round. Some Eurasian prisoners, guilty of war crimes,
were to be hanged in the Park that evening, Winston remembered. This happened about once
a month, and was a popular spectacle. Children always clamoured to be taken to see it. He
took his leave of Mrs. Parsons and made for the door. But he had not gone six steps down
the passage when something hit the back of his neck an agonizingly painful blow. It was
as though a red-hot wire had been jabbed into him. He spun round just in time to see Mrs.
Parsons dragging her son back into the doorway while the boy pocketed a catapult. ‘Goldstein!’ bellowed the boy as the door
closed on him. But what most struck Winston was the look of helpless fright on the woman’s
greyish face. Back in the flat he stepped quickly past the
telescreen and sat down at the table again, still rubbing his neck. The music from the
telescreen had stopped. Instead, a clipped military voice was reading out, with a sort
of brutal relish, a description of the armaments of the new Floating Fortress which had just
been anchored between lceland and the Faroe lslands. With those children, he thought, that wretched
woman must lead a life of terror. Another year, two years, and they would be watching
her night and day for symptoms of unorthodoxy. Nearly all children nowadays were horrible.
What was worst of all was that by means of such organizations as the Spies they were
systematically turned into ungovernable little savages, and yet this produced in them no
tendency whatever to rebel against the discipline of the Party. On the contrary, they adored
the Party and everything connected with it. The songs, the processions, the banners, the
hiking, the drilling with dummy rifles, the yelling of slogans, the worship of Big Brother
— it was all a sort of glorious game to them. All their ferocity was turned outwards,
against the enemies of the State, against foreigners, traitors, saboteurs, thought-criminals.
It was almost normal for people over thirty to be frightened of their own children. And
with good reason, for hardly a week passed in which the Times did not carry a paragraph
describing how some eavesdropping little sneak — ‘child hero’ was the phrase generally
used — had overheard some compromising remark and denounced its parents to the Thought Police. The sting of the catapult bullet had worn
off. He picked up his pen half-heartedly, wondering whether he could find something
more to write in the diary. Suddenly he began thinking of O’Brien again. Years ago — how long was it? Seven years
it must be — he had dreamed that he was walking through a pitch-dark room. And someone
sitting to one side of him had said as he passed: ‘We shall meet in the place where
there is no darkness.’ It was said very quietly, almost casually — a statement, not a command.
He had walked on without pausing. What was curious was that at the time, in the dream,
the words had not made much impression on him. It was only later and by degrees that
they had seemed to take on significance. He could not now remember whether it was before
or after having the dream that he had seen O’Brien for the first time, nor could he remember
when he had first identified the voice as O’Brien’s. But at any rate the identification
existed. It was O’Brien who had spoken to him out of the dark. Winston had never been able to feel sure — even
after this morning’s flash of the eyes it was still impossible to be sure whether O’Brien
was a friend or an enemy. Nor did it even seem to matter greatly. There was a link of
understanding between them, more important than affection or partisanship. ‘We shall
meet in the place where there is no darkness,’ he had said. Winston did not know what it
meant, only that in some way or another it would come true. The voice from the telescreen paused. A trumpet
call, clear and beautiful, floated into the stagnant air. The voice continued raspingly: ‘Attention! Your attention, please! A newsflash
has this moment arrived from the Malabar front. Our forces in South India have won a glorious
victory. I am authorized to say that the action we are now reporting may well bring the war
within measurable distance of its end. Here is the newsflash—’ Bad news coming, thought Winston. And sure
enough, following on a gory description of the annihilation of a Eurasian army, with
stupendous figures of killed and prisoners, came the announcement that, as from next week,
the chocolate ration would be reduced from thirty grammes to twenty. Winston belched again. The gin was wearing
off, leaving a deflated feeling. The telescreen — perhaps to celebrate the victory, perhaps
to drown the memory of the lost chocolate — crashed into ‘Oceania, ’tis for thee’.
You were supposed to stand to attention. However, in his present position he was invisible. ‘Oceania, ’tis for thee’ gave way to lighter
music. Winston walked over to the window, keeping his back to the telescreen. The day
was still cold and clear. Somewhere far away a rocket bomb exploded with a dull, reverberating
roar. About twenty or thirty of them a week were falling on London at present. Down in the street the wind flapped the torn
poster to and fro, and the word INGSOC fitfully appeared and vanished. Ingsoc. The sacred
principles of Ingsoc. Newspeak, doublethink, the mutability of the past. He felt as though
he were wandering in the forests of the sea bottom, lost in a monstrous world where he
himself was the monster. He was alone. The past was dead, the future was unimaginable.
What certainty had he that a single human creature now living was on his side? And what
way of knowing that the dominion of the Party would not endure for ever? Like an answer,
the three slogans on the white face of the Ministry of Truth came back to him: WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH He took a twenty-five cent piece out of his
pocket. There, too, in tiny clear lettering, the same slogans were inscribed, and on the
other face of the coin the head of Big Brother. Even from the coin the eyes pursued you. On
coins, on stamps, on the covers of books, on banners, on posters, and on the wrappings
of a cigarette packet — everywhere. Always the eyes watching you and the voice enveloping
you. Asleep or awake, working or eating, indoors or out of doors, in the bath or in bed — no
escape. Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimetres inside your skull. The sun had shifted round, and the myriad
windows of the Ministry of Truth, with the light no longer shining on them, looked grim
as the loopholes of a fortress. His heart quailed before the enormous pyramidal shape.
It was too strong, it could not be stormed. A thousand rocket bombs would not batter it
down. He wondered again for whom he was writing the diary. For the future, for the past — for
an age that might be imaginary. And in front of him there lay not death but annihilation.
The diary would be reduced to ashes and himself to vapour. Only the Thought Police would read
what he had written, before they wiped it out of existence and out of memory. How could
you make appeal to the future when not a trace of you, not even an anonymous word scribbled
on a piece of paper, could physically survive? The telescreen struck fourteen. He must leave
in ten minutes. He had to be back at work by fourteen-thirty. Curiously, the chiming of the hour seemed
to have put new heart into him. He was a lonely ghost uttering a truth that nobody would ever
hear. But so long as he uttered it, in some obscure way the continuity was not broken.
It was not by making yourself heard but by staying sane that you carried on the human
heritage. He went back to the table, dipped his pen, and wrote: To the future or to the past, to a time when
thought is free, when men are different from one another and do not live alone — to a
time when truth exists and what is done cannot be undone: From the age of uniformity, from the age of
solitude, from the age of Big Brother, from the age of doublethink — greetings! He was already dead, he reflected. It seemed
to him that it was only now, when he had begun to be able to formulate his thoughts, that
he had taken the decisive step. The consequences of every act are included in the act itself.
He wrote: Thoughtcrime does not entail death: thoughtcrime
IS death. Now he had recognized himself as a dead man
it became important to stay alive as long as possible. Two fingers of his right hand
were inkstained. It was exactly the kind of detail that might betray you. Some nosing
zealot in the Ministry (a woman, probably: someone like the little sandy-haired woman
or the dark-haired girl from the Fiction Department) might start wondering why he had been writing
during the lunch interval, why he had used an old-fashioned pen, what he had been writing
— and then drop a hint in the appropriate quarter. He went to the bathroom and carefully
scrubbed the ink away with the gritty dark-brown soap which rasped your skin like sandpaper
and was therefore well adapted for this purpose. He put the diary away in the drawer. It was
quite useless to think of hiding it, but he could at least make sure whether or not its
existence had been discovered. A hair laid across the page-ends was too obvious. With
the tip of his finger he picked up an identifiable grain of whitish dust and deposited it on
the corner of the cover, where it was bound to be shaken off if the book was moved. Chapter 3 Winston was dreaming of his mother. He must, he thought, have been ten or eleven
years old when his mother had disappeared. She was a tall, statuesque, rather silent
woman with slow movements and magnificent fair hair. His father he remembered more vaguely
as dark and thin, dressed always in neat dark clothes (Winston remembered especially the
very thin soles of his father’s shoes) and wearing spectacles. The two of them must evidently
have been swallowed up in one of the first great purges of the fifties. At this moment his mother was sitting in some
place deep down beneath him, with his young sister in her arms. He did not remember his
sister at all, except as a tiny, feeble baby, always silent, with large, watchful eyes.
Both of them were looking up at him. They were down in some subterranean place — the
bottom of a well, for instance, or a very deep grave — but it was a place which, already
far below him, was itself moving downwards. They were in the saloon of a sinking ship,
looking up at him through the darkening water. There was still air in the saloon, they could
still see him and he them, but all the while they were sinking down, down into the green
waters which in another moment must hide them from sight for ever. He was out in the light
and air while they were being sucked down to death, and they were down there because
he was up here. He knew it and they knew it, and he could see the knowledge in their faces.
There was no reproach either in their faces or in their hearts, only the knowledge that
they must die in order that he might remain alive, and that this was part of the unavoidable
order of things. He could not remember what had happened, but
he knew in his dream that in some way the lives of his mother and his sister had been
sacrificed to his own. It was one of those dreams which, while retaining the characteristic
dream scenery, are a continuation of one’s intellectual life, and in which one becomes
aware of facts and ideas which still seem new and valuable after one is awake. The thing
that now suddenly struck Winston was that his mother’s death, nearly thirty years ago,
had been tragic and sorrowful in a way that was no longer possible. Tragedy, he perceived,
belonged to the ancient time, to a time when there was still privacy, love, and friendship,
and when the members of a family stood by one another without needing to know the reason.
His mother’s memory tore at his heart because she had died loving him, when he was too young
and selfish to love her in return, and because somehow, he did not remember how, she had
sacrificed herself to a conception of loyalty that was private and unalterable. Such things,
he saw, could not happen today. Today there were fear, hatred, and pain, but no dignity
of emotion, no deep or complex sorrows. All this he seemed to see in the large eyes of
his mother and his sister, looking up at him through the green water, hundreds of fathoms
down and still sinking. Suddenly he was standing on short springy
turf, on a summer evening when the slanting rays of the sun gilded the ground. The landscape
that he was looking at recurred so often in his dreams that he was never fully certain
whether or not he had seen it in the real world. In his waking thoughts he called it
the Golden Country. It was an old, rabbit-bitten pasture, with a foot-track wandering across
it and a molehill here and there. In the ragged hedge on the opposite side of the field the
boughs of the elm trees were swaying very faintly in the breeze, their leaves just stirring
in dense masses like women’s hair. Somewhere near at hand, though out of sight, there was
a clear, slow-moving stream where dace were swimming in the pools under the willow trees. The girl with dark hair was coming towards
them across the field. With what seemed a single movement she tore off her clothes and
flung them disdainfully aside. Her body was white and smooth, but it aroused no desire
in him, indeed he barely looked at it. What overwhelmed him in that instant was admiration
for the gesture with which she had thrown her clothes aside. With its grace and carelessness
it seemed to annihilate a whole culture, a whole system of thought, as though Big Brother
and the Party and the Thought Police could all be swept into nothingness by a single
splendid movement of the arm. That too was a gesture belonging to the ancient time. Winston
woke up with the word ‘Shakespeare’ on his lips. The telescreen was giving forth an ear-splitting
whistle which continued on the same note for thirty seconds. It was nought seven fifteen,
getting-up time for office workers. Winston wrenched his body out of bed — naked, for
a member of the Outer Party received only 3,000 clothing coupons annually, and a suit
of pyjamas was 600 — and seized a dingy singlet and a pair of shorts that were lying
across a chair. The Physical Jerks would begin in three minutes. The next moment he was doubled
up by a violent coughing fit which nearly always attacked him soon after waking up.
It emptied his lungs so completely that he could only begin breathing again by lying
on his back and taking a series of deep gasps. His veins had swelled with the effort of the
cough, and the varicose ulcer had started itching. ‘Thirty to forty group!’ yapped a piercing
female voice. ‘Thirty to forty group! Take your places, please. Thirties to forties!’ Winston sprang to attention in front of the
telescreen, upon which the image of a youngish woman, scrawny but muscular, dressed in tunic
and gym-shoes, had already appeared. ‘Arms bending and stretching!’ she rapped
out. ‘Take your time by me. One, two, three, four! One, two, three, four! Come on, comrades,
put a bit of life into it! One, two, three four! One two, three, four!…’ The pain of the coughing fit had not quite
driven out of Winston’s mind the impression made by his dream, and the rhythmic movements
of the exercise restored it somewhat. As he mechanically shot his arms back and forth,
wearing on his face the look of grim enjoyment which was considered proper during the Physical
Jerks, he was struggling to think his way backward into the dim period of his early
childhood. It was extraordinarily difficult. Beyond the late fifties everything faded.
When there were no external records that you could refer to, even the outline of your own
life lost its sharpness. You remembered huge events which had quite probably not happened,
you remembered the detail of incidents without being able to recapture their atmosphere,
and there were long blank periods to which you could assign nothing. Everything had been
different then. Even the names of countries, and their shapes on the map, had been different.
Airstrip One, for instance, had not been so called in those days: it had been called England
or Britain, though London, he felt fairly certain, had always been called London. Winston could not definitely remember a time
when his country had not been at war, but it was evident that there had been a fairly
long interval of peace during his childhood, because one of his early memories was of an
air raid which appeared to take everyone by surprise. Perhaps it was the time when the
atomic bomb had fallen on Colchester. He did not remember the raid itself, but he did remember
his father’s hand clutching his own as they hurried down, down, down into some place deep
in the earth, round and round a spiral staircase which rang under his feet and which finally
so wearied his legs that he began whimpering and they had to stop and rest. His mother,
in her slow, dreamy way, was following a long way behind them. She was carrying his baby
sister — or perhaps it was only a bundle of blankets that she was carrying: he was
not certain whether his sister had been born then. Finally they had emerged into a noisy,
crowded place which he had realized to be a Tube station. There were people sitting all over the stone-flagged
floor, and other people, packed tightly together, were sitting on metal bunks, one above the
other. Winston and his mother and father found themselves a place on the floor, and near
them an old man and an old woman were sitting side by side on a bunk. The old man had on
a decent dark suit and a black cloth cap pushed back from very white hair: his face was scarlet
and his eyes were blue and full of tears. He reeked of gin. It seemed to breathe out
of his skin in place of sweat, and one could have fancied that the tears welling from his
eyes were pure gin. But though slightly drunk he was also suffering under some grief that
was genuine and unbearable. In his childish way Winston grasped that some terrible thing,
something that was beyond forgiveness and could never be remedied, had just happened.
