In this dream, Winston stands above his mother and sister, who are holding on tightly to each other as their ship sinks into the depths of the sea. They are in some sort of inner compartment (a saloon) that has not yet filled with water, and so he can clearly see the expressions on their faces. The passage hints at the possibility that Winston may in some way have been responsible for the deaths of his family, perhaps by denunciation, as Parsons's young daughter does to him later in the book. That, in any case, is his vague sense, though he does not seem to really remember what has happened:
He was out in the light and air while they were being sucked down to death, and they were down there because he was up here. He knew it and they knew it, and he could see the knowledge in their faces. There was no reproach either in their faces or in their hearts, only the knowledge that they must die in order that he might remain alive, and that this was part of the unavoidable order of things. He could not remember what had happened, but he knew in his dream that in some way the lives of his mother and his sister had been sacrificed to his own.
Yet what most strikes Winston is the "lack of reproach." His mother loves him unconditionally, and Winston ruefully realizes that unconditional love, which was possible when he was a boy, is no longer part of the human condition in Oceania. His mother's death was tragic in a way that it could not be in Winston's world, where personal attachment and indeed love were purged away along with other aspects of the human condition. Physiologically, his mother is described as tall, "statuesque" and fair, while his father is remembered only as a slim man who wore thin-soled shoes. He remembers his sister only as a "feeble baby." It is important to note that Winston's family did not literally die on a sinking ship, but rather, he suspects, were "swallowed up" in the purges that took place in the 1950s. This passage reveals much about Winston's personality. It suggests some sort of repressed guilt, conveys a nostalgia for the past, and simultaneously, along with his dream of the beautiful woman who flings off his clothes in his presence, suggests that Winston longs for a different, more human world.