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Chapter One: The novel’s first chapter introduces the reader to the novel’s protagonist, Winston Smith of Airstrip One, Oceania. Winston is an unimportant member of Ingsoc, the controlling party of Oceania. As he labors up the stairs to his apartment, he passes several posters of Big Brother, the embodiment of party leadership, who in reality represents oppression, but to citizens represents all that is good. Winston commits thoughtcrime by writing DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER in his diary, the possession of which constitutes thoughtcrime.
Chapter Two: Winston hears a knock at the door and fears it’s the thought police. It’s actually his neighbor whose sink he unplugs and whose children are junior spies for the party.
Chapter Three: Winston dreams of his mother, of a naked girl running toward him, and of Shakespeare, all three of which represent thoughtcrime. He awakens to the telescreen’s shrill cry of exercise time.
Chapter Four: Winston goes to work at The Ministry of Truth. His job is to falsify past records to make them conform to current reality.
Chapter Five: Winston eats lunch with Syme, an expert on Newspeak, the official language of the party, whose purpose is to reduce the number of words and to render thoughtcrime impossible.
Chapter Six: Winston records his most recent sex act in his diary, a disgusting affair with a Prole prostitute with no teeth. He longs for a meaningful love affair, what he considers the ultimate rebellion against the party.
Chapter Seven: Winston writes in his diary that the only hope is in the Proles, the working class. He longs for a sense of the past, picks up a children’s history book, and realizes any record of the past is controlled by the party and has been falsified.
Chapter Eight: Winston wanders into the Prole district and buys a paperweight at the same store he bought the diary. He notices a woman from the Ministry of Truth and fears he is being followed. He contemplates smashing her face in with a cobblestone.
Analysis: The party controls its citizens through media manipulation, language manipulation, psychological trickery, the dissolving of family ties, and torture. The party has made illegal all things that make life enjoyable: family ties, sex, romantic love, the freedom to think, great literature, and anything which involves introspection. Although Oceania has no specific laws prohibiting any of Winston’s actions, his actions are outward signs that he has committed the ultimate crime, thoughtcrime.
Book One introduces the reader to the novel’s other two significant characters, Julia, the girl in the blue overalls, and O’Brien, the inner party member who Winston believes may be a fellow conspirator.
Chapter One: The girl who earlier Winston wanted to strike in the face with a cobblestone passes him a note that says “I love you.” It takes several attempts, but the two are able to converse and schedule a meeting at Victory Square. Winston feels he has a reason to live.
Chapter Two: The two meet in the country and engage in romantic love acts.
Chapter Three: The two return to normal party lives and manage to meet only for short amounts of time. They rendezvous at an abandoned church. Winston realizes that Julia is not interested in a wide rebellion. She is only interested in outsmarting the party and having intercourse.
Chapter Four: Winston rents a room above Mr Charrington’s shop, where he purchased the diary and the paper weight. He realizes it’s a huge risk but he feels it’s worth it.
Chapter Five: Syme disappears (as WInston predicted earlier). Winston constantly thinks about the room above Charrington’s shop, considering
what goes on there, I think we understand.
Chapter Six: O’Brien stops Winston in the hall and gives him his address. Winston is not sure if this is a sign from the underground or if he’s one step closer to his doom.
Chapter Seven: Winston and Julia visit their rented room frequently. They know they will eventually be captured and tortured and that renting the room is stupid. They continue to rent it anyhow and promise each other they will remain loyal.
Chapter Eight: Winston and Julia visit O’Brien and discuss the underground with him. He promises Winston that he will deliver a book containing the secrets of the underground.
Chapter Nine: Oceania is no longer at war with East Asia. It’s at war with Eurasia. This forces Winston and his Ministry of Truth coworkers to log 96 hours during the next few weeks. Finally, Winston is able to escape to his rented room where he reads the book given him by O’Brien. The book explains the significance and meaning of War is Peace, Ignorance is Strength, and Freedom is Slavery.
Chapter 10: As it turns out, Mr. Charrington is a member of the Thought Police and there’s a telescreen behind the picture in the room above his shop. Winston and Julia are arrested.
Analysis: The moment WInston, Julia, and the reader have all been waiting for finally occurs at the end of chapter 10. The only question remaining is whether or not Winston and Julia betray each other. Don’t you hate it when you buy illegal items from an undercover thought policeman? I imagine Winston feels pretty stupid. That whole “Here comes a chopper to chop off your head poem” has haunted me since part one and should have been a clue to Winston that both Charrington and O’Brien were not to be trusted.
Chapter One: Winston awaits his punishment in a cell with other prisoners, victims of starvation and beatings. His coworker Ampleforth has been arrested, as has his neighbor Parsons. O'Brien enters and reveals himself as an agent of the Ministry of Truth. A security guard smashes Winston's elbow with a club. It hurts. Bad.
Chapter Two: O'Brien tries to "cure" Winston's "insanity" with torture. Winston agrees to anything O'Brien tells him and begins to love O'Brien because he can stop the pain. O'Brien explains that the party has perfected a system that will keep them in power forever. They do not kill any prisoners until they are "cured."
Chapter Three: O'Brien tortures Winston more. He tells Winston that the party's true aim is to remain in power forever by controlling all things. Winston argues that the party cannot control external events. O'Brien thinks otherwise, explaining that as long as the party controls the mind, anything is possible. O'Brien admits that Winston has yet to betray Julia, but doesn't seem too upset by it, knowing that eventually everyone is cured.
Chapter Four: Winston is taken to a more comfortable room, is fed regularly, and is no longer tortured. He still hates Big Brother and wants to die hating Big Brother as a last act of rebellion. He wakes up from a dream and shouts Julia's name several times. O'Brien arrives and orders Winston to room 101.
Chapter Five: Winston's face is strapped to a cage that contains starving rats. Just before O'Brien pulls the lever to release them, Winston asks that Julia take his place. With the final betrayal complete, the torture stops.
Chapter Six: Winston sits at the Chestnut Tree Cafe drinking Victory Gin and accepting everything Big Brother says. He has met with Julia once since being released but neither had any interest in continuing their relationship. After news of a great war victory, Winston acknowledges he loves Big Brother.
Analysis: Evil wins. All it took was weeks of torture, a cage full of rats, and enough gin to paralyze a rhinoceros. I love Big Brother.
This post is part of the series: 1984 Study Guide
- Irony in 1984 by George Orwell
- Chapter Summaries of 1984 by George Orwell
- Quotes From "1984" by George Orwell
- 1984 Character Analysis
- 1984 Discussion Questions and Answers