It also seemed to him that he knew what it was. Someone whom the old man loved — a
little granddaughter, perhaps — had been killed. Every few minutes the old man kept
repeating: ‘We didn’t ought to ‘ave trusted ’em. I said
so, Ma, didn’t I? That’s what comes of trusting ’em. I said so all along. We didn’t ought
to ‘ave trusted the buggers.’ But which buggers they didn’t ought to have
trusted Winston could not now remember. Since about that time, war had been literally
continuous, though strictly speaking it had not always been the same war. For several
months during his childhood there had been confused street fighting in London itself,
some of which he remembered vividly. But to trace out the history of the whole period,
to say who was fighting whom at any given moment, would have been utterly impossible,
since no written record, and no spoken word, ever made mention of any other alignment than
the existing one. At this moment, for example, in 1984 (if it was 1984), Oceania was at war
with Eurasia and in alliance with Eastasia. In no public or private utterance was it ever
admitted that the three powers had at any time been grouped along different lines. Actually,
as Winston well knew, it was only four years since Oceania had been at war with Eastasia
and in alliance with Eurasia. But that was merely a piece of furtive knowledge which
he happened to possess because his memory was not satisfactorily under control. Officially
the change of partners had never happened. Oceania was at war with Eurasia: therefore
Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia. The enemy of the moment always represented
absolute evil, and it followed that any past or future agreement with him was impossible. The frightening thing, he reflected for the
ten thousandth time as he forced his shoulders painfully backward (with hands on hips, they
were gyrating their bodies from the waist, an exercise that was supposed to be good for
the back muscles) — the frightening thing was that it might all be true. If the Party
could thrust its hand into the past and say of this or that event, it never happened — that,
surely, was more terrifying than mere torture and death? The Party said that Oceania had never been
in alliance with Eurasia. He, Winston Smith, knew that Oceania had been in alliance with
Eurasia as short a time as four years ago. But where did that knowledge exist? Only in
his own consciousness, which in any case must soon be annihilated. And if all others accepted
the lie which the Party imposed — if all records told the same tale — then the lie
passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past,’ ran the Party slogan,
‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’ And yet the past, though
of its nature alterable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting
to everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories
over your own memory. ‘Reality control’, they called it: in Newspeak, ‘doublethink’ ‘Stand easy!’ barked the instructress, a little
more genially. Winston sank his arms to his sides and slowly
refilled his lungs with air. His mind slid away into the labyrinthine world of doublethink.
To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully
constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them
to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate
morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the
Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then
to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget
it again: and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself. That was the
ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious
of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word ‘doublethink’
involved the use of doublethink. The instructress had called them to attention
again. ‘And now let’s see which of us can touch our toes!’ she said enthusiastically.
‘Right over from the hips, please, comrades. One-two! One-two!…’ Winston loathed this exercise, which sent
shooting pains all the way from his heels to his buttocks and often ended by bringing
on another coughing fit. The half-pleasant quality went out of his meditations. The past,
he reflected, had not merely been altered, it had been actually destroyed. For how could
you establish even the most obvious fact when there existed no record outside your own memory?
He tried to remember in what year he had first heard mention of Big Brother. He thought it
must have been at some time in the sixties, but it was impossible to be certain. In the
Party histories, of course, Big Brother figured as the leader and guardian of the Revolution
since its very earliest days. His exploits had been gradually pushed backwards in time
until already they extended into the fabulous world of the forties and the thirties, when
the capitalists in their strange cylindrical hats still rode through the streets of London
in great gleaming motor-cars or horse carriages with glass sides. There was no knowing how
much of this legend was true and how much invented. Winston could not even remember
at what date the Party itself had come into existence. He did not believe he had ever
heard the word Ingsoc before 1960, but it was possible that in its Oldspeak form — ‘English
Socialism’, that is to say — it had been current earlier. Everything melted into mist.
Sometimes, indeed, you could put your finger on a definite lie. It was not true, for example,
as was claimed in the Party history books, that the Party had invented aeroplanes. He
remembered aeroplanes since his earliest childhood. But you could prove nothing. There was never
any evidence. Just once in his whole life he had held in his hands unmistakable documentary
proof of the falsification of an historical fact. And on that occasion — ‘Smith!’ screamed the shrewish voice from
the telescreen. ‘6079 Smith W.! Yes, you! Bend lower, please! You can do better than
that. You’re not trying. Lower, please! That’s better, comrade. Now stand at ease, the whole
squad, and watch me.’ A sudden hot sweat had broken out all over
Winston’s body. His face remained completely inscrutable. Never show dismay! Never show
resentment! A single flicker of the eyes could give you away. He stood watching while the
instructress raised her arms above her head and — one could not say gracefully, but
with remarkable neatness and efficiency — bent over and tucked the first joint of her fingers
under her toes. ‘There, comrades! That’s how I want to see
you doing it. Watch me again. I’m thirty-nine and I’ve had four children. Now look.’ She
bent over again. ‘You see my knees aren’t bent. You can all do it if you want to,’ she
added as she straightened herself up. ‘Anyone under forty-five is perfectly capable of touching
his toes. We don’t all have the privilege of fighting in the front line, but at least
we can all keep fit. Remember our boys on the Malabar front! And the sailors in the
Floating Fortresses! Just think what they have to put up with. Now try again. That’s
better, comrade, that’s much better,’ she added encouragingly as Winston, with a violent
lunge, succeeded in touching his toes with knees unbent, for the first time in several
years. Chapter 4 With the deep, unconscious sigh which not
even the nearness of the telescreen could prevent him from uttering when his day’s work
started, Winston pulled the speakwrite towards him, blew the dust from its mouthpiece, and
put on his spectacles. Then he unrolled and clipped together four small cylinders of paper
which had already flopped out of the pneumatic tube on the right-hand side of his desk. In the walls of the cubicle there were three
orifices. To the right of the speakwrite, a small pneumatic tube for written messages,
to the left, a larger one for newspapers; and in the side wall, within easy reach of
Winston’s arm, a large oblong slit protected by a wire grating. This last was for the disposal
of waste paper. Similar slits existed in thousands or tens of thousands throughout the building,
not only in every room but at short intervals in every corridor. For some reason they were
nicknamed memory holes. When one knew that any document was due for destruction, or even
when one saw a scrap of waste paper lying about, it was an automatic action to lift
the flap of the nearest memory hole and drop it in, whereupon it would be whirled away
on a current of warm air to the enormous furnaces which were hidden somewhere in the recesses
of the building. Winston examined the four slips of paper which
he had unrolled. Each contained a message of only one or two lines, in the abbreviated
jargon — not actually Newspeak, but consisting largely of Newspeak words — which was used
in the Ministry for internal purposes. They ran: times 17.3.84 bb speech malreported africa
rectify times 19.12.83 forecasts 3 yp 4th quarter
83 misprints verify current issue times 14.2.84 miniplenty malquoted chocolate
rectify times 3.12.83 reporting bb dayorder doubleplusungood
refs unpersons rewrite fullwise upsub antefiling With a faint feeling of satisfaction Winston
laid the fourth message aside. It was an intricate and responsible job and had better be dealt
with last. The other three were routine matters, though the second one would probably mean
some tedious wading through lists of figures. Winston dialled ‘back numbers’ on the telescreen
and called for the appropriate issues of the Times, which slid out of the pneumatic tube
after only a few minutes” delay. The messages he had received referred to articles or news
items which for one reason or another it was thought necessary to alter, or, as the official
phrase had it, to rectify. For example, it appeared from the Times of the seventeenth
of March that Big Brother, in his speech of the previous day, had predicted that the South
Indian front would remain quiet but that a Eurasian offensive would shortly be launched
in North Africa. As it happened, the Eurasian Higher Command had launched its offensive
in South India and left North Africa alone. It was therefore necessary to rewrite a paragraph
of Big Brother’s speech, in such a way as to make him predict the thing that had actually
happened. Or again, the Times of the nineteenth of December had published the official forecasts
of the output of various classes of consumption goods in the fourth quarter of 1983, which
was also the sixth quarter of the Ninth Three-Year Plan. Today’s issue contained a statement
of the actual output, from which it appeared that the forecasts were in every instance
grossly wrong. Winston’s job was to rectify the original figures by making them agree
with the later ones. As for the third message, it referred to a very simple error which could
be set right in a couple of minutes. As short a time ago as February, the Ministry of Plenty
had issued a promise (a ‘categorical pledge’ were the official words) that there would
be no reduction of the chocolate ration during 1984. Actually, as Winston was aware, the
chocolate ration was to be reduced from thirty grammes to twenty at the end of the present
week. All that was needed was to substitute for the original promise a warning that it
would probably be necessary to reduce the ration at some time in April. As soon as Winston had dealt with each of
the messages, he clipped his speakwritten corrections to the appropriate copy of the
Times and pushed them into the pneumatic tube. Then, with a movement which was as nearly
as possible unconscious, he crumpled up the original message and any notes that he himself
had made, and dropped them into the memory hole to be devoured by the flames. What happened in the unseen labyrinth to which
the pneumatic tubes led, he did not know in detail, but he did know in general terms.
As soon as all the corrections which happened to be necessary in any particular number of
the Times had been assembled and collated, that number would be reprinted, the original
copy destroyed, and the corrected copy placed on the files in its stead. This process of
continuous alteration was applied not only to newspapers, but to books, periodicals,
pamphlets, posters, leaflets, films, sound-tracks, cartoons, photographs — to every kind of
literature or documentation which might conceivably hold any political or ideological significance.
Day by day and almost minute by minute the past was brought up to date. In this way every
prediction made by the Party could be shown by documentary evidence to have been correct,
nor was any item of news, or any expression of opinion, which conflicted with the needs
of the moment, ever allowed to remain on record. All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean
and reinscribed exactly as often as was necessary. In no case would it have been possible, once
the deed was done, to prove that any falsification had taken place. The largest section of the
Records Department, far larger than the one on which Winston worked, consisted simply
of persons whose duty it was to track down and collect all copies of books, newspapers,
and other documents which had been superseded and were due for destruction. A number of
the Times which might, because of changes in political alignment, or mistaken prophecies
uttered by Big Brother, have been rewritten a dozen times still stood on the files bearing
its original date, and no other copy existed to contradict it. Books, also, were recalled
and rewritten again and again, and were invariably reissued without any admission that any alteration
had been made. Even the written instructions which Winston received, and which he invariably
got rid of as soon as he had dealt with them, never stated or implied that an act of forgery
was to be committed: always the reference was to slips, errors, misprints, or misquotations
which it was necessary to put right in the interests of accuracy. But actually, he thought as he re-adjusted
the Ministry of Plenty’s figures, it was not even forgery. It was merely the substitution
of one piece of nonsense for another. Most of the material that you were dealing with
had no connexion with anything in the real world, not even the kind of connexion that
is contained in a direct lie. Statistics were just as much a fantasy in their original version
as in their rectified version. A great deal of the time you were expected to make them
up out of your head. For example, the Ministry of Plenty’s forecast had estimated the output
of boots for the quarter at 145 million pairs. The actual output was given as sixty-two millions.
Winston, however, in rewriting the forecast, marked the figure down to fifty-seven millions,
so as to allow for the usual claim that the quota had been overfulfilled. In any case,
sixty-two millions was no nearer the truth than fifty-seven millions, or than 145 millions.
Very likely no boots had been produced at all. Likelier still, nobody knew how many
had been produced, much less cared. All one knew was that every quarter astronomical numbers
of boots were produced on paper, while perhaps half the population of Oceania went barefoot.
And so it was with every class of recorded fact, great or small. Everything faded away
into a shadow-world in which, finally, even the date of the year had become uncertain. Winston glanced across the hall. In the corresponding
cubicle on the other side a small, precise-looking, dark-chinned man named Tillotson was working
steadily away, with a folded newspaper on his knee and his mouth very close to the mouthpiece
of the speakwrite. He had the air of trying to keep what he was saying a secret between
himself and the telescreen. He looked up, and his spectacles darted a hostile flash
in Winston’s direction. Winston hardly knew Tillotson, and had no
idea what work he was employed on. People in the Records Department did not readily
talk about their jobs. In the long, windowless hall, with its double row of cubicles and
its endless rustle of papers and hum of voices murmuring into speakwrites, there were quite
a dozen people whom Winston did not even know by name, though he daily saw them hurrying
to and fro in the corridors or gesticulating in the Two Minutes Hate. He knew that in the
cubicle next to him the little woman with sandy hair toiled day in day out, simply at
tracking down and deleting from the Press the names of people who had been vaporized
and were therefore considered never to have existed. There was a certain fitness in this,
since her own husband had been vaporized a couple of years earlier. And a few cubicles
away a mild, ineffectual, dreamy creature named Ampleforth, with very hairy ears and
a surprising talent for juggling with rhymes and metres, was engaged in producing garbled
versions — definitive texts, they were called — of poems which had become ideologically
offensive, but which for one reason or another were to be retained in the anthologies. And
this hall, with its fifty workers or thereabouts, was only one sub-section, a single cell, as
it were, in the huge complexity of the Records Department. Beyond, above, below, were other
swarms of workers engaged in an unimaginable multitude of jobs. There were the huge printing-shops
with their sub-editors, their typography experts, and their elaborately equipped studios for
the faking of photographs. There was the tele-programmes section with its engineers, its producers,
and its teams of actors specially chosen for their skill in imitating voices. There were
the armies of reference clerks whose job was simply to draw up lists of books and periodicals
which were due for recall. There were the vast repositories where the corrected documents
were stored, and the hidden furnaces where the original copies were destroyed. And somewhere
or other, quite anonymous, there were the directing brains who co-ordinated the whole
effort and laid down the lines of policy which made it necessary that this fragment of the
past should be preserved, that one falsified, and the other rubbed out of existence. And the Records Department, after all, was
itself only a single branch of the Ministry of Truth, whose primary job was not to reconstruct
the past but to supply the citizens of Oceania with newspapers, films, textbooks, telescreen
programmes, plays, novels — with every conceivable kind of information, instruction, or entertainment,
from a statue to a slogan, from a lyric poem to a biological treatise, and from a child’s
spelling-book to a Newspeak dictionary. And the Ministry had not only to supply the multifarious
needs of the party, but also to repeat the whole operation at a lower level for the benefit
of the proletariat. There was a whole chain of separate departments dealing with proletarian
literature, music, drama, and entertainment generally. Here were produced rubbishy newspapers
containing almost nothing except sport, crime and astrology, sensational five-cent novelettes,
films oozing with sex, and sentimental songs which were composed entirely by mechanical
means on a special kind of kaleidoscope known as a versificator. There was even a whole
sub-section — Pornosec, it was called in Newspeak — engaged in producing the lowest
kind of pornography, which was sent out in sealed packets and which no Party member,
other than those who worked on it, was permitted to look at. Three messages had slid out of the pneumatic
tube while Winston was working, but they were simple matters, and he had disposed of them
before the Two Minutes Hate interrupted him. When the Hate was over he returned to his
cubicle, took the Newspeak dictionary from the shelf, pushed the speakwrite to one side,
cleaned his spectacles, and settled down to his main job of the morning. Winston’s greatest pleasure in life was in
his work. Most of it was a tedious routine, but included in it there were also jobs so
difficult and intricate that you could lose yourself in them as in the depths of a mathematical
problem — delicate pieces of forgery in which you had nothing to guide you except
your knowledge of the principles of Ingsoc and your estimate of what the Party wanted
you to say. Winston was good at this kind of thing. On occasion he had even been entrusted
with the rectification of the Times leading articles, which were written entirely in Newspeak.
He unrolled the message that he had set aside earlier. It ran: times 3.12.83 reporting bb dayorder doubleplusungood
refs unpersons rewrite fullwise upsub antefiling In Oldspeak (or standard English) this might
be rendered: The reporting of Big Brother’s Order for the
Day in the Times of December 3rd 1983 is extremely unsatisfactory and makes references to non-existent
persons. Rewrite it in full and submit your draft to higher authority before filing. Winston read through the offending article.
