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1984 By George Orwell (1903 – 1950)

by George Orwell (1903
– 1950)
Type of Work:
Futuristic, cautionary novel
London, in the mythical country of Oceania;
1984 (in the future)
Principal Characters
Winston Smith, a rebel against society
Julia, his lover
Mr. Charrington, an elderly antique shop
O’Brien, the only member of the Inner
Party Winston trusts
Story Overveiw
As Winston Smith entered his apartment
building, he passed a familiar poster. “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.” Then Winston opened the door
to his flat to be greeted by a voice on his “telescreen” – a device he
could dim, but never shut off completely. Telescreens broadcasted government
propaganda and served as the eyes and ears of the Thought Police, who scrutinized
everyone for any possible deviation from acceptable thought or action.

In the flat was a tiny alcove just out
of sight from the telescreen’s vision. Winston sat down to write in his
diary, an act that was not officially illegal “but if detected it was reasonably
certain that it would be punished by death . . . ” While he sat writing,
a recent memory stirred in his mind; the “Two Minutes Hate,” a government-sponsored
work break in which every worker at the Ministry of Truth was required
to participate, had consisted that day of an interlude when everyone raged
and screamed as the telescreen alternately flashed images of enemy Eurasian
soldiers and Goldstein, an abhorred traitor. That morning, Winston had
noticed a “bold-looking girl of about twenty-six” who worked in the Fiction
Department. This particular girl – wearing the bright scarlet sash of the
official anti-sex league – gave him “the impression of being more dangerous
than most,” and Winston had that unnerving feeling that she was watching

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A few days later, Winston walked through
the working-class “prole” neighborhood to the antique shop where he had
bought his diary. Though class barriers stood tensely in place throughout
Oceania, Mr. Charrington, the shop owner, welcomed him and invited him
upstairs to see other items. There wasn’t much there, but Winston liked
the old-fashioned room; it didn’t even have a telescreen.

When Winston again slipped out onto the
street, he passed the dark-haired girl from the Fiction Department. Now
he was sure she was an informant.

Back at work, as Winston walked toward
the lavatory, the girl reappeared in the hall. Then, just a few feet in
front of him, she stumbled and fell. When he offered his hand to help her
up, she slipped him a scrap of paper. Shaken, Winston decided to open the
paper later at the cubicle where he rewrote old newspaper articles, deleting
any reference to persons who had deviated from orthodoxy.

Back at his desk, Winston opened the message
and read: “I love you.” Now he was intrigued – and terrified. Like writing
in a diary, an affair between party members was “legal”, but punishable
by death.

Winston and the girl were finally able
to arrange a rendezvous in the country. But even there, there was always
the possibility of concealed microphones. So, after meeting at the selected
spot, the pair walked on in silence until they found a remote, heavily
forested area. Winston didn’t even yet know the girl’s name: “I’m thirty-nine
years old,” he began. “I’ve got a wife that I can’t get rid of. I’ve got
varicose veins. . . ” The girl replied, “I couldn’t care less.” She shared
some blackmarket chocolate with him, and then they made love. Afterwards,
while the girl slept, Winston thought about what they had done. “You could
not have pure love or pure lust nowadays. No emotion was pure, because
everything was mixed up with fear and hatred. Their embrace had been a
battle, the climax a victory. It was a blow struck against the Party. It
was a political act.”
Winston now saw the girl – Julia – whenever
he could. She explained her survival philosophy: “I always carry one end
of a banner in the processions. I always look cheerful and I never shirk
anything. Always yell with the crowd, that’s what I say. It’s the only
way to be safe.” For their clandestine meetings, Winston hit upon the idea
of renting Mr. Charrington’s room above the antique shop. Although the
room offered them privacy, “both of them knew it was lunacy;” in the end,
they would be caught. Occasionally the lovers “talked of engaging in active
rebellion against the Party, but with no notion of how to take the first
step.” They considered joining


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