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Barron's Booknotes-1984 by George Orwell-Free Book Notes
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SECTION VIII

It's a nice evening and although solitary acts are frowned on, Winston goes for a walk. He is drawn to the prole sector, where a shouted warning flattens him just as a rocket bomb (like the "buzz bombs" of World War II) hits. Winston thinks proles have some instinct that lets them know about such things.

As he wanders among them, he sees the common people as sexual, careless, almost animal in their simple pleasures, which include the Lottery and drinking in pubs. He envies their simplicity, a fact which some readers would argue is a figment of the author's class-conscious imagination. Others say he is exaggerating for effect. What do you think?

In the pub, Winston fastens on an old man as a possible link to the past. Certainly the man remembers the days before Big Brother. But when they try to talk, the man seems to remember only gents in top hats who wanted him to touch his cap, and times when he wasn't plagued by a twitchy bladder. What Winston is trying to find out is whether the Party line is true: that the lower classes were oppressed by bloated capitalists in the terrible days of hardship that were ended by the Revolution, when the Party came to power.

"Was life better before the Revolution than it is now?" Winston knows the question is not answerable because all the relevant facts are outside the range of vision of the old people who might remember. When memory fails and the records are altered, there is no standard against which the Party's claims can be tested. Orwell seems to foresee a time in which the elite will be at work altering the records, leaving the past to the apparently faulty memories of the lower classes.

Winston retreats to the streets and discovers that the secondhand shop where he bought the diary is still open. Mr. Charrington, the white-haired proprietor, smiles kindly and welcomes Winston. The gold and silver of yesteryear have been melted down, so what remains in his shop has little tangible value, except as a link with the past that Winston has been seeking.


On a table in the back is a rounded glass paperweight. Except for the image of Big Brother on posters and telescreens, it is the single most important object in the shop. The glass is clear as rainwater, and at its center is a lovely pink shape. The paperweight is important to Winston as a symbol of the lost past. It has another equally important symbolic role in the story, which we'll discover in Part Two. The old man tells Winston that the pink shape is coral, and, as soon as Winston buys it, offers to show him his private upstairs room. It is here that Winston will play some of his most important scenes as the novel unfolds, The room itself is an emblem of more civil times, when a man could sit by the fire with his feet up, safe from the watchful television eye. Ah, the old man says, he never had the money for the telescreen, and never felt the need of it. He owns only a few worthless books-everything printed before 1960 has been destroyed by the Party.

The room does, however, contain one other major item: a print of St. Clement's Dane, one of London's most venerable churches. The frame, the old man says, is fixed to the wall. Keep an eye on this print; it's important for several reasons:

1. It's a symbol of London's lost past, which Winston longs for. The church has been half-destroyed and turned to other uses by the Party.

2. It's a springboard for the children's rhyme that is repeated throughout the novel: "Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St. Clement's; you owe me three farthings, say the bells of St. Martin's...." The rhyme moves Winston as he reflects on the fate of London's churches.

3. Like Mr. Charrington, the print is not what it seems-as we'll discover at the end of Part Two.

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