Big Brother’s Order for the Day, it seemed, had been chiefly devoted to praising the work
of an organization known as FFCC, which supplied cigarettes and other comforts to the sailors
in the Floating Fortresses. A certain Comrade Withers, a prominent member of the Inner Party,
had been singled out for special mention and awarded a decoration, the Order of Conspicuous
Merit, Second Class. Three months later FFCC had suddenly been
dissolved with no reasons given. One could assume that Withers and his associates were
now in disgrace, but there had been no report of the matter in the Press or on the telescreen.
That was to be expected, since it was unusual for political offenders to be put on trial
or even publicly denounced. The great purges involving thousands of people, with public
trials of traitors and thought-criminals who made abject confession of their crimes and
were afterwards executed, were special show-pieces not occurring oftener than once in a couple
of years. More commonly, people who had incurred the displeasure of the Party simply disappeared
and were never heard of again. One never had the smallest clue as to what had happened
to them. In some cases they might not even be dead. Perhaps thirty people personally
known to Winston, not counting his parents, had disappeared at one time or another. Winston stroked his nose gently with a paper-clip.
In the cubicle across the way Comrade Tillotson was still crouching secretively over his speakwrite.
He raised his head for a moment: again the hostile spectacle-flash. Winston wondered
whether Comrade Tillotson was engaged on the same job as himself. It was perfectly possible.
So tricky a piece of work would never be entrusted to a single person: on the other hand, to
turn it over to a committee would be to admit openly that an act of fabrication was taking
place. Very likely as many as a dozen people were now working away on rival versions of
what Big Brother had actually said. And presently some master brain in the Inner Party would
select this version or that, would re-edit it and set in motion the complex processes
of cross-referencing that would be required, and then the chosen lie would pass into the
permanent records and become truth. Winston did not know why Withers had been
disgraced. Perhaps it was for corruption or incompetence. Perhaps Big Brother was merely
getting rid of a too-popular subordinate. Perhaps Withers or someone close to him had
been suspected of heretical tendencies. Or perhaps — what was likeliest of all — the
thing had simply happened because purges and vaporizations were a necessary part of the
mechanics of government. The only real clue lay in the words ‘refs unpersons’, which indicated
that Withers was already dead. You could not invariably assume this to be the case when
people were arrested. Sometimes they were released and allowed to remain at liberty
for as much as a year or two years before being executed. Very occasionally some person
whom you had believed dead long since would make a ghostly reappearance at some public
trial where he would implicate hundreds of others by his testimony before vanishing,
this time for ever. Withers, however, was already an unperson. He did not exist: he
had never existed. Winston decided that it would not be enough simply to reverse the
tendency of Big Brother’s speech. It was better to make it deal with something totally unconnected
with its original subject. He might turn the speech into the usual denunciation
of traitors and thought-criminals, but that was a little too obvious, while to invent
a victory at the front, or some triumph of over-production in the Ninth Three-Year Plan,
might complicate the records too much. What was needed was a piece of pure fantasy. Suddenly
there sprang into his mind, ready made as it were, the image of a certain Comrade Ogilvy,
who had recently died in battle, in heroic circumstances. There were occasions when Big
Brother devoted his Order for the Day to commemorating some humble, rank-and-file Party member whose
life and death he held up as an example worthy to be followed. Today he should commemorate
Comrade Ogilvy. It was true that there was no such person as Comrade Ogilvy, but a few
lines of print and a couple of faked photographs would soon bring him into existence. Winston thought for a moment, then pulled
the speakwrite towards him and began dictating in Big Brother’s familiar style: a style at
once military and pedantic, and, because of a trick of asking questions and then promptly
answering them (‘What lessons do we learn from this fact, comrades? The lesson — which
is also one of the fundamental principles of Ingsoc — that,’ etc., etc.), easy to
imitate. At the age of three Comrade Ogilvy had refused
all toys except a drum, a sub-machine gun, and a model helicopter. At six — a year
early, by a special relaxation of the rules — he had joined the Spies, at nine he had
been a troop leader. At eleven he had denounced his uncle to the Thought Police after overhearing
a conversation which appeared to him to have criminal tendencies. At seventeen he had been
a district organizer of the Junior Anti-Sex League. At nine teen he had designed a hand-grenade
which had been adopted by the Ministry of Peace and which, at its first trial, had killed
thirty-one Eurasian prisoners in one burst. At twenty-three he had perished in action.
Pursued by enemy jet planes while flying over the Indian Ocean with important despatches,
he had weighted his body with his machine gun and leapt out of the helicopter into deep
water, despatches and all — an end, said Big Brother, which it was impossible to contemplate
without feelings of envy. Big Brother added a few remarks on the purity and single-mindedness
of Comrade Ogilvy’s life. He was a total abstainer and a nonsmoker, had no recreations except
a daily hour in the gymnasium, and had taken a vow of celibacy, believing marriage and
the care of a family to be incompatible with a twenty-four-hour-a-day devotion to duty.
He had no subjects of conversation except the principles of Ingsoc, and no aim in life
except the defeat of the Eurasian enemy and the hunting-down of spies, saboteurs, thoughtcriminals,
and traitors generally. Winston debated with himself whether to award
Comrade Ogilvy the Order of Conspicuous Merit: in the end he decided against it because of
the unnecessary cross-referencing that it would entail. Once again he glanced at his rival in the
opposite cubicle. Something seemed to tell him with certainty that Tillotson was busy
on the same job as himself. There was no way of knowing whose job would finally be adopted,
but he felt a profound conviction that it would be his own. Comrade Ogilvy, unimagined
an hour ago, was now a fact. It struck him as curious that you could create dead men
but not living ones. Comrade Ogilvy, who had never existed in the present, now existed
in the past, and when once the act of forgery was forgotten, he would exist just as authentically,
and upon the same evidence, as Charlemagne or Julius Caesar. Chapter 5 In the low-ceilinged canteen, deep underground,
the lunch queue jerked slowly forward. The room was already very full and deafeningly
noisy. From the grille at the counter the steam of stew came pouring forth, with a sour
metallic smell which did not quite overcome the fumes of Victory Gin. On the far side
of the room there was a small bar, a mere hole in the wall, where gin could be bought
at ten cents the large nip. ‘Just the man I was looking for,’ said a voice
at Winston’s back. He turned round. It was his friend Syme, who
worked in the Research Department. Perhaps ‘friend’ was not exactly the right word. You
did not have friends nowadays, you had comrades: but there were some comrades whose society
was pleasanter than that of others. Syme was a philologist, a specialist in Newspeak. Indeed,
he was one of the enormous team of experts now engaged in compiling the Eleventh Edition
of the Newspeak Dictionary. He was a tiny creature, smaller than Winston, with dark
hair and large, protuberant eyes, at once mournful and derisive, which seemed to search
your face closely while he was speaking to you. ‘I wanted to ask you whether you’d got any
razor blades,’ he said. ‘Not one!’ said Winston with a sort of guilty
haste. ‘I’ve tried all over the place. They don’t exist any longer.’ Everyone kept asking you for razor blades.
Actually he had two unused ones which he was hoarding up. There had been a famine of them
for months past. At any given moment there was some necessary article which the Party
shops were unable to supply. Sometimes it was buttons, sometimes it was darning wool,
sometimes it was shoelaces; at present it was razor blades. You could only get hold
of them, if at all, by scrounging more or less furtively on the ‘free’ market. ‘I’ve been using the same blade for six weeks,’
he added untruthfully. The queue gave another jerk forward. As they
halted he turned and faced Syme again. Each of them took a greasy metal tray from a pile
at the end of the counter. ‘Did you go and see the prisoners hanged yesterday?’
said Syme. ‘I was working,’ said Winston indifferently.
‘I shall see it on the flicks, I suppose.’ ‘A very inadequate substitute,’ said Syme. His mocking eyes roved over Winston’s face.
‘I know you,’ the eyes seemed to say, ‘I see through you. I know very well why you didn’t
go to see those prisoners hanged.’ In an intellectual way, Syme was venomously orthodox. He would
talk with a disagreeable gloating satisfaction of helicopter raids on enemy villages, and
trials and confessions of thought-criminals, the executions in the cellars of the Ministry
of Love. Talking to him was largely a matter of getting him away from such subjects and
entangling him, if possible, in the technicalities of Newspeak, on which he was authoritative
and interesting. Winston turned his head a little aside to avoid the scrutiny of the
large dark eyes. ‘It was a good hanging,’ said Syme reminiscently.
‘I think it spoils it when they tie their feet together. I like to see them kicking.
And above all, at the end, the tongue sticking right out, and blue — a quite bright blue.
That’s the detail that appeals to me.’ ‘Nex’, please!’ yelled the white-aproned prole
with the ladle. Winston and Syme pushed their trays beneath
the grille. On to each was dumped swiftly the regulation lunch — a metal pannikin
of pinkish-grey stew, a hunk of bread, a cube of cheese, a mug of milkless Victory Coffee,
and one saccharine tablet. ‘There’s a table over there, under that telescreen,’
said Syme. ‘Let’s pick up a gin on the way.’ The gin was served out to them in handleless
china mugs. They threaded their way across the crowded room and unpacked their trays
on to the metal-topped table, on one corner of which someone had left a pool of stew,
a filthy liquid mess that had the appearance of vomit. Winston took up his mug of gin,
paused for an instant to collect his nerve, and gulped the oily-tasting stuff down. When
he had winked the tears out of his eyes he suddenly discovered that he was hungry. He
began swallowing spoonfuls of the stew, which, in among its general sloppiness, had cubes
of spongy pinkish stuff which was probably a preparation of meat. Neither of them spoke
again till they had emptied their pannikins. From the table at Winston’s left, a little
behind his back, someone was talking rapidly and continuously, a harsh gabble almost like
the quacking of a duck, which pierced the general uproar of the room. ‘How is the Dictionary getting on?’ said Winston,
raising his voice to overcome the noise. ‘Slowly,’ said Syme. ‘I’m on the adjectives.
It’s fascinating.’ He had brightened up immediately at the mention
of Newspeak. He pushed his pannikin aside, took up his hunk of bread in one delicate
hand and his cheese in the other, and leaned across the table so as to be able to speak
without shouting. ‘The Eleventh Edition is the definitive edition,’
he said. ‘We’re getting the language into its final shape — the shape it’s going to
have when nobody speaks anything else. When we’ve finished with it, people like you will
have to learn it all over again. You think, I dare say, that our chief job is inventing
new words. But not a bit of it! We’re destroying words — scores of them, hundreds of them,
every day. We’re cutting the language down to the bone. The Eleventh Edition won’t contain
a single word that will become obsolete before the year 2050.’ He bit hungrily into his bread and swallowed
a couple of mouthfuls, then continued speaking, with a sort of pedant’s passion. His thin
dark face had become animated, his eyes had lost their mocking expression and grown almost
dreamy. ‘It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of
words. Of course the great wastage is in the verbs and adjectives, but there are hundreds
of nouns that can be got rid of as well. It isn’t only the synonyms; there are also the
antonyms. After all, what justification is there for a word which is simply the opposite
of some other word? A word contains its opposite in itself. Take “good”, for instance. If you
have a word like “good”, what need is there for a word like “bad”? “Ungood” will do just
as well — better, because it’s an exact opposite, which the other is not. Or again,
if you want a stronger version of “good”, what sense is there in having a whole string
of vague useless words like “excellent” and “splendid” and all the rest of them? “Plusgood”
covers the meaning, or “doubleplusgood” if you want something stronger still. Of course
we use those forms already. but in the final version of Newspeak there’ll be nothing else.
In the end the whole notion of goodness and badness will be covered by only six words
— in reality, only one word. don’t you see the beauty of that, Winston? It was B. B.’s
idea originally, of course,’ he added as an afterthought. A sort of vapid eagerness flitted across Winston’s
face at the mention of Big Brother. Nevertheless Syme immediately detected a certain lack of
enthusiasm. ‘You haven’t a real appreciation of Newspeak,
Winston,’ he said almost sadly. ‘Even when you write it you’re still thinking in Oldspeak.
I’ve read some of those pieces that you write in the Times occasionally. They’re good enough,
but they’re translations. In your heart you’d prefer to stick to Oldspeak, with all its
vagueness and its useless shades of meaning. You don’t grasp the beauty of the destruction
of words. Do you know that Newspeak is the only language in the world whose vocabulary
gets smaller every year?’ Winston did know that, of course. He smiled,
sympathetically he hoped, not trusting himself to speak. Syme bit off another fragment of
the dark-coloured bread, chewed it briefly, and went on: ‘Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak
is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible,
because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be
needed, will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its
subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten. Already, in the Eleventh Edition, we’re not
far from that point. But the process will still be continuing long after you and I are
dead. Every year fewer and fewer words, and the range of consciousness always a little
smaller. Even now, of course, there’s no reason or excuse for committing thoughtcrime. It’s
merely a question of self-discipline, reality-control. But in the end there won’t be any need even
for that. The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect. Newspeak is
Ingsoc and Ingsoc is Newspeak,’ he added with a sort of mystical satisfaction. ‘Has it ever
occurred to you, Winston, that by the year 2050, at the very latest, not a single human
being will be alive who could understand such a conversation as we are having now?’ ‘Except—’ began Winston doubtfully, and
he stopped. It had been on the tip of his tongue to say
‘Except the proles,’ but he checked himself, not feeling fully certain that this remark
was not in some way unorthodox. Syme, however, had divined what he was about to say. ‘The proles are not human beings,’ he said
carelessly. ‘By 2050 — earlier, probably — all real knowledge of Oldspeak will have
disappeared. The whole literature of the past will have been destroyed. Chaucer, Shakespeare,
Milton, Byron — they’ll exist only in Newspeak versions, not merely changed into something
different, but actually changed into something contradictory of what they used to be. Even
the literature of the Party will change. Even the slogans will change. How could you have
a slogan like “freedom is slavery” when the concept of freedom has been abolished? The
whole climate of thought will be different. In fact there will be no thought, as we understand
it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking — not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.’ One of these days, thought Winston with sudden
deep conviction, Syme will be vaporized. He is too intelligent. He sees too clearly and
speaks too plainly. The Party does not like such people. One day he will disappear. It
is written in his face. Winston had finished his bread and cheese.
He turned a little sideways in his chair to drink his mug of coffee. At the table on his
left the man with the strident voice was still talking remorselessly away. A young woman
who was perhaps his secretary, and who was sitting with her back to Winston, was listening
to him and seemed to be eagerly agreeing with everything that he said. From time to time
Winston caught some such remark as ‘I think you’re so right, I do so agree with you’,
uttered in a youthful and rather silly feminine voice. But the other voice never stopped for
an instant, even when the girl was speaking. Winston knew the man by sight, though he knew
no more about him than that he held some important post in the Fiction Department. He was a man
of about thirty, with a muscular throat and a large, mobile mouth. His head was thrown
back a little, and because of the angle at which he was sitting, his spectacles caught
the light and presented to Winston two blank discs instead of eyes. What was slightly horrible,
was that from the stream of sound that poured out of his mouth it was almost impossible
to distinguish a single word. Just once Winston caught a phrase — ‘complete and final elimination
of Goldsteinism’ — jerked out very rapidly and, as it seemed, all in one piece, like
a line of type cast solid. For the rest it was just a noise, a quack-quack-quacking.
