Oceania is a dystopian society. A society ruled by a Party. The all-powerful Big Brother is constantly watching over everyone’s shoulder. Telescreens are installed in every room of the House, every corner of an office building, they cannot be turned off, there is only one option – to hear what it says, to watch what it shows. Telescreens, unlike, TVs of today, can hear and see. The Party can see you, hear you, they watch over you. They even admonish you for not feigning happiness.
The leader of The Party, the Big Brother, is all around, his words are lauded, his forecasts are always the truth, even if it is not the truth, they turn out to be the truth.
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.
In Oceania, the truth is fallible, it can be bent. Isn’t the truth what is inside the mind of Man? Truth, if one bends the mind of Man, be bent as well?
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.
In this literary masterpiece, there is no Colour, there is no Love, there is no freedom. “Freedom is slavery”, it screams at you in the very beginning. What you thought was absurd at the start of the book, will seem plausible.
Winston Smith, a 40 something year old, who has been cursed with the power of thought, the ability to form opinions, but unable to suppress them, to control them. Everyone in Oceania has to be happy, to hate the Enemy, to sing laurels of the Big Brother, to love him, to never speak ill of him nor The Party. In Oceania, it is mandatory to Love, even die, for The Party. It’s not enough to fake loyalty towards the party and hatred towards The Enemy, its most important for everyone to feel it. It’s an unpardonable crime to even feel sad.
He was a little boy when the Revolution happened. A Revolution, which had its roots in Socialism, very similar to the Authoritarian Communism and the merciless Nazism. But, there is one difference : Unlike other Revolutions, this one can never be reversed or defeated. Oceania is just too big, too strong and the other 2 states are just as big and strong. No one can win this war, nor lose it. The war between the 3 massive states will continue indefinitely. It is deemed imperative for the people of Oceania to constantly live in the shadow of a war. “War is peace”, is the party slogan.
It’s the year 1984 and he very vaguely remembers of the times gone by; a time when Love was not a thoughtcrime. When Winston remembers the time when he stole the chocolate his mother had meant for his little, baby sister, the face of his distraught, defeated mother haunts him. Soon his mother and sister disappear forever. He was, after all, a kid, when he denied the piece of Chocolate, distributed in rations by the Party, to his sister. He didn’t know better, then. He does now. It was inhumane to deny a sick child, one’s own sister, a piece of candy. In his mind it was criminal, a thought which should be suppressed, but he is unable to. The pain is real, so real that one is instantly taken to a dark place. A deed, so vile, once done, can never be undone.
Although the people are allowed to get married and have kids, they are strictly not allowed to fall in Love. People get married to bear children for The Party. They are doing a service to The Party, a service to society.
Doublethink. Doublethink is believing and at the same time not believing. If Oceania is at war with Eastasia, it was always at war with Eastasia, even though that few weeks ago Oceania was at Eurasia. If The Party vaporises someone, they cease to exist – not only on paper but people’s minds. There will be no reference to him in any of the official documents, his name is stricken off every piece of paper, his memory is to be deleted in everyone’s mind by an unwritten commandment. Wives are to forget their husbands; Sons their Mothers. Doublethink is the ability to contort one’s mind, actions and most importantly thought to suit the convenience of The Party.
The Thought Police ensure all thoughtcriminals are caught and punished. They track everyone, every word and every action; they are relentless; they will ultimately win. Public confessions followed by executions are common place.
If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.
There are no individuals in Oceania, there is only The Party and The Enemy(War for Oceania is oscillating between Eastasia and Eurasia. But, officially, Oceania is at war with Eastasia, was always at war with Eastasia).
1984 takes one to a somber place. If it were a movie, it would be over in 2 hours. One can get on with their lives. George Orwell takes you, over many hours of reading, to a place very dark, surrounded by lies, by men who are slaves, who have no perspective.
All of a sudden, out of the dulness of his daily existence, appears Julia. Julia is what Winston needed – a crutch, a hope of more hope. Somebody to make Love to, to talk to, to speak his mind to; somebody who will also love him back. Winston is us, he is me, one is tempted to feel. His loneliness reverberates with yours, his aching for Love mirrors your, his need to be loved will remind us of our need.
The Thought Police catch up to them in their love-pad. It was a ruse all along, to catch them red-handed making Love, to speak ill of the Big Brother and the Party. The result : Both are tortured. They are humiliated. They are starved. They are stripped. They are reminded of their own ugliness, within and without.
Winston, in Room 101, faces his worst fear – of Rats; the fear of his face bitten by the scoundrels, his eyes gauged out of its socket and eaten mercilessly by the rodents. No demands are made by the interrogator – O’Brien. When Winston asks O’Brien what they want him to do. And assures them he will comply. O’Brien reminds him that he already knows what to do, deep down.
Winston begs O’Brien to tell him what should be done to stop the Rats. He has already verbally betrayed Julia, has told them of all their love-pads, where they used to meet, how they communicated, what they talked of, how he betrayed The Party. Everything!
When the distance separating him from the Rats are about to be closed, he utters the words, the one thing which goes against his very soul : “Do it to Julia! Do it to Julia! Not me! Julia! I don’t care what you do to her. Tear her face off, strip her to the bones. Not me! Julia! Not me!”
The mask was closing on his face. The wire brushed his cheek. And then–no, if was not relief, only hope, a tiny fragment of hope. Too late, perhaps too late. But he had suddenly understood that in the whole world there was just one person to whom he could transfer his punishment – one body that he could thrust between himself and the rats. And he was shouting frantically, over and over :
“Do it to Julia! Do it to Julia! Not me! Julia! I don’t care what you do to her. Tear her face off, strip her to the bones. Not me! Julia! Not me!”
The Party always wins.
Confession is not betrayal. What you say or do doesn’t matter; only feelings matter. If they could make me stop loving you-that would be the real betrayal.
Winston is released. When he runs into Julia, he is dead, not physically.. but inside.
And perhaps you might pretend, afterwards, that it was only a trick and that you just said it to make them stop and didn’t really mean it. But that isn’t true. At the time when it happens you do mean it. You think there’s no other way of saving yourself and you’re quite ready to save yourself that way. You want it to happen to the other person. You don’t give a damn what they suffer. All you care about is yourself.
In the end, the inevitable happened. Winston finally falls in love with Big Brother. The Party succeed in turning a thoughtcriminal to a model citizen. His struggles come to an end.