Winston Smith's world is a parody of the abundance and prosperity trumpeted daily, hourly from every telescreen. Under Big Brother's beneficent rule, so the Party proclaims, all comrades each year have more and better. But, in reality, it is less and worse, a fact Winston knows but cannot prove. London, his home and the capital of Airstrip One, is a vast crumbling ruin, daily pummeled by rocket bombs. Shortages and rationing harass Winston and every Outer Party member. Caging and scrabbling for the essentials of life is a recurring theme in the novel. Winston works in the Ministry of Truth, a dark labyrinth of offices, and eats substandard meals in its filthy canteen. Indeed, every Party employee lives at the subsistence level, made bearable by tumblerfulls of synthetic gin, and stale cigarettes.
The contrast of the Party's utopia with Winston's dystopia serves an ideological purpose like everything else in Oceania. It provides ceaseless training in the act of doublethink, an act which when performed perfectly is the mark of a loyal Party member. It means the discipline and the power to hold and accept two utterly contradictory ideas - prosperity and poverty - at the same time if the Party demands it.