And yet, though you could not actually hear what the man was saying, you could not be
in any doubt about its general nature. He might be denouncing Goldstein and demanding
sterner measures against thought-criminals and saboteurs, he might be fulminating against
the atrocities of the Eurasian army, he might be praising Big Brother or the heroes on the
Malabar front — it made no difference. Whatever it was, you could be certain that every word
of it was pure orthodoxy, pure Ingsoc. As he watched the eyeless face with the jaw moving
rapidly up and down, Winston had a curious feeling that this was not a real human being
but some kind of dummy. It was not the man’s brain that was speaking, it was his larynx.
The stuff that was coming out of him consisted of words, but it was not speech in the true
sense: it was a noise uttered in unconsciousness, like the quacking of a duck. Syme had fallen silent for a moment, and with
the handle of his spoon was tracing patterns in the puddle of stew. The voice from the
other table quacked rapidly on, easily audible in spite of the surrounding din. ‘There is a word in Newspeak,’ said Syme,
‘I don’t know whether you know it: duckspeak, to quack like a duck. It is one of those interesting
words that have two contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it is abuse, applied
to someone you agree with, it is praise.’ Unquestionably Syme will be vaporized, Winston
thought again. He thought it with a kind of sadness, although well knowing that Syme despised
him and slightly disliked him, and was fully capable of denouncing him as a thought-criminal
if he saw any reason for doing so. There was something subtly wrong with Syme. There was
something that he lacked: discretion, aloofness, a sort of saving stupidity. You could not
say that he was unorthodox. He believed in the principles of Ingsoc, he venerated Big
Brother, he rejoiced over victories, he hated heretics, not merely with sincerity but with
a sort of restless zeal, an up-to-dateness of information, which the ordinary Party member
did not approach. Yet a faint air of disreputability always clung to him. He said things that would
have been better unsaid, he had read too many books, he frequented the Chestnut Tree Café,
haunt of painters and musicians. There was no law, not even an unwritten law, against
frequenting the Chestnut Tree Café, yet the place was somehow ill-omened. The old, discredited
leaders of the Party had been used to gather there before they were finally purged. Goldstein
himself, it was said, had sometimes been seen there, years and decades ago. Syme’s fate
was not difficult to foresee. And yet it was a fact that if Syme grasped, even for three
seconds, the nature of his, Winston’s, secret opinions, he would betray him instantly to
the Thought police. So would anybody else, for that matter: but Syme more than most.
Zeal was not enough. Orthodoxy was unconsciousness. Syme looked up. ‘Here comes Parsons,’ he said. Something in the tone of his voice seemed
to add, ‘that bloody fool’. Parsons, Winston’s fellow-tenant at Victory Mansions, was in
fact threading his way across the room — a tubby, middle-sized man with fair hair and
a froglike face. At thirty-five he was already putting on rolls of fat at neck and waistline,
but his movements were brisk and boyish. His whole appearance was that of a little boy
grown large, so much so that although he was wearing the regulation overalls, it was almost
impossible not to think of him as being dressed in the blue shorts, grey shirt, and red neckerchief
of the Spies. In visualizing him one saw always a picture of dimpled knees and sleeves rolled
back from pudgy forearms. Parsons did, indeed, invariably revert to shorts when a community
hike or any other physical activity gave him an excuse for doing so. He greeted them both
with a cheery ‘Hullo, hullo!’ and sat down at the table, giving off an intense smell
of sweat. Beads of moisture stood out all over his pink face. His powers of sweating
were extraordinary. At the Community Centre you could always tell when he had been playing
table-tennis by the dampness of the bat handle. Syme had produced a strip of paper on which
there was a long column of words, and was studying it with an ink-pencil between his
fingers. ‘Look at him working away in the lunch hour,’
said Parsons, nudging Winston. ‘Keenness, eh? What’s that you’ve got there, old boy?
Something a bit too brainy for me, I expect. Smith, old boy, I’ll tell you why I’m chasing
you. It’s that sub you forgot to give me.’ ‘Which sub is that?’ said Winston, automatically
feeling for money. About a quarter of one’s salary had to be earmarked for voluntary subscriptions,
which were so numerous that it was difficult to keep track of them. ‘For Hate Week. You know — the house-by-house
fund. I’m treasurer for our block. We’re making an all-out effort — going to put on a tremendous
show. I tell you, it won’t be my fault if old Victory Mansions doesn’t have the biggest
outfit of flags in the whole street. Two dollars you promised me.’ Winston found and handed over two creased
and filthy notes, which Parsons entered in a small notebook, in the neat handwriting
of the illiterate. ‘By the way, old boy,’ he said. ‘I hear that
little beggar of mine let fly at you with his catapult yesterday. I gave him a good
dressing-down for it. In fact I told him I’d take the catapult away if he does it again.’ ‘I think he was a little upset at not going
to the execution,’ said Winston. ‘Ah, well — what I mean to say, shows the
right spirit, doesn’t it? Mischievous little beggars they are, both of them, but talk about
keenness! All they think about is the Spies, and the war, of course. D’you know what that
little girl of mine did last Saturday, when her troop was on a hike out Berkhamsted way?
She got two other girls to go with her, slipped off from the hike, and spent the whole afternoon
following a strange man. They kept on his tail for two hours, right through the woods,
and then, when they got into Amersham, handed him over to the patrols.’ ‘What did they do that for?’ said Winston,
somewhat taken aback. Parsons went on triumphantly: ‘My kid made sure he was some kind of enemy
agent — might have been dropped by parachute, for instance. But here’s the point, old boy.
What do you think put her on to him in the first place? She spotted he was wearing a
funny kind of shoes — said she’d never seen anyone wearing shoes like that before. So
the chances were he was a foreigner. Pretty smart for a nipper of seven, eh?’ ‘What happened to the man?’ said Winston. ‘Ah, that I couldn’t say, of course. But I
wouldn’t be altogether surprised if—’ Parsons made the motion of aiming a rifle, and clicked
his tongue for the explosion. ‘Good,’ said Syme abstractedly, without looking
up from his strip of paper. ‘Of course we can’t afford to take chances,’
agreed Winston dutifully. ‘What I mean to say, there is a war on,’ said
Parsons. As though in confirmation of this, a trumpet
call floated from the telescreen just above their heads. However, it was not the proclamation
of a military victory this time, but merely an announcement from the Ministry of Plenty. ‘Comrades!’ cried an eager youthful voice.
‘Attention, comrades! We have glorious news for you. We have won the battle for production!
Returns now completed of the output of all classes of consumption goods show that the
standard of living has risen by no less than 20 per cent over the past year. All over Oceania
this morning there were irrepressible spontaneous demonstrations when workers marched out of
factories and offices and paraded through the streets with banners voicing their gratitude
to Big Brother for the new, happy life which his wise leadership has bestowed upon us.
Here are some of the completed figures. Foodstuffs—’ The phrase ‘our new, happy life’ recurred
several times. It had been a favourite of late with the Ministry of Plenty. Parsons,
his attention caught by the trumpet call, sat listening with a sort of gaping solemnity,
a sort of edified boredom. He could not follow the figures, but he was aware that they were
in some way a cause for satisfaction. He had lugged out a huge and filthy pipe which was
already half full of charred tobacco. With the tobacco ration at 100 grammes a week it
was seldom possible to fill a pipe to the top. Winston was smoking a Victory Cigarette
which he held carefully horizontal. The new ration did not start till tomorrow and he
had only four cigarettes left. For the moment he had shut his ears to the remoter noises
and was listening to the stuff that streamed out of the telescreen. It appeared that there
had even been demonstrations to thank Big Brother for raising the chocolate ration to
twenty grammes a week. And only yesterday, he reflected, it had been announced that the
ration was to be reduced to twenty grammes a week. Was it possible that they could swallow
that, after only twenty-four hours? Yes, they swallowed it. Parsons swallowed it easily,
with the stupidity of an animal. The eyeless creature at the other table swallowed it fanatically,
passionately, with a furious desire to track down, denounce, and vaporize anyone who should
suggest that last week the ration had been thirty grammes. Syme, too — in some more
complex way, involving doublethink, Syme swallowed it. Was he, then, alone in the possession
of a memory? The fabulous statistics continued to pour
out of the telescreen. As compared with last year there was more food, more clothes, more
houses, more furniture, more cooking-pots, more fuel, more ships, more helicopters, more
books, more babies — more of everything except disease, crime, and insanity. Year
by year and minute by minute, everybody and everything was whizzing rapidly upwards. As
Syme had done earlier Winston had taken up his spoon and was dabbling in the pale-coloured
gravy that dribbled across the table, drawing a long streak of it out into a pattern. He
meditated resentfully on the physical texture of life. Had it always been like this? Had
food always tasted like this? He looked round the canteen. A low-ceilinged, crowded room,
its walls grimy from the contact of innumerable bodies; battered metal tables and chairs,
placed so close together that you sat with elbows touching; bent spoons, dented trays,
coarse white mugs; all surfaces greasy, grime in every crack; and a sourish, composite smell
of bad gin and bad coffee and metallic stew and dirty clothes. Always in your stomach
and in your skin there was a sort of protest, a feeling that you had been cheated of something
that you had a right to. It was true that he had no memories of anything greatly different.
In any time that he could accurately remember, there had never been quite enough to eat,
one had never had socks or underclothes that were not full of holes, furniture had always
been battered and rickety, rooms underheated, tube trains crowded, houses falling to pieces,
bread dark-coloured, tea a rarity, coffee filthy-tasting, cigarettes insufficient — nothing
cheap and plentiful except synthetic gin. And though, of course, it grew worse as one’s
body aged, was it not a sign that this was not the natural order of things, if one’s
heart sickened at the discomfort and dirt and scarcity, the interminable winters, the
stickiness of one’s socks, the lifts that never worked, the cold water, the gritty soap,
the cigarettes that came to pieces, the food with its strange evil tastes? Why should one
feel it to be intolerable unless one had some kind of ancestral memory that things had once
been different? He looked round the canteen again. Nearly
everyone was ugly, and would still have been ugly even if dressed otherwise than in the
uniform blue overalls. On the far side of the room, sitting at a table alone, a small,
curiously beetle-like man was drinking a cup of coffee, his little eyes darting suspicious
glances from side to side. How easy it was, thought Winston, if you did not look about
you, to believe that the physical type set up by the Party as an ideal-tall muscular
youths and deep-bosomed maidens, blond-haired, vital, sunburnt, carefree — existed and
even predominated. Actually, so far as he could judge, the majority of people in Airstrip
One were small, dark, and ill-favoured. It was curious how that beetle-like type proliferated
in the Ministries: little dumpy men, growing stout very early in life, with short legs,
swift scuttling movements, and fat inscrutable faces with very small eyes. It was the type
that seemed to flourish best under the dominion of the Party. The announcement from the Ministry of Plenty
ended on another trumpet call and gave way to tinny music. Parsons, stirred to vague
enthusiasm by the bombardment of figures, took his pipe out of his mouth. ‘The Ministry of Plenty’s certainly done a
good job this year,’ he said with a knowing shake of his head. ‘By the way, Smith old
boy, I suppose you haven’t got any razor blades you can let me have?’ ‘Not one,’ said Winston. ‘I’ve been using
the same blade for six weeks myself.’ ‘Ah, well — just thought I’d ask you, old
boy.’ ‘Sorry,’ said Winston. The quacking voice from the next table, temporarily
silenced during the Ministry’s announcement, had started up again, as loud as ever. For
some reason Winston suddenly found himself thinking of Mrs. Parsons, with her wispy hair
and the dust in the creases of her face. Within two years those children would be denouncing
her to the Thought Police. Mrs. Parsons would be vaporized. Syme would be vaporized. Winston
would be vaporized. O’Brien would be vaporized. Parsons, on the other hand, would never be
vaporized. The eyeless creature with the quacking voice would never be vaporized. The little
beetle-like men who scuttle so nimbly through the labyrinthine corridors of Ministries they,
too, would never be vaporized. And the girl with dark hair, the girl from the Fiction
Department — she would never be vaporized either. It seemed to him that he knew instinctively
who would survive and who would perish: though just what it was that made for survival, it
was not easy to say. At this moment he was dragged out of his reverie
with a violent jerk. The girl at the next table had turned partly round and was looking
at him. It was the girl with dark hair. She was looking at him in a sidelong way, but
with curious intensity. The instant she caught his eye she looked away again. The sweat started out on Winston’s backbone.
A horrible pang of terror went through him. It was gone almost at once, but it left a
sort of nagging uneasiness behind. Why was she watching him? Why did she keep following
him about? Unfortunately he could not remember whether she had already been at the table
when he arrived, or had come there afterwards. But yesterday, at any rate, during the Two
Minutes Hate, she had sat immediately behind him when there was no apparent need to do
so. Quite likely her real object had been to listen to him and make sure whether he
was shouting loudly enough. His earlier thought returned to him: probably
she was not actually a member of the Thought Police, but then it was precisely the amateur
spy who was the greatest danger of all. He did not know how long she had been looking
at him, but perhaps for as much as five minutes, and it was possible that his features had
not been perfectly under control. It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when
you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could
give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself
— anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide.
In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face (to look incredulous when a victory
was announced, for example) was itself a punishable offence. There was even a word for it in Newspeak:
facecrime, it was called. The girl had turned her back on him again.
Perhaps after all she was not really following him about, perhaps it was coincidence that
she had sat so close to him two days running. His cigarette had gone out, and he laid it
carefully on the edge of the table. He would finish smoking it after work, if he could
keep the tobacco in it. Quite likely the person at the next table was a spy of the Thought
Police, and quite likely he would be in the cellars of the Ministry of Love within three
days, but a cigarette end must not be wasted. Syme had folded up his strip of paper and
stowed it away in his pocket. Parsons had begun talking again. ‘Did I ever tell you, old boy,’ he said, chuckling
round the stem of his pipe, ‘about the time when those two nippers of mine set fire to
the old market-woman’s skirt because they saw her wrapping up sausages in a poster of
B.B.? Sneaked up behind her and set fire to it with a box of matches. Burned her quite
badly, I believe. Little beggars, eh? But keen as mustard! That’s a first-rate training
they give them in the Spies nowadays — better than in my day, even. What d’you think’s the
latest thing they’ve served them out with? Ear trumpets for listening through keyholes!
My little girl brought one home the other night — tried it out on our sitting-room
door, and reckoned she could hear twice as much as with her ear to the hole. Of course
it’s only a toy, mind you. Still, gives ’em the right idea, eh?’ At this moment the telescreen let out a piercing
whistle. It was the signal to return to work. All three men sprang to their feet to join
in the struggle round the lifts, and the remaining tobacco fell out of Winston’s cigarette. Chapter 6 Winston was writing in his diary: It was three years ago. It was on a dark evening,
in a narrow side-street near one of the big railway stations. She was standing near a
doorway in the wall, under a street lamp that hardly gave any light. She had a young face,
painted very thick. It was really the paint that appealed to me, the whiteness of it,
like a mask, and the bright red lips. Party women never paint their faces. There was nobody
else in the street, and no telescreens. She said two dollars. I — For the moment it was too difficult to go
on. He shut his eyes and pressed his fingers against them, trying to squeeze out the vision
that kept recurring. He had an almost overwhelming temptation to shout a string of filthy words
at the top of his voice. Or to bang his head against the wall, to kick over the table,
and hurl the inkpot through the window — to do any violent or noisy or painful thing that
might black out the memory that was tormenting him. Your worst enemy, he reflected, was your own
nervous system. At any moment the tension inside you was liable to translate itself
into some visible symptom. He thought of a man whom he had passed in the street a few
weeks back; a quite ordinary-looking man, a Party member, aged thirty-five to forty,
tallish and thin, carrying a brief-case. They were a few metres apart when the left side
of the man’s face was suddenly contorted by a sort of spasm. It happened again just as
they were passing one another: it was only a twitch, a quiver, rapid as the clicking
of a camera shutter, but obviously habitual. He remembered thinking at the time: That poor
devil is done for. And what was frightening was that the action was quite possibly unconscious.
