Winston Smith works at the Ministry of Truth, rewriting history every day to fit the information that the Party provides. The official Party history always has their country victorious and constantly changes the identification of allies and enemies. Because of his job, Winston knows that a “fact” is a completely malleable concept, the meaning of which is determined by the Party and applied by thousands of people like him. In the first chapter, Winston begins keeping a secret diary, knowing full well that if it is discovered, the Thought Police will arrest him.
While he has been contemplating this action for weeks, he cannot immediately think of what to say. He writes about the audience laughing at other people’s suffering in a war movie they watched the night before. Over the course of the next few weeks, old memories begin to return, sometimes in dreams. Although he had not consciously connected his own experiences to the horrific war scene in the film, he starts to recall what he and his family lived through when he was a child.
One day during mandatory Physical Jerk exercises, his mind drifts back to the near-constant anxieties and danger of those years. Winston vividly recalls one air raid when his parents hauled him and his sister down into the Tube. But no matter what he remembers, it can never be verified. Without any written or verbal record, the official history is as likely as any other. He is frightened by admitting
that it might all be true. If the Party could thrust its hand into the past and say of this or that event, it never happened—that, surely, was more terrifying than mere torture and death?
Winston gradually realizes that he cannot set aside
the mute protest in your own bones, the instinctive feeling that the conditions you lived in were intolerable and that at some other time they must have been different.
Winston’s growing obsession with clearly remembering what the past was actually like for him fuels his diary-writing and then prompts him into further acts of rebellion, including his affair with Julia.