Where does the novel 1984 begin?
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The novel 1984 begins with Winston Smith returning to his home, a small, drab flat within Victory Mansions, in London. Orwell uses the scene to describe the dystopic world that serves as the setting for the novel. He describes the nearly ubiquitous presence of Big Brother, who stares at Winston from the posters and murals lining the streets of London as well as the stairways and halls of Victory Mansions. He notes the monolithic structures that house the Ministries of Truth, Love and Plenty, noting the bitter ironies that lay behind each of these names. He describes the Party slogan that we read throughout the book, one which explains the Party's hold on the people of Oceania:
WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH
He makes it clear that London is hardly the utopia that the Party would have its members believe. It is described as a hellish, bombed-out nightmare. All of the images Orwell evokes are unpleasant: from "gritty dust" that blows into Victory Mansions when he opens the glass door to the smell of "boiled cabbage and old rag mats" that greets him when he walks down his hall to the "sickly, oily smell" of the Victory Gin that he quaffs when he gets home. We learn much about Orwell's vision of Oceania in this first chapter.
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