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

Winston has been interrogated for days, perhaps weeks. He has learned how to avoid the pain by giving the right answers. O'Brien reminds him that he wrote in his diary that he understood how the society worked, but not why. If phase one of his brainwashing was learning, the next two are understanding and acceptance. O'Brien is about to tell him why.

Nobody seems very surprised that O'Brien collaborated on Goldstein's book. Its program, to educate the proles to overthrow the party, is nonsense. The rule of the Party is forever, O'Brien says. Why? Winston says what he believes to be the Party line-that the Party rules over people for their own good. It's the wrong answer.

O'Brien punishes him at once. The Party, he says, seeks power for its own sake. Power is an end in itself. He notices that Winston is looking at his aging face and admits that yes, he will get old and die, but he is only one cell in an organism that will never die. Power is collective. Together, Party members can rule. They control matter because they control the mind: "Reality is inside the skull.... We make the laws of nature."

Winston takes the side of nature and argues that the age of the earth and the existence of the stars prove that physical reality is beyond man's control. O'Brien is indifferent. Stars are only bits of fire, he says; the Party could reach them if it wanted to; it could blot them out. When it's convenient, the Party believes the earth revolves around the sun. But at other times the earth becomes the center of the universe. Doublethink makes it possible.


O'Brien points out that the Party's real power is not over things, but over men, and that its power is both exercised and demonstrated by making them suffer. O'Brien's theory of power is not based on happiness, as in most Utopian visions of the perfect society. It is based on sadism. The Party will dissolve the family and do away with sex, art, literature, and science. "If you want a picture of the future," writes Orwell, "imagine a boot stamping on a human face-forever."

Some readers question whether the Party's motivation is strong or believable enough. Many totalitarian governments use force to carry out their aims, but only as a means to other ends? O'Brien claims Party members aren't interested in pleasure, luxury, or privilege; all they want is to govern totally and inflict pain. Is this convincing? You can argue either way.

Winston thinks it is not convincing. He says it's impossible for civilizations founded on fear, hatred and cruelty to survive. He has to believe that something-the human spirit, perhaps-will defeat them.

O'Brien tells Winston that his kind is extinct. He may be the "last" man, but he is completely alone, and he is by no means superior. He makes Winston strip and then leads him to a mirror. For the first time since his capture, Winston sees himself naked and cries out.

Some people have suggested that the description of Winston here-a bag of bones, gray all over with dirt, with falling hair and teeth coming out-was influenced by Orwell's own physical deterioration; he was dying of TB. Winston looks at himself and weeps. He blames O'Brien for bringing him to this awful state.

No, O'Brien points out. Nothing has happened that Winston didn't foresee. When he defied the Party by beginning the diary, he brought destruction upon himself.

Winston has been broken and humiliated, but he has not betrayed Julia. O'Brien acknowledges this and Winston is overwhelmed with reverence for him-with gratitude for his intelligence. In spite of all his confessions, he hasn't stopped loving Julia. O'Brien admits that it may be a long time before they shoot Winston, since he's such a difficult case. But everyone is "cured" sooner or later, he says reassuringly; and in the end they will shoot him.

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