What do Julia and Winston tell O'Brien that they would be willing to do for the Brotherhood, and what are their limits?

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 16 (also designated Book II, Chapter VIII) of George Orwell’s depiction of a futuristic dystopian society, 1984, O’Brien is bringing Winston and Julia into an inner circle of the Brotherhood, the fictitious resistance to the Party created to ferret out disloyalty.  Orwell’s “Brotherhood” appears to have been modeled on the real-life organization “The Trust,” created by the newly-established dictatorship in the Soviet Union and located in Western Europe.  The Trust was a fake organization supposedly comprised of defectors from the U.S.S.R. living abroad who were deemed a threat to the Bolshevik regime.  Once such individuals approached this phony organization, their identities became known to the Soviet secret police, who would monitor and, occasionally, murder them.  Orwell’s Brotherhood, it appears, served the same purpose for the ruling Party in Oceania.  When O’Brien sits down with Winston and Julia, he is intent on determining whether they would be loyal to such an organization as the Brotherhood.  Loyalty to the Brotherhood would equal disloyalty to the Party.  It is in this context that O’Brien questions the two lovers to determine the depth of their commitment to this mysterious organization.  O’Brien presents a series of horrific scenarios an asks whether Winston and Julia would be willing, without hesitation, to commit such acts on behalf of the Brotherhood.  These acts include self-sacrifice, murder, sabotage “which may cause the death of hundreds of innocent people,” treason, blackmail, dissemination of venereal disease, and other acts that are “likely to cause demoralization and weaken the power of the Party.”  Winston answers “yes” to every one of these hypothetical situations, including throwing sulphuric acid in a child’s face.  It is only when O’Brien approaches the subject of Winston and Julia’s’ relationship that this unquestioned obedience to the Brotherhood is interrupted:

"You are prepared, the two of you, to separate and never see one another again?"

"No!" broke in Julia.

It appeared to Winston that a long time passed before he answered. For a moment he seemed even to have been deprived of the power of speech. His tongue worked soundlessly, forming the opening syllables first of one word, then of the other, over and over again. Until he had said it, he did not know which word he was going to say. "No," he said finally.

Winston and Julia have indicated a willingness to conduct all manner of violent acts on the behalf of the Brotherhood, except terminating their relationship.

rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When they visit O'Brien in the belief he is a member of the Brotherhood, O'Brien asks them what they would be willing to do to overthrow the Party. They each agree, in turn, that they would be willing to give their own lives, to commit murder, to engage in acts of sabotage which may result in the deaths of innocent people, to betray their country to foreigners, to engage in a list of blatantly criminal and immoral acts, to give up their identities, commit suicide, and even to "throw sulphuric acid in a child's face" if service to the Brotherhood required it. What they are not willing to do is to "separate and never see one another again." Of course, the whole interview is a sham, and when Winston is later taken into custody, and tortured by O'Brien, a recording of what Winston said in O'Brien's chamber is played back to refute his contention that he is "morally superior" to the Party. T

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