The most deadly danger of all was talking in your sleep. There was no way of guarding
against that, so far as he could see. He drew his breath and went on writing: I went with her through the doorway and across
a backyard into a basement kitchen. There was a bed against the wall, and a lamp on
the table, turned down very low. She — His teeth were set on edge. He would have
liked to spit. Simultaneously with the woman in the basement kitchen he thought of Katharine,
his wife. Winston was married — had been married, at any rate: probably he still was
married, so far as he knew his wife was not dead. He seemed to breathe again the warm
stuffy odour of the basement kitchen, an odour compounded of bugs and dirty clothes and villainous
cheap scent, but nevertheless alluring, because no woman of the Party ever used scent, or
could be imagined as doing so. Only the proles used scent. In his mind the smell of it was
inextricably mixed up with fornication. When he had gone with that woman it had been
his first lapse in two years or thereabouts. Consorting with prostitutes was forbidden,
of course, but it was one of those rules that you could occasionally nerve yourself to break.
It was dangerous, but it was not a life-and-death matter. To be caught with a prostitute might
mean five years in a forced-labour camp: not more, if you had committed no other offence.
And it was easy enough, provided that you could avoid being caught in the act. The poorer
quarters swarmed with women who were ready to sell themselves. Some could even be purchased
for a bottle of gin, which the proles were not supposed to drink. Tacitly the Party was
even inclined to encourage prostitution, as an outlet for instincts which could not be
altogether suppressed. Mere debauchery did not matter very much, so long as it was furtive
and joyless and only involved the women of a submerged and despised class. The unforgivable
crime was promiscuity between Party members. But — though this was one of the crimes
that the accused in the great purges invariably confessed to — it was difficult to imagine
any such thing actually happening. The aim of the Party was not merely to prevent
men and women from forming loyalties which it might not be able to control. Its real,
undeclared purpose was to remove all pleasure from the sexual act. Not love so much as eroticism
was the enemy, inside marriage as well as outside it. All marriages between Party members
had to be approved by a committee appointed for the purpose, and — though the principle
was never clearly stated — permission was always refused if the couple concerned gave
the impression of being physically attracted to one another. The only recognized purpose
of marriage was to beget children for the service of the Party. Sexual intercourse was
to be looked on as a slightly disgusting minor operation, like having an enema. This again
was never put into plain words, but in an indirect way it was rubbed into every Party
member from childhood onwards. There were even organizations such as the Junior Anti-Sex
League, which advocated complete celibacy for both sexes. All children were to be begotten
by artificial insemination (artsem, it was called in Newspeak) and brought up in public
institutions. This, Winston was aware, was not meant altogether seriously, but somehow
it fitted in with the general ideology of the Party. The Party was trying to kill the
sex instinct, or, if it could not be killed, then to distort it and dirty it. He did not
know why this was so, but it seemed natural that it should be so. And as far as the women
were concerned, the Party’s efforts were largely successful. He thought again of Katharine. It must be
nine, ten — nearly eleven years since they had parted. It was curious how seldom he thought
of her. For days at a time he was capable of forgetting that he had ever been married.
They had only been together for about fifteen months. The Party did not permit divorce,
but it rather encouraged separation in cases where there were no children. Katharine was a tall, fair-haired girl, very
straight, with splendid movements. She had a bold, aquiline face, a face that one might
have called noble until one discovered that there was as nearly as possible nothing behind
it. Very early in her married life he had decided — though perhaps it was only that
he knew her more intimately than he knew most people — that she had without exception
the most stupid, vulgar, empty mind that he had ever encountered. She had not a thought
in her head that was not a slogan, and there was no imbecility, absolutely none that she
was not capable of swallowing if the Party handed it out to her. ‘The human sound-track’
he nicknamed her in his own mind. Yet he could have endured living with her if it had not
been for just one thing — sex. As soon as he touched her she seemed to wince
and stiffen. To embrace her was like embracing a jointed wooden image. And what was strange
was that even when she was clasping him against her he had the feeling that she was simultaneously
pushing him away with all her strength. The rigidlty of her muscles managed to convey
that impression. She would lie there with shut eyes, neither resisting nor co-operating
but submitting. It was extraordinarily embarrassing, and, after a while, horrible. But even then
he could have borne living with her if it had been agreed that they should remain celibate.
But curiously enough it was Katharine who refused this. They must, she said, produce
a child if they could. So the performance continued to happen, once a week quite regulariy,
whenever it was not impossible. She even used to remind him of it in the morning, as something
which had to be done that evening and which must not be forgotten. She had two names for
it. One was ‘making a baby’, and the other was ‘our duty to the Party’ (yes, she had
actually used that phrase). Quite soon he grew to have a feeling of positive dread when
the appointed day came round. But luckily no child appeared, and in the end she agreed
to give up trying, and soon afterwards they parted. Winston sighed inaudibly. He picked up his
pen again and wrote: She threw herself down on the bed, and at
once, without any kind of preliminary in the most coarse, horrible way you can imagine,
pulled up her skirt. I — He saw himself standing there in the dim lamplight,
with the smell of bugs and cheap scent in his nostrils, and in his heart a feeling of
defeat and resentment which even at that moment was mixed up with the thought of Katharine’s
white body, frozen for ever by the hypnotic power of the Party. Why did it always have
to be like this? Why could he not have a woman of his own instead of these filthy scuffles
at intervals of years? But a real love affair was an almost unthinkable event. The women
of the Party were all alike. Chastity was as deep ingrained in them as Party loyalty.
By careful early conditioning, by games and cold water, by the rubbish that was dinned
into them at school and in the Spies and the Youth League, by lectures, parades, songs,
slogans, and martial music, the natural feeling had been driven out of them. His reason told
him that there must be exceptions, but his heart did not believe it. They were all impregnable,
as the Party intended that they should be. And what he wanted, more even than to be loved,
was to break down that wall of virtue, even if it were only once in his whole life. The
sexual act, successfully performed, was rebellion. Desire was thoughtcrime. Even to have awakened
Katharine, if he could have achieved it, would have been like a seduction, although she was
his wife. But the rest of the story had got to be written
down. He wrote: I turned up the lamp. When I saw her in the
light — After the darkness the feeble light of the
paraffin lamp had seemed very bright. For the first time he could see the woman properly.
He had taken a step towards her and then halted, full of lust and terror. He was painfully
conscious of the risk he had taken in coming here. It was perfectly possible that the patrols
would catch him on the way out: for that matter they might be waiting outside the door at
this moment. If he went away without even doing what he had come here to do—! It had got to be written down, it had got
to be confessed. What he had suddenly seen in the lamplight was that the woman was old.
The paint was plastered so thick on her face that it looked as though it might crack like
a cardboard mask. There were streaks of white in her hair; but the truly dreadful detail
was that her mouth had fallen a little open, revealing nothing except a cavernous blackness.
She had no teeth at all. He wrote hurriedly, in scrabbling handwriting: When I saw her in the light she was quite
an old woman, fifty years old at least. But I went ahead and did it just the same. He pressed his fingers against his eyelids
again. He had written it down at last, but it made no difference. The therapy had not
worked. The urge to shout filthy words at the top of his voice was as strong as ever. Chapter 7 If there is hope, wrote Winston, it lies in
the proles. If there was hope, it must lie in the proles,
because only there in those swarming disregarded masses, 85 per cent of the population of Oceania,
could the force to destroy the Party ever be generated. The Party could not be overthrown
from within. Its enemies, if it had any enemies, had no way of coming together or even of identifying
one another. Even if the legendary Brotherhood existed, as just possibly it might, it was
inconceivable that its members could ever assemble in larger numbers than twos and threes.
Rebellion meant a look in the eyes, an inflexion of the voice, at the most, an occasional whispered
word. But the proles, if only they could somehow become conscious of their own strength. would
have no need to conspire. They needed only to rise up and shake themselves like a horse
shaking off flies. If they chose they could blow the Party to pieces tomorrow morning.
Surely sooner or later it must occur to them to do it? And yet—! He remembered how once he had been walking
down a crowded street when a tremendous shout of hundreds of voices women’s voices — had
burst from a side-street a little way ahead. It was a great formidable cry of anger and
despair, a deep, loud ‘Oh-o-o-o-oh!’ that went humming on like the reverberation of
a bell. His heart had leapt. It’s started! he had thought. A riot! The proles are breaking
loose at last! When he had reached the spot it was to see a mob of two or three hundred
women crowding round the stalls of a street market, with faces as tragic as though they
had been the doomed passengers on a sinking ship. But at this moment the general despair
broke down into a multitude of individual quarrels. It appeared that one of the stalls
had been selling tin saucepans. They were wretched, flimsy things, but cooking-pots
of any kind were always difficult to get. Now the supply had unexpectedly given out.
The successful women, bumped and jostled by the rest, were trying to make off with their
saucepans while dozens of others clamoured round the stall, accusing the stall-keeper
of favouritism and of having more saucepans somewhere in reserve. There was a fresh outburst
of yells. Two bloated women, one of them with her hair coming down, had got hold of the
same saucepan and were trying to tear it out of one another’s hands. For a moment they
were both tugging, and then the handle came off. Winston watched them disgustedly. And
yet, just for a moment, what almost frightening power had sounded in that cry from only a
few hundred throats! Why was it that they could never shout like that about anything
that mattered? He wrote: Until they become conscious they will never
rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious. That, he reflected, might almost have been
a transcription from one of the Party textbooks. The Party claimed, of course, to have liberated
the proles from bondage. Before the Revolution they had been hideously oppressed by the capitalists,
they had been starved and flogged, women had been forced to work in the coal mines (women
still did work in the coal mines, as a matter of fact), children had been sold into the
factories at the age of six. But simultaneously, true to the Principles of doublethink, the
Party taught that the proles were natural inferiors who must be kept in subjection,
like animals, by the application of a few simple rules. In reality very little was known
about the proles. It was not necessary to know much. So long as they continued to work
and breed, their other activities were without importance. Left to themselves, like cattle
turned loose upon the plains of Argentina, they had reverted to a style of life that
appeared to be natural to them, a sort of ancestral pattern. They were born, they grew
up in the gutters, they went to work at twelve, they passed through a brief blossoming-period
of beauty and sexual desire, they married at twenty, they were middle-aged at thirty,
they died, for the most part, at sixty. Heavy physical work, the care of home and children,
petty quarrels with neighbours, films, football, beer, and above all, gambling, filled up the
horizon of their minds. To keep them in control was not difficult. A few agents of the Thought
Police moved always among them, spreading false rumours and marking down and eliminating
the few individuals who were judged capable of becoming dangerous; but no attempt was
made to indoctrinate them with the ideology of the Party. It was not desirable that the
proles should have strong political feelings. All that was required of them was a primitive
patriotism which could be appealed to whenever it was necessary to make them accept longer
working-hours or shorter rations. And even when they became discontented, as they sometimes
did, their discontent led nowhere, because being without general ideas, they could only
focus it on petty specific grievances. The larger evils invariably escaped their notice.
The great majority of proles did not even have telescreens in their homes. Even the
civil police interfered with them very little. There was a vast amount of criminality in
London, a whole world-within-a-world of thieves, bandits, prostitutes, drug-peddlers, and racketeers
of every description; but since it all happened among the proles themselves, it was of no
importance. In all questions of morals they were allowed to follow their ancestral code.
The sexual puritanism of the Party was not imposed upon them. Promiscuity went unpunished,
divorce was permitted. For that matter, even religious worship would have been permitted
if the proles had shown any sign of needing or wanting it. They were beneath suspicion.
As the Party slogan put it: ‘Proles and animals are free.’ Winston reached down and cautiously scratched
his varicose ulcer. It had begun itching again. The thing you invariably came back to was
the impossibility of knowing what life before the Revolution had really been like. He took
out of the drawer a copy of a children’s history textbook which he had borrowed from Mrs. Parsons,
and began copying a passage into the diary: In the old days (it ran), before the glorious
Revolution, London was not the beautiful city that we know today. It was a dark, dirty,
miserable place where hardly anybody had enough to eat and where hundreds and thousands of
poor people had no boots on their feet and not even a roof to sleep under. Children no
older than you had to work twelve hours a day for cruel masters who flogged them with
whips if they worked too slowly and fed them on nothing but stale breadcrusts and water.
But in among all this terrible poverty there were just a few great big beautiful houses
that were lived in by rich men who had as many as thirty servants to look after them.
These rich men were called capitalists. They were fat, ugly men with wicked faces, like
the one in the picture on the opposite page. You can see that he is dressed in a long black
coat which was called a frock coat, and a queer, shiny hat shaped like a stovepipe,
which was called a top hat. This was the uniform of the capitalists, and no one else was allowed
to wear it. The capitalists owned everything in the world, and everyone else was their
slave. They owned all the land, all the houses, all the factories, and all the money. If anyone
disobeyed them they could throw them into prison, or they could take his job away and
starve him to death. When any ordinary person spoke to a capitalist he had to cringe and
bow to him, and take off his cap and address him as ‘Sir’. The chief of all the capitalists
was called the King, and — But he knew the rest of the catalogue. There
would be mention of the bishops in their lawn sleeves, the judges in their ermine robes,
the pillory, the stocks, the treadmill, the cat-o’-nine tails, the Lord Mayor’s Banquet,
and the practice of kissing the Pope’s toe. There was also something called the jus primae
noctis, which would probably not be mentioned in a textbook for children. It was the law
by which every capitalist had the right to sleep with any woman working in one of his
factories. How could you tell how much of it was lies?
It might be true that the average human being was better off now than he had been before
the Revolution. The only evidence to the contrary was the mute protest in your own bones, the
instinctive feeling that the conditions you lived in were intolerable and that at some
other time they must have been different. It struck him that the truly characteristic
thing about modern life was not its cruelty and insecurity, but simply its bareness, its
dinginess, its listlessness. Life, if you looked about you, bore no resemblance not
only to the lies that streamed out of the telescreens, but even to the ideals that the
Party was trying to achieve. Great areas of it, even for a Party member, were neutral
and non-political, a matter of slogging through dreary jobs, fighting for a place on the Tube,
darning a worn-out sock, cadging a saccharine tablet, saving a cigarette end. The ideal
set up by the Party was something huge, terrible, and glittering — a world of steel and concrete,
of monstrous machines and terrifying weapons — a nation of warriors and fanatics, marching
forward in perfect unity, all thinking the same thoughts and shouting the same slogans,
perpetually working, fighting, triumphing, persecuting — three hundred million people
all with the same face. The reality was decaying, dingy cities where underfed people shuffled
to and fro in leaky shoes, in patched-up nineteenth-century houses that smelt always of cabbage and bad
lavatories. He seemed to see a vision of London, vast and ruinous, city of a million dustbins,
and mixed up with it was a picture of Mrs. Parsons, a woman with lined face and wispy
hair, fiddling helplessly with a blocked waste-pipe. He reached down and scratched his ankle again.
