Why is the old man Winston talks to in the bar unable to tell him whether the old days had been better than times are now?(chapter8)
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When Winston goes in to the pub, he wants to talk to the old man and ask him if things were better before the revolution. He talks to the man at length, but can not get an answer that satisfies him.
What he says is that the man is too old to tell him. He says that the many remembers too many random details about his past life, but nothing of importance. He remembers, for example, when he last saw a top hat, but he no longer has the clarity of thought needed to think about a "big picture" question like "was life better before the revolution."
So, the short answer is that the man is too old.
The man is not too old to recall how Oceania was before the revolution. In fact, he remembers every bit of how life was. The Party, the telescreens, and especially "Big Brother" have instilled fear into him and he knows that he is being watched at all times. Also, the Party can change and erase the history; some of Oceania's history may just be made up lies! The old man knows the real history and by not answering Winston's question, he is able to keep the truth alive...but only he acknowledges what is true and what is not.
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