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In 1984, what does the quote below on Winston's thoughts suggest about the relationship...

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sean903 | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted August 20, 2010 at 9:48 AM via web

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In 1984, what does the quote below on Winston's thoughts suggest about the relationship between the individual and the State?

The quote in Chapter Two, Section VII, Winston reflects on the omnipresence of the party: "He thought of the telescreen with its never-sleeping ear. They could spy upon you night and day, but if you kept your head you could still outwit them...Facts at any rate, could not be kept hidden. They could be tracked down by inquiry; they could be squeezed out of you by torture. But if the object was not to stay alive, but to stay human, what difference did it ultimately make?"

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 20, 2010 at 7:20 PM (Answer #1)

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There are some issues present here.  The first would be to understand the nature of Winston's depiction in the quote.  In assessing the quote, I think that one can extract that Winston understands how the government holds complete control over everything.  There is no barrier to its ascertaining of knowledge and understanding, as its power is something steeped in totality and absolutism.  At the same time, there is some level of dissonance expressed in this statement.  When Winston contemplates the condition of what it will take to "stay human," we begin to see the schism that exists within Winston.  On one hand, he dislikes Big Brother and hates what it represents, the control it asserts, and the absolutist hold it has on Oceanic society.  Yet, he also understands that in order to be "human," Winston has to construct a reality that is opposite of it and define himself in opposition to it.  Along these lines, there is almost a tone of ambivalence as to whether or not he possesses the moral capacity or will to do this.  Notice the suggestion of "torture," something that haunts Winston, and is a foreshadowing element about what the end will bring to him.   In this understanding, the questions asked might become a bit clearer.

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