Day and night the telescreens bruised your ears with statistics proving that people today
had more food, more clothes, better houses, better recreations — that they lived longer,
worked shorter hours, were bigger, healthier, stronger, happier, more intelligent, better
educated, than the people of fifty years ago. Not a word of it could ever be proved or disproved.
The Party claimed, for example, that today 40 per cent of adult proles were literate:
before the Revolution, it was said, the number had only been 15 per cent. The Party claimed
that the infant mortality rate was now only 160 per thousand, whereas before the Revolution
it had been 300 — and so it went on. It was like a single equation with two unknowns.
It might very well be that literally every word in the history books, even the things
that one accepted without question, was pure fantasy. For all he knew there might never
have been any such law as the jus primae noctis, or any such creature as a capitalist, or any
such garment as a top hat. Everything faded into mist. The past was erased,
the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth. Just once in his life he had possessed
— after the event: that was what counted — concrete, unmistakable evidence of an
act of falsification. He had held it between his fingers for as long as thirty seconds.
In 1973, it must have been — at any rate, it was at about the time when he and Katharine
had parted. But the really relevant date was seven or eight years earlier. The story really began in the middle sixties,
the period of the great purges in which the original leaders of the Revolution were wiped
out once and for all. By 1970 none of them was left, except Big Brother himself. All
the rest had by that time been exposed as traitors and counter-revolutionaries. Goldstein
had fled and was hiding no one knew where, and of the others, a few had simply disappeared,
while the majority had been executed after spectacular public trials at which they made
confession of their crimes. Among the last survivors were three men named Jones, Aaronson,
and Rutherford. It must have been in 1965 that these three had been arrested. As often
happened, they had vanished for a year or more, so that one did not know whether they
were alive or dead, and then had suddenly been brought forth to incriminate themselves
in the usual way. They had confessed to intelligence with the enemy (at that date, too, the enemy
was Eurasia), embezzlement of public funds, the murder of various trusted Party members,
intrigues against the leadership of Big Brother which had started long before the Revolution
happened, and acts of sabotage causing the death of hundreds of thousands of people.
After confessing to these things they had been pardoned, reinstated in the Party, and
given posts which were in fact sinecures but which sounded important. All three had written
long, abject articles in the Times, analysing the reasons for their defection and promising
to make amends. Some time after their release Winston had
actually seen all three of them in the Chestnut Tree Café. He remembered the sort of terrified
fascination with which he had watched them out of the corner of his eye. They were men
far older than himself, relics of the ancient world, almost the last great figures left
over from the heroic days of the Party. The glamour of the underground struggle and the
civil war still faintly clung to them. He had the feeling, though already at that time
facts and dates were growing blurry, that he had known their names years earlier than
he had known that of Big Brother. But also they were outlaws, enemies, untouchables,
doomed with absolute certainty to extinction within a year or two. No one who had once
fallen into the hands of the Thought Police ever escaped in the end. They were corpses
waiting to be sent back to the grave. There was no one at any of the tables nearest
to them. It was not wise even to be seen in the neighbourhood of such people. They were
sitting in silence before glasses of the gin flavoured with cloves which was the speciality
of the café. Of the three, it was Rutherford whose appearance had most impressed Winston.
Rutherford had once been a famous caricaturist, whose brutal cartoons had helped to inflame
popular opinion before and during the Revolution. Even now, at long intervals, his cartoons
were appearing in the Times. They were simply an imitation of his earlier manner, and curiously
lifeless and unconvincing. Always they were a rehashing of the ancient themes — slum
tenements, starving children, street battles, capitalists in top hats — even on the barricades
the capitalists still seemed to cling to their top hats an endless, hopeless effort to get
back into the past. He was a monstrous man, with a mane of greasy grey hair, his face
pouched and seamed, with thick negroid lips. At one time he must have been immensely strong;
now his great body was sagging, sloping, bulging, falling away in every direction. He seemed
to be breaking up before one’s eyes, like a mountain crumbling. It was the lonely hour of fifteen. Winston
could not now remember how he had come to be in the café at such a time. The place
was almost empty. A tinny music was trickling from the telescreens. The three men sat in
their corner almost motionless, never speaking. Uncommanded, the waiter brought fresh glasses
of gin. There was a chessboard on the table beside them, with the pieces set out but no
game started. And then, for perhaps half a minute in all, something happened to the telescreens.
The tune that they were playing changed, and the tone of the music changed too. There came
into it — but it was something hard to describe. It was a peculiar, cracked, braying, jeering
note: in his mind Winston called it a yellow note. And then a voice from the telescreen
was singing: Under the spreading chestnut tree
I sold you and you sold me: There lie they, and here lie we
Under the spreading chestnut tree. The three men never stirred. But when Winston
glanced again at Rutherford’s ruinous face, he saw that his eyes were full of tears. And
for the first time he noticed, with a kind of inward shudder, and yet not knowing at
what he shuddered, that both Aaronson and Rutherford had broken noses. A little later all three were re-arrested.
It appeared that they had engaged in fresh conspiracies from the very moment of their
release. At their second trial they confessed to all their old crimes over again, with a
whole string of new ones. They were executed, and their fate was recorded in the Party histories,
a warning to posterity. About five years after this, in 1973, Winston was unrolling a wad
of documents which had just flopped out of the pneumatic tube on to his desk when he
came on a fragment of paper which had evidently been slipped in among the others and then
forgotten. The instant he had flattened it out he saw its significance. It was a half-page
torn out of the Times of about ten years earlier — the top half of the page, so that it included
the date — and it contained a photograph of the delegates at some Party function in
New York. Prominent in the middle of the group were Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford. There
was no mistaking them, in any case their names were in the caption at the bottom. The point was that at both trials all three
men had confessed that on that date they had been on Eurasian soil. They had flown from
a secret airfield in Canada to a rendezvous somewhere in Siberia, and had conferred with
members of the Eurasian General Staff, to whom they had betrayed important military
secrets. The date had stuck in Winston’s memory because it chanced to be midsummer day; but
the whole story must be on record in countless other places as well. There was only one possible
conclusion: the confessions were lies. Of course, this was not in itself a discovery.
Even at that time Winston had not imagined that the people who were wiped out in the
purges had actually committed the crimes that they were accused of. But this was concrete
evidence; it was a fragment of the abolished past, like a fossil bone which turns up in
the wrong stratum and destroys a geological theory. It was enough to blow the Party to
atoms, if in some way it could have been published to the world and its significance made known. He had gone straight on working. As soon as
he saw what the photograph was, and what it meant, he had covered it up with another sheet
of paper. Luckily, when he unrolled it, it had been upside-down from the point of view
of the telescreen. He took his scribbling pad on his knee and
pushed back his chair so as to get as far away from the telescreen as possible. To keep
your face expressionless was not difficult, and even your breathing could be controlled,
with an effort: but you could not control the beating of your heart, and the telescreen
was quite delicate enough to pick it up. He let what he judged to be ten minutes go by,
tormented all the while by the fear that some accident — a sudden draught blowing across
his desk, for instance — would betray him. Then, without uncovering it again, he dropped
the photograph into the memory hole, along with some other waste papers. Within another
minute, perhaps, it would have crumbled into ashes. That was ten — eleven years ago. Today,
probably, he would have kept that photograph. It was curious that the fact of having held
it in his fingers seemed to him to make a difference even now, when the photograph itself,
as well as the event it recorded, was only memory. Was the Party’s hold upon the past
less strong, he wondered, because a piece of evidence which existed no longer had once
existed? But today, supposing that it could be somehow
resurrected from its ashes, the photograph might not even be evidence. Already, at the
time when he made his discovery, Oceania was no longer at war with Eurasia, and it must
have been to the agents of Eastasia that the three dead men had betrayed their country.
Since then there had been other changes — two, three, he could not remember how many. Very
likely the confessions had been rewritten and rewritten until the original facts and
dates no longer had the smallest significance. The past not only changed, but changed continuously.
What most afflicted him with the sense of nightmare was that he had never clearly understood
why the huge imposture was undertaken. The immediate advantages of falsifying the past
were obvious, but the ultimate motive was mysterious. He took up his pen again and wrote: I understand HOW: I do not understand WHY. He wondered, as he had many times wondered
before, whether he himself was a lunatic. Perhaps a lunatic was simply a minority of
one. At one time it had been a sign of madness to believe that the earth goes round the sun;
today, to believe that the past is inalterable. He might be alone in holding that belief,
and if alone, then a lunatic. But the thought of being a lunatic did not greatly trouble
him: the horror was that he might also be wrong. He picked up the children’s history book and
looked at the portrait of Big Brother which formed its frontispiece. The hypnotic eyes
gazed into his own. It was as though some huge force were pressing down upon you — something
that penetrated inside your skull, battering against your brain, frightening you out of
your beliefs, persuading you, almost, to deny the evidence of your senses. In the end the
Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It
was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their
position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external
reality, was tacitly denied by their philosophy. The heresy of heresies was common sense. And
what was terrifying was not that they would kill you for thinking otherwise, but that
they might be right. For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that
the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable? If both the past and the
external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable what then? But no! His courage seemed suddenly to stiffen
of its own accord. The face of O’Brien, not called up by any obvious association, had
floated into his mind. He knew, with more certainty than before, that O’Brien was on
his side. He was writing the diary for O’Brien — to O’Brien: it was like an interminable
letter which no one would ever read, but which was addressed to a particular person and took
its colour from that fact. The Party told you to reject the evidence
of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command. His heart sank as
he thought of the enormous power arrayed against him, the ease with which any Party intellectual
would overthrow him in debate, the subtle arguments which he would not be able to understand,
much less answer. And yet he was in the right! They were wrong and he was right. The obvious,
the silly, and the true had got to be defended. Truisms are true, hold on to that! The solid
world exists, its laws do not change. Stones are hard, water is wet, objects unsupported
fall towards the earth’s centre. With the feeling that he was speaking to O’Brien, and
also that he was setting forth an important axiom, he wrote: Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus
two make four. If that is granted, all else follows. Chapter 8 From somewhere at the bottom of a passage
the smell of roasting coffee — real coffee, not Victory Coffee — came floating out into
the street. Winston paused involuntarily. For perhaps two seconds he was back in the
half-forgotten world of his childhood. Then a door banged, seeming to cut off the smell
as abruptly as though it had been a sound. He had walked several kilometres over pavements,
and his varicose ulcer was throbbing. This was the second time in three weeks that he
had missed an evening at the Community Centre: a rash act, since you could be certain that
the number of your attendances at the Centre was carefully checked. In principle a Party
member had no spare time, and was never alone except in bed. It was assumed that when he
was not working, eating, or sleeping he would be taking part in some kind of communal recreation:
to do anything that suggested a taste for solitude, even to go for a walk by yourself,
was always slightly dangerous. There was a word for it in Newspeak: ownlife, it was called,
meaning individualism and eccentricity. But this evening as he came out of the Ministry
the balminess of the April air had tempted him. The sky was a warmer blue than he had
seen it that year, and suddenly the long, noisy evening at the Centre, the boring, exhausting
games, the lectures, the creaking camaraderie oiled by gin, had seemed intolerable. On impulse
he had turned away from the bus-stop and wandered off into the labyrinth of London, first south,
then east, then north again, losing himself among unknown streets and hardly bothering
in which direction he was going. ‘If there is hope,’ he had written in the
diary, ‘it lies in the proles.’ The words kept coming back to him, statement of a mystical
truth and a palpable absurdity. He was somewhere in the vague, brown-coloured slums to the
north and east of what had once been Saint Pancras Station. He was walking up a cobbled
street of little two-storey houses with battered doorways which gave straight on the pavement
and which were somehow curiously suggestive of ratholes. There were puddles of filthy
water here and there among the cobbles. In and out of the dark doorways, and down narrow
alley-ways that branched off on either side, people swarmed in astonishing numbers — girls
in full bloom, with crudely lipsticked mouths, and youths who chased the girls, and swollen
waddling women who showed you what the girls would be like in ten years” time, and old
bent creatures shuffling along on splayed feet, and ragged barefooted children who played
in the puddles and then scattered at angry yells from their mothers. Perhaps a quarter
of the windows in the street were broken and boarded up. Most of the people paid no attention
to Winston; a few eyed him with a sort of guarded curiosity. Two monstrous women with
brick-red forearms folded across thelr aprons were talking outside a doorway. Winston caught
scraps of conversation as he approached. ‘”Yes,” I says to ‘er, “that’s all very well,”
I says. “But if you’d of been in my place you’d of done the same as what I done. It’s
easy to criticize,” I says, “but you ain’t got the same problems as what I got.”‘ ‘Ah,’ said the other, ‘that’s jest it. That’s
jest where it is.’ The strident voices stopped abruptly. The
women studied him in hostile silence as he went past. But it was not hostility, exactly;
merely a kind of wariness, a momentary stiffening, as at the passing of some unfamiliar animal.
The blue overalls of the Party could not be a common sight in a street like this. Indeed,
it was unwise to be seen in such places, unless you had definite business there. The patrols
might stop you if you happened to run into them. ‘May I see your papers, comrade? What
are you doing here? What time did you leave work? Is this your usual way home?’ — and
so on and so forth. Not that there was any rule against walking home by an unusual route:
but it was enough to draw attention to you if the Thought Police heard about it. Suddenly the whole street was in commotion.
There were yells of warning from all sides. People were shooting into the doorways like
rabbits. A young woman leapt out of a doorway a little ahead of Winston, grabbed up a tiny
child playing in a puddle, whipped her apron round it, and leapt back again, all in one
movement. At the same instant a man in a concertina-like black suit, who had emerged from a side alley,
ran towards Winston, pointing excitedly to the sky. ‘Steamer!’ he yelled. ‘Look out, guv’nor!
Bang over’ead! Lay down quick!’ ‘Steamer’ was a nickname which, for some reason,
the proles applied to rocket bombs. Winston promptly flung himself on his face. The proles
were nearly always right when they gave you a warning of this kind. They seemed to possess
some kind of instinct which told them several seconds in advance when a rocket was coming,
although the rockets supposedly travelled faster than sound. Winston clasped his forearms
above his head. There was a roar that seemed to make the pavement heave; a shower of light
objects pattered on to his back. When he stood up he found that he was covered with fragments
of glass from the nearest window. He walked on. The bomb had demolished a group
of houses 200 metres up the street. A black plume of smoke hung in the sky, and below
it a cloud of plaster dust in which a crowd was already forming around the ruins. There
was a little pile of plaster lying on the pavement ahead of him, and in the middle of
it he could see a bright red streak. When he got up to it he saw that it was a human
hand severed at the wrist. Apart from the bloody stump, the hand was so completely whitened
as to resemble a plaster cast. He kicked the thing into the gutter, and then,
to avoid the crowd, turned down a side-street to the right. Within three or four minutes
he was out of the area which the bomb had affected, and the sordid swarming life of
the streets was going on as though nothing had happened. It was nearly twenty hours,
and the drinking-shops which the proles frequented (‘pubs’, they called them) were choked with
customers. From their grimy swing doors, endlessly opening and shutting, there came forth a smell
of urine, sawdust, and sour beer. In an angle formed by a projecting house-front three men
were standing very close together, the middle one of them holding a folded-up newspaper
which the other two were studying over his shoulder. Even before he was near enough to
make out the expression on their faces, Winston could see absorption in every line of their
bodies. It was obviously some serious piece of news that they were reading. He was a few
paces away from them when suddenly the group broke up and two of the men were in violent
altercation. For a moment they seemed almost on the point of blows. ‘Can’t you bleeding well listen to what I
say? I tell you no number ending in seven ain’t won for over fourteen months!’ ‘Yes, it ‘as, then!’ ‘No, it ‘as not! Back ‘ome I got the ‘ole
lot of ’em for over two years wrote down on a piece of paper. I takes ’em down reg’lar
as the clock. An” I tell you, no number ending in seven—’ ‘Yes, a seven ‘as won! I could pretty near
tell you the bleeding number. Four oh seven, it ended in. It were in February — second
week in February.’ ‘February your grandmother! I got it all down
in black and white. An” I tell you, no number—’ ‘Oh, pack it in!’ said the third man. They were talking about the Lottery. Winston
looked back when he had gone thirty metres. They were still arguing, with vivid, passionate
faces. The Lottery, with its weekly pay-out of enormous prizes, was the one public event
to which the proles paid serious attention. It was probable that there were some millions
of proles for whom the Lottery was the principal if not the only reason for remaining alive.
