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General Summary of George Orwells 1984

General Summary of George Orwell’s 1984
Winston Smith is an insignificant member of the ruling Party in
London, in the nation of Oceania. Everywhere Winston goes, even his own
home, he is watched through telescreens, and everywhere he looks he sees
the face of the Party’s omniscient leader, a figure known only as Big Brother.

The Party controls everything, even the people’s history and language: The
Party is currently forcing the implementation of an invented language called
Newspeak, which attempts to prevent political rebellion by eliminating all
words related to it. Even thinking rebellious thoughts is illegal– thoughtcrime
As the novel opens, Winston feels frustrated by the oppression and
rigid control of the Party, which prohibits free thought, sex, and any
expression of individuality. Winston has illegally purchased a diary in which to
write his criminal thoughts, and has become fixated on a powerful Party
member named O’Brien, whom Winston believes is a secret member of the
Brotherhood, the legendary group that works to overthrow the Party.

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Winston works in the Ministry of Truth, where he alters historical
records to fit the needs of the Party. He notices a co-worker, a beautiful
dark-haired girl, staring at him, and worries that she is an informant who will
turn him in for his thoughtcrime. He worries about the Party’s control of
history: it claims Oceania has always been allied with Eastasia in a war
against Eurasia, but Winston seems to recall a time when this wasn’t true; the
Party also claims that Emmanuel Goldstein, the leader of the Brotherhood, is
the most dangerous man alive, but Winston doubts the claim. He spends his
evenings wandering through the poorest neighborhoods in London, where the
proletarians, or proles, live relatively free of Party monitoring.

One day, Winston receives a note from the dark-haired girl that reads,
“I love you.” Her name is Julia, and they begin a covert affair, always on the
lookout for signs of Party monitoring; they rent a room above the
second-hand store in the prole district where Winston bought the diary.

Finally, he receives the message he has been waiting for: O’Brien wants to
O’Brien indoctrinates Winston and Julia into the Brotherhood, and
gives Winston a copy of Emmanuel Goldstein’s book. Winston reads the book
to Julia in the room above the store, but suddenly soldiers barge in and seize
them; the proprietor of the store has been a member of the Thought Police all
along. Torn away from Julia and taken to a place called the Ministry of Love,
Winston finds that O’Brien is a Party spy as well; O’Brien spends months
torturing and brainwashing Winston, finally sending him to the dreaded Room
101. Here, O’Brien straps a cage full of rats onto Winston’s head and
prepares to allow the rats to eat his face. Winston snaps, pleading with
O’Brien to do it to Julia, not to him. His spirit broken, Winston has been fully
brainwashed and is released to the outside world. He meets Julia, but no
longer feels anything for her. Winston has accepted the Party entirely. He
has learned to love Big Brother. This represents one of the biggest ironies in the novel. His love for Big Brother mirrors what used to be his love for Julia. And even in the end, he still has his own fatalism.
Orwell, George. 1984. New York: Signet Classic, 1950


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