It was their delight, their folly, their anodyne, their intellectual stimulant. Where the Lottery
was concerned, even people who could barely read and write seemed capable of intricate
calculations and staggering feats of memory. There was a whole tribe of men who made a
living simply by selling systems, forecasts, and lucky amulets. Winston had nothing to
do with the running of the Lottery, which was managed by the Ministry of Plenty, but
he was aware (indeed everyone in the party was aware) that the prizes were largely imaginary.
Only small sums were actually paid out, the winners of the big prizes being non-existent
persons. In the absence of any real intercommunication between one part of Oceania and another, this
was not difficult to arrange. But if there was hope, it lay in the proles.
You had to cling on to that. When you put it in words it sounded reasonable: it was
when you looked at the human beings passing you on the pavement that it became an act
of faith. The street into which he had turned ran downhill. He had a feeling that he had
been in this neighbourhood before, and that there was a main thoroughfare not far away.
From somewhere ahead there came a din of shouting voices. The street took a sharp turn and then
ended in a flight of steps which led down into a sunken alley where a few stall-keepers
were selling tired-looking vegetables. At this moment Winston remembered where he was.
The alley led out into the main street, and down the next turning, not five minutes away,
was the junk-shop where he had bought the blank book which was now his diary. And in
a small stationer’s shop not far away he had bought his penholder and his bottle of ink. He paused for a moment at the top of the steps.
On the opposite side of the alley there was a dingy little pub whose windows appeared
to be frosted over but in reality were merely coated with dust. A very old man, bent but
active, with white moustaches that bristled forward like those of a prawn, pushed open
the swing door and went in. As Winston stood watching, it occurred to him that the old
man, who must be eighty at the least, had already been middle-aged when the Revolution
happened. He and a few others like him were the last links that now existed with the vanished
world of capitalism. In the Party itself there were not many people left whose ideas had
been formed before the Revolution. The older generation had mostly been wiped out in the
great purges of the fifties and sixties, and the few who survived had long ago been terrified
into complete intellectual surrender. If there was any one still alive who could give you
a truthful account of conditions in the early part of the century, it could only be a prole.
Suddenly the passage from the history book that he had copied into his diary came back
into Winston’s mind, and a lunatic impulse took hold of him. He would go into the pub,
he would scrape acquaintance with that old man and question him. He would say to him:
‘Tell me about your life when you were a boy. What was it like in those days? Were things
better than they are now, or were they worse?’ Hurriedly, lest he should have time to become
frightened, he descended the steps and crossed the narrow street. It was madness of course.
As usual, there was no definite rule against talking to proles and frequenting their pubs,
but it was far too unusual an action to pass unnoticed. If the patrols appeared he might
plead an attack of faintness, but it was not likely that they would believe him. He pushed
open the door, and a hideous cheesy smell of sour beer hit him in the face. As he entered
the din of voices dropped to about half its volume. Behind his back he could feel everyone
eyeing his blue overalls. A game of darts which was going on at the other end of the
room interrupted itself for perhaps as much as thirty seconds. The old man whom he had
followed was standing at the bar, having some kind of altercation with the barman, a large,
stout, hook-nosed young man with enormous forearms. A knot of others, standing round
with glasses in their hands, were watching the scene. ‘I arst you civil enough, didn’t I?’ said
the old man, straightening his shoulders pugnaciously. ‘You telling me you ain’t got a pint mug in
the ‘ole bleeding boozer?’ ‘And what in hell’s name is a pint?’ said
the barman, leaning forward with the tips of his fingers on the counter. ‘Ark at ‘im! Calls ‘isself a barman and don’t
know what a pint is! Why, a pint’s the ‘alf of a quart, and there’s four quarts to the
gallon. ‘Ave to teach you the A, B, C next.’ ‘Never heard of ’em,’ said the barman shortly.
‘Litre and half litre — that’s all we serve. There’s the glasses on the shelf in front
of you.’ ‘I likes a pint,’ persisted the old man. ‘You
could ‘a drawed me off a pint easy enough. We didn’t ‘ave these bleeding litres when
I was a young man.’ ‘When you were a young man we were all living
in the treetops,’ said the barman, with a glance at the other customers. There was a shout of laughter, and the uneasiness
caused by Winston’s entry seemed to disappear. The old man’s whitestubbled face had flushed
pink. He turned away, muttering to himself, and bumped into Winston. Winston caught him
gently by the arm. ‘May I offer you a drink?’ he said. ‘You’re a gent,’ said the other, straightening
his shoulders again. He appeared not to have noticed Winston’s blue overalls. ‘Pint!’ he
added aggressively to the barman. ‘Pint of wallop.’ The barman swished two half-litres of dark-brown
beer into thick glasses which he had rinsed in a bucket under the counter. Beer was the
only drink you could get in prole pubs. The proles were supposed not to drink gin, though
in practice they could get hold of it easily enough. The game of darts was in full swing
again, and the knot of men at the bar had begun talking about lottery tickets. Winston’s
presence was forgotten for a moment. There was a deal table under the window where he
and the old man could talk without fear of being overheard. It was horribly dangerous,
but at any rate there was no telescreen in the room, a point he had made sure of as soon
as he came in. ”E could ‘a drawed me off a pint,’ grumbled
the old man as he settled down behind a glass. ‘A ‘alf litre ain’t enough. It don’t satisfy.
And a ‘ole litre’s too much. It starts my bladder running. Let alone the price.’ ‘You must have seen great changes since you
were a young man,’ said Winston tentatively. The old man’s pale blue eyes moved from the
darts board to the bar, and from the bar to the door of the Gents, as though it were in
the bar-room that he expected the changes to have occurred. ‘The beer was better,’ he said finally. ‘And
cheaper! When I was a young man, mild beer — wallop we used to call it — was fourpence
a pint. That was before the war, of course.’ ‘Which war was that?’ said Winston. ‘It’s all wars,’ said the old man vaguely.
He took up his glass, and his shoulders straightened again. ”Ere’s wishing you the very best of
‘ealth!’ In his lean throat the sharp-pointed Adam’s
apple made a surprisingly rapid up-and-down movement, and the beer vanished. Winston went
to the bar and came back with two more half-litres. The old man appeared to have forgotten his
prejudice against drinking a full litre. ‘You are very much older than I am,’ said
Winston. ‘You must have been a grown man before I was born. You can remember what it was like
in the old days, before the Revolution. People of my age don’t really know anything about
those times. We can only read about them in books, and what it says in the books may not
be true. I should like your opinion on that. The history books say that life before the
Revolution was completely different from what it is now. There was the most terrible oppression,
injustice, poverty worse than anything we can imagine. Here in London, the great mass
of the people never had enough to eat from birth to death. Half of them hadn’t even boots
on their feet. They worked twelve hours a day, they left school at nine, they slept
ten in a room. And at the same time there were a very few people, only a few thousands
— the capitalists, they were called — who were rich and powerful. They owned everything
that there was to own. They lived in great gorgeous houses with thirty servants, they
rode about in motor-cars and four-horse carriages, they drank champagne, they wore top hats—’ The old man brightened suddenly. ‘Top ‘ats!’ he said. ‘Funny you should mention
’em. The same thing come into my ‘ead only yesterday, I dono why. I was jest thinking,
I ain’t seen a top ‘at in years. Gorn right out, they ‘ave. The last time I wore one was
at my sister-in-law’s funeral. And that was — well, I couldn’t give you the date, but
it must’a been fifty years ago. Of course it was only ‘ired for the occasion, you understand.’ ‘It isn’t very important about the top hats,’
said Winston patiently. ‘The point is, these capitalists — they and a few lawyers and
priests and so forth who lived on them — were the lords of the earth. Everything existed
for their benefit. You — the ordinary people, the workers — were their slaves. They could
do what they liked with you. They could ship you off to Canada like cattle. They could
sleep with your daughters if they chose. They could order you to be flogged with something
called a cat-o’-nine tails. You had to take your cap off when you passed them. Every capitalist
went about with a gang of lackeys who—’ The old man brightened again. ‘Lackeys!’ he said. ‘Now there’s a word I
ain’t ‘eard since ever so long. Lackeys! That reg’lar takes me back, that does. I recollect
oh, donkey’s years ago — I used to sometimes go to ‘Yde Park of a Sunday afternoon to ‘ear
the blokes making speeches. Salvation Army, Roman Catholics, Jews, Indians — all sorts
there was. And there was one bloke — well, I couldn’t give you ‘is name, but a real powerful
speaker ‘e was. ‘E didn’t ‘alf give it ’em! “Lackeys!” ‘e says, “lackeys of the bourgeoisie!
Flunkies of the ruling class!” Parasites — that was another of them. And ‘yenas — ‘e definitely
called ’em ‘yenas. Of course ‘e was referring to the Labour Party, you understand.’ Winston had the feeling that they were talking
at cross-purposes. ‘What I really wanted to know was this,’ he
said. ‘Do you feel that you have more freedom now than you had in those days? Are you treated
more like a human being? In the old days, the rich people, the people at the top—’ ‘The ‘Ouse of Lords,’ put in the old man reminiscently. ‘The House of Lords, if you like. What I am
asking is, were these people able to treat you as an inferior, simply because they were
rich and you were poor? Is it a fact, for instance, that you had to call them “Sir”
and take off your cap when you passed them?’ The old man appeared to think deeply. He drank
off about a quarter of his beer before answering. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘They liked you to touch your
cap to ’em. It showed respect, like. I didn’t agree with it, myself, but I done it often
enough. Had to, as you might say.’ ‘And was it usual — I’m only quoting what
I’ve read in history books — was it usual for these people and their servants to push
you off the pavement into the gutter?’ ‘One of ’em pushed me once,’ said the old
man. ‘I recollect it as if it was yesterday. It was Boat Race night — terribly rowdy
they used to get on Boat Race night — and I bumps into a young bloke on Shaftesbury
Avenue. Quite a gent, ‘e was — dress shirt, top ‘at, black overcoat. ‘E was kind of zig-zagging
across the pavement, and I bumps into ‘im accidental-like. ‘E says, “Why can’t you look
where you’re going?” ‘e says. I say, “Ju think you’ve bought the bleeding pavement?” ‘E says,
“I’ll twist your bloody ‘ead off if you get fresh with me.” I says, “You’re drunk. I’ll
give you in charge in ‘alf a minute,” I says. An’ if you’ll believe me, ‘e puts ‘is ‘and
on my chest and gives me a shove as pretty near sent me under the wheels of a bus. Well,
I was young in them days, and I was going to ‘ave fetched ‘im one, only—’ A sense of helplessness took hold of Winston.
The old man’s memory was nothing but a rubbish-heap of details. One could question him all day
without getting any real information. The party histories might still be true, after
a fashion: they might even be completely true. He made a last attempt. ‘Perhaps I have not made myself clear,’ he
said. ‘What I’m trying to say is this. You have been alive a very long time; you lived
half your life before the Revolution. In 1925, for instance, you were already grown up. Would
you say from what you can remember, that life in 1925 was better than it is now, or worse?
If you could choose, would you prefer to live then or now?’ The old man looked meditatively at the darts
board. He finished up his beer, more slowly than before. When he spoke it was with a tolerant
philosophical air, as though the beer had mellowed him. ‘I know what you expect me to say,’ he said.
‘You expect me to say as I’d sooner be young again. Most people’d say they’d sooner be
young, if you arst” ’em. You got your ‘ealth and strength when you’re young. When you get
to my time of life you ain’t never well. I suffer something wicked from my feet, and
my bladder’s jest terrible. Six and seven times a night it ‘as me out of bed. On the
other ‘and, there’s great advantages in being a old man. You ain’t got the same worries.
No truck with women, and that’s a great thing. I ain’t ‘ad a woman for near on thirty year,
if you’d credit it. Nor wanted to, what’s more.’ Winston sat back against the window-sill.
It was no use going on. He was about to buy some more beer when the old man suddenly got
up and shuffled rapidly into the stinking urinal at the side of the room. The extra
half-litre was already working on him. Winston sat for a minute or two gazing at his empty
glass, and hardly noticed when his feet carried him out into the street again. Within twenty
years at the most, he reflected, the huge and simple question, ‘Was life better before
the Revolution than it is now?’ would have ceased once and for all to be answerable.
But in effect it was unanswerable even now, since the few scattered survivors from the
ancient world were incapable of comparing one age with another. They remembered a million
useless things, a quarrel with a workmate, a hunt for a lost bicycle pump, the expression
on a long-dead sister’s face, the swirls of dust on a windy morning seventy years ago:
but all the relevant facts were outside the range of their vision. They were like the
ant, which can see small objects but not large ones. And when memory failed and written records
were falsified — when that happened, the claim of the Party to have improved the conditions
of human life had got to be accepted, because there did not exist, and never again could
exist, any standard against which it could be tested. At this moment his train of thought stopped
abruptly. He halted and looked up. He was in a narrow street, with a few dark little
shops, interspersed among dwelling-houses. Immediately above his head there hung three
discoloured metal balls which looked as if they had once been gilded. He seemed to know
the place. Of course! He was standing outside the junk-shop where he had bought the diary. A twinge of fear went through him. It had
been a sufficiently rash act to buy the book in the beginning, and he had sworn never to
come near the place again. And yet the instant that he allowed his thoughts to wander, his
feet had brought him back here of their own accord. It was precisely against suicidal
impulses of this kind that he had hoped to guard himself by opening the diary. At the
same time he noticed that although it was nearly twenty-one hours the shop was still
open. With the feeling that he would be less conspicuous inside than hanging about on the
pavement, he stepped through the doorway. If questioned, he could plausibly say that
he was trying to buy razor blades. The proprietor had just lighted a hanging
oil lamp which gave off an unclean but friendly smell. He was a man of perhaps sixty, frail
and bowed, with a long, benevolent nose, and mild eyes distorted by thick spectacles. His
hair was almost white, but his eyebrows were bushy and still black. His spectacles, his
gentle, fussy movements, and the fact that he was wearing an aged jacket of black velvet,
gave him a vague air of intellectuality, as though he had been some kind of literary man,
or perhaps a musician. His voice was soft, as though faded, and his accent less debased
than that of the majority of proles. ‘I recognized you on the pavement,’ he said
immediately. ‘You’re the gentleman that bought the young lady’s keepsake album. That was
a beautiful bit of paper, that was. Cream-laid, it used to be called. There’s been no paper
like that made for — oh, I dare say fifty years.’ He peered at Winston over the top
of his spectacles. ‘Is there anything special I can do for you? Or did you just want to
look round?’ ‘I was passing,’ said Winston vaguely. ‘I
just looked in. I don’t want anything in particular.’ ‘It’s just as well,’ said the other, ‘because
I don’t suppose I could have satisfied you.’ He made an apologetic gesture with his softpalmed
hand. ‘You see how it is; an empty shop, you might say. Between you and me, the antique
trade’s just about finished. No demand any longer, and no stock either. Furniture, china,
glass it’s all been broken up by degrees. And of course the metal stuff’s mostly been
melted down. I haven’t seen a brass candlestick in years.’ The tiny interior of the shop was in fact
uncomfortably full, but there was almost nothing in it of the slightest value. The floorspace
was very restricted, because all round the walls were stacked innumerable dusty picture-frames.
In the window there were trays of nuts and bolts, worn-out chisels, penknives with broken
blades, tarnished watches that did not even pretend to be in going order, and other miscellaneous
rubbish. Only on a small table in the corner was there a litter of odds and ends — lacquered
snuffboxes, agate brooches, and the like — which looked as though they might include something
interesting. As Winston wandered towards the table his eye was caught by a round, smooth
thing that gleamed softly in the lamplight, and he picked it up. It was a heavy lump of glass, curved on one
side, flat on the other, making almost a hemisphere. There was a peculiar softness, as of rainwater,
in both the colour and the texture of the glass. At the heart of it, magnified by the
curved surface, there was a strange, pink, convoluted object that recalled a rose or
a sea anemone. ‘What is it?’ said Winston, fascinated. ‘That’s coral, that is,’ said the old man.
‘It must have come from the Indian Ocean. They used to kind of embed it in the glass.
That wasn’t made less than a hundred years ago. More, by the look of it.’ ‘It’s a beautiful thing,’ said Winston. ‘It is a beautiful thing,’ said the other
appreciatively. ‘But there’s not many that’d say so nowadays.’ He coughed. ‘Now, if it
so happened that you wanted to buy it, that’d cost you four dollars. I can remember when
a thing like that would have fetched eight pounds, and eight pounds was — well, I can’t
work it out, but it was a lot of money. But who cares about genuine antiques nowadays
even the few that’s left?’ Winston immediately paid over the four dollars
and slid the coveted thing into his pocket. What appealed to him about it was not so much
its beauty as the air it seemed to possess of belonging to an age quite different from
the present one. The soft, rainwatery glass was not like any glass that he had ever seen.
The thing was doubly attractive because of its apparent uselessness, though he could
guess that it must once have been intended as a paperweight. It was very heavy in his
pocket, but fortunately it did not make much of a bulge. It was a queer thing, even a compromising
thing, for a Party member to have in his possession. Anything old, and for that matter anything
beautiful, was always vaguely suspect. The old man had grown noticeably more cheerful
after receiving the four dollars. Winston realized that he would have accepted three
or even two. ‘There’s another room upstairs that you might
care to take a look at,’ he said. ‘There’s not much in it. Just a few pieces. We’ll do
with a light if we’re going upstairs.’ He lit another lamp, and, with bowed back,
led the way slowly up the steep and worn stairs and along a tiny passage, into a room which
did not give on the street but looked out on a cobbled yard and a forest of chimney-pots.
Winston noticed that the furniture was still arranged as though the room were meant to
be lived in. There was a strip of carpet on the floor, a picture or two on the walls,
and a deep, slatternly arm-chair drawn up to the fireplace. An old-fashioned glass clock
with a twelve-hour face was ticking away on the mantelpiece. Under the window, and occupying
nearly a quarter of the room, was an enormous bed with the mattress still on it. ‘We lived here till my wife died,’ said the
old man half apologetically. ‘I’m selling the furniture off by little and little. Now
that’s a beautiful mahogany bed, or at least it would be if you could get the bugs out
of it. But I dare say you’d find it a little bit cumbersome.’ He was holdlng the lamp high up, so as to
illuminate the whole room, and in the warm dim light the place looked curiously inviting.
The thought flitted through Winston’s mind that it would probably be quite easy to rent
the room for a few dollars a week, if he dared to take the risk. It was a wild, impossible
notion, to be abandoned as soon as thought of; but the room had awakened in him a sort
of nostalgia, a sort of ancestral memory. It seemed to him that he knew exactly what
it felt like to sit in a room like this, in an arm-chair beside an open fire with your
feet in the fender and a kettle on the hob; utterly alone, utterly secure, with nobody
watching you, no voice pursuing you, no sound except the singing of the kettle and the friendly
ticking of the clock. ‘There’s no telescreen!’ he could not help
murmuring. ‘Ah,’ said the old man, ‘I never had one of
those things. Too expensive. And I never seemed to feel the need of it, somehow. Now that’s
a nice gateleg table in the corner there. Though of course you’d have to put new hinges
on it if you wanted to use the flaps.’ There was a small bookcase in the other corner,
and Winston had already gravitated towards it. It contained nothing but rubbish. The
hunting-down and destruction of books had been done with the same thoroughness in the
prole quarters as everywhere else. It was very unlikely that there existed anywhere
in Oceania a copy of a book printed earlier than 1960. The old man, still carrying the
lamp, was standing in front of a picture in a rosewood frame which hung on the other side
of the fireplace, opposite the bed. ‘Now, if you happen to be interested in old
prints at all—’ he began delicately. Winston came across to examine the picture.
It was a steel engraving of an oval building with rectangular windows, and a small tower
in front. There was a railing running round the building, and at the rear end there was
what appeared to be a statue. Winston gazed at it for some moments. It seemed vaguely
familiar, though he did not remember the statue. ‘The frame’s fixed to the wall,’ said the
old man, ‘but I could unscrew it for you, I dare say.’ ‘I know that building,’ said Winston finally.
‘It’s a ruin now. It’s in the middle of the street outside the Palace of Justice.’ ‘That’s right. Outside the Law Courts. It
was bombed in — oh, many years ago. It was a church at one time, St. Clement’s Danes,
its name was.’ He smiled apologetically, as though conscious of saying something slightly
ridiculous, and added: ‘”Oranges and lemons,” say the bells of St. Clement’s!’ ‘What’s that?’ said Winston. ‘Oh — “‘Oranges and lemons,’ say the bells
of St. Clement’s.” That was a rhyme we had when I was a little boy. How it goes on I
don’t remember, but I do know it ended up, “Here comes a candle to light you to bed,
Here comes a chopper to chop off your head.” It was a kind of a dance. They held out their
arms for you to pass under, and when they came to “Here comes a chopper to chop off
your head” they brought their arms down and caught you. It was just names of churches.
All the London churches were in it — all the principal ones, that is.’ Winston wondered vaguely to what century the
church belonged. It was always difficult to determine the age of a London building. Anything
large and impressive, if it was reasonably new in appearance, was automatically claimed
as having been built since the Revolution, while anything that was obviously of earlier
date was ascribed to some dim period called the Middle Ages. The centuries of capitalism
were held to have produced nothing of any value. One could not learn history from architecture
any more than one could learn it from books. Statues, inscriptions, memorial stones, the
names of streets — anything that might throw light upon the past had been systematically
altered. ‘I never knew it had been a church,’ he said. ‘There’s a lot of them left, really,’ said
the old man, ‘though they’ve been put to other uses. Now, how did that rhyme go? Ah! I’ve
got it! ‘Oranges and lemons,’ say the bells of St.
Clement’s, ‘You owe me three farthings,’ say the bells
of St. Martin’s — there, now, that’s as far as I can get. A
farthing, that was a small copper coin, looked something like a cent.’ ‘Where was St. Martin’s?’ said Winston. ‘St. Martin’s? That’s still standing. It’s
in Victory Square, alongside the picture gallery. A building with a kind of a triangular porch
and pillars in front, and a big flight of steps.’ Winston knew the place well. It was a museum
used for propaganda displays of various kinds — scale models of rocket bombs and Floating
Fortresses, waxwork tableaux illustrating enemy atrocities, and the like. ‘St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields it used to be
called,’ supplemented the old man, ‘though I don’t recollect any fields anywhere in those
parts.’ Winston did not buy the picture. It would
have been an even more incongruous possession than the glass paperweight, and impossible
to carry home, unless it were taken out of its frame. But he lingered for some minutes
more, talking to the old man, whose name, he discovered, was not Weeks — as one might
have gathered from the inscription over the shop-front — but Charrington. Mr. Charrington,
it seemed, was a widower aged sixty-three and had inhabited this shop for thirty years.
Throughout that time he had been intending to alter the name over the window, but had
never quite got to the point of doing it. All the while that they were talking the half-remembered
rhyme kept running through Winston’s head. Oranges and lemons say the bells of St. Clement’s,
You owe me three farthings, say the bells of St. Martin’s! It was curious, but when
you said it to yourself you had the illusion of actually hearing bells, the bells of a
lost London that still existed somewhere or other, disguised and forgotten. From one ghostly
steeple after another he seemed to hear them pealing forth. Yet so far as he could remember
he had never in real life heard church bells ringing. He got away from Mr. Charrington and went
down the stairs alone, so as not to let the old man see him reconnoitring the street before
stepping out of the door. He had already made up his mind that after a suitable interval
— a month, say — he would take the risk of visiting the shop again. It was perhaps
not more dangerous than shirking an evening at the Centre. The serious piece of folly
had been to come back here in the first place, after buying the diary and without knowing
whether the proprietor of the shop could be trusted. However—! Yes, he thought again, he would come back.
He would buy further scraps of beautiful rubbish. He would buy the engraving of St. Clement’s
Danes, take it out of its frame, and carry it home concealed under the jacket of his
overalls. He would drag the rest of that poem out of Mr. Charrington’s memory. Even the
lunatic project of renting the room upstairs flashed momentarily through his mind again.
For perhaps five seconds exaltation made him careless, and he stepped out on to the pavement
without so much as a preliminary glance through the window. He had even started humming to
an improvised tune — ‘Oranges and lemons,’ say the bells of St.
Clement’s, ‘You owe me three farthings,’ say the — Suddenly his heart seemed to turn to ice and
his bowels to water. A figure in blue overalls was coming down the pavement, not ten metres
away. It was the girl from the Fiction Department, the girl with dark hair. The light was failing,
but there was no difficulty in recognizing her. She looked him straight in the face,
then walked quickly on as though she had not seen him. For a few seconds Winston was too paralysed
to move. Then he turned to the right and walked heavily away, not noticing for the moment
that he was going in the wrong direction. At any rate, one question was settled. There
was no doubting any longer that the girl was spying on him. She must have followed him
here, because it was not credible that by pure chance she should have happened to be
walking on the same evening up the same obscure backstreet, kilometres distant from any quarter
where Party members lived. It was too great a coincidence. Whether she was really an agent
of the Thought Police, or simply an amateur spy actuated by officiousness, hardly mattered.
It was enough that she was watching him. Probably she had seen him go into the pub as well. It was an effort to walk. The lump of glass
in his pocket banged against his thigh at each step, and he was half minded to take
it out and throw it away. The worst thing was the pain in his belly. For a couple of
minutes he had the feeling that he would die if he did not reach a lavatory soon. But there
would be no public lavatories in a quarter like this. Then the spasm passed, leaving
a dull ache behind. The street was a blind alley. Winston halted,
stood for several seconds wondering vaguely what to do, then turned round and began to
retrace his steps. As he turned it occurred to him that the girl had only passed him three
minutes ago and that by running he could probably catch up with her. He could keep on her track
till they were in some quiet place, and then smash her skull in with a cobblestone. The
piece of glass in his pocket would be heavy enough for the job. But he abandoned the idea
immediately, because even the thought of making any physical effort was unbearable. He could
not run, he could not strike a blow. Besides, she was young and lusty and would defend herself.
He thought also of hurrying to the Community Centre and staying there till the place closed,
so as to establish a partial alibi for the evening. But that too was impossible. A deadly
lassitude had taken hold of him. All he wanted was to get home quickly and then sit down
and be quiet. It was after twenty-two hours when he got
back to the flat. The lights would be switched off at the main at twenty-three thirty. He
went into the kitchen and swallowed nearly a teacupful of Victory Gin. Then he went to
the table in the alcove, sat down, and took the diary out of the drawer. But he did not
open it at once. From the telescreen a brassy female voice was squalling a patriotic song.
He sat staring at the marbled cover of the book, trying without success to shut the voice
out of his consciousness. It was at night that they came for you, always
at night. The proper thing was to kill yourself before they got you. Undoubtedly some people
did so. Many of the disappearances were actually suicides. But it needed desperate courage
to kill yourself in a world where firearms, or any quick and certain poison, were completely
unprocurable. He thought with a kind of astonishment of the biological uselessness of pain and
fear, the treachery of the human body which always freezes into inertia at exactly the
moment when a special effort is needed. He might have silenced the dark-haired girl if
only he had acted quickly enough: but precisely because of the extremity of his danger he
had lost the power to act. It struck him that in moments of crisis one is never fighting
against an external enemy, but always against one’s own body. Even now, in spite of the
gin, the dull ache in his belly made consecutive thought impossible. And it is the same, he
perceived, in all seemingly heroic or tragic situations. On the battlefield, in the torture
chamber, on a sinking ship, the issues that you are fighting for are always forgotten,
because the body swells up until it fills the universe, and even when you are not paralysed
by fright or screaming with pain, life is a moment-to-moment struggle against hunger
or cold or sleeplessness, against a sour stomach or an aching tooth. He opened the diary. It was important to write
something down. The woman on the telescreen had started a new song. Her voice seemed to
stick into his brain like jagged splinters of glass. He tried to think of O’Brien, for
whom, or to whom, the diary was written, but instead he began thinking of the things that
would happen to him after the Thought Police took him away. It would not matter if they
killed you at once. To be killed was what you expected. But before death (nobody spoke
of such things, yet everybody knew of them) there was the routine of confession that had
to be gone through: the grovelling on the floor and screaming for mercy, the crack of
broken bones, the smashed teeth, and bloody clots of hair. Why did you have to endure it, since the end
was always the same? Why was it not possible to cut a few days or weeks out of your life?
Nobody ever escaped detection, and nobody ever failed to confess. When once you had
succumbed to thoughtcrime it was certain that by a given date you would be dead. Why then
did that horror, which altered nothing, have to lie embedded in future time? He tried with a little more success than before
to summon up the image of O’Brien. ‘We shall meet in the place where there is no darkness,’
O’Brien had said to him. He knew what it meant, or thought he knew. The place where there
is no darkness was the imagined future, which one would never see, but which, by foreknowledge,
one could mystically share in. But with the voice from the telescreen nagging at his ears
he could not follow the train of thought further. He put a cigarette in his mouth. Half the
tobacco promptly fell out on to his tongue, a bitter dust which was difficult to spit
out again. The face of Big Brother swam into his mind, displacing that of O’Brien. Just
as he had done a few days earlier, he slid a coin out of his pocket and looked at it.
The face gazed up at him, heavy, calm, protecting: but what kind of smile was hidden beneath
the dark moustache? Like a leaden knell the words came back at him: WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

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  1. "You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember: all I'm offering is the truth."

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