What is the significance of the “Golden Country” and why is it important to Winston?
In Chapter Three of 1984, George Orwell’s depiction of a then-futuristic dystopian totalitarian society where the government, Big Brother, monitors your every action, the Golden Country is a presented as Winston’s dream-like fantasy world, where he can stand among nature’s beauty and appreciate the nonchalance of the naked dark-haired girl’s gesture as she flings her clothes away. Orwell describes this dream world as follows:
“The landscape that he was looking at recurred so often in his dreams that he was never fully certain whether or not he had seen it in the real world. In his waking thoughts he called it the Golden Country. It was an old, rabbit-bitten pasture, with a foot-track wandering across it and a molehill here and there. In the ragged hedge on the opposite side of the field the boughs of the elm trees were swaying very faintly in the breeze, their leaves just stirring in dense masses like women’s hair. Somewhere near at hand, though out of sight, there was a clear, slow-moving stream where dace were swimming in the pools under the willow trees.”
Later, in Part II, Chapter Two, Winston and Julia are seeking refuge in the vast open spaces of the outdoors, away from the otherwise omniscient presence of Big Brother and the Thought Police.
“‘Isn’t there a stream somewhere near here?’ he whispered.
‘That’s right, there is a stream. It’s at the edge of the next field, actually. There are fish in it, great big ones. You can watch them lying in the pools under the willow trees, waving their tails.’
‘It’s the Golden Country—almost,’ he murmured.
‘The Golden Country?’
‘It’s nothing, really. A landscape I’ve seen sometimes in a dream.’”
The Golden Country is Winston’s ideal of how the world should look, although he remains tightly linked to the government and its strictures regarding speech and thought. Late in the novel, Winston having been taken under Big Brother’s direct control, and being subjected to interrogation, resigns himself to his fate, which he anticipates will be a bullet to the back of his head. He takes comfort in knowing how it will all end, and there’s a certain comfort and serenity about knowing his fate, at least in his dream:
“One day—but ‘one day’ was not the right expression; just as probably it was in the middle of the night: once—he fell into a strange, blissful reverie. He was walking down the corridor, waiting for the bullet. He knew that it was coming in another moment. Everything was settled, smoothed out, reconciled. There were no more doubts, no more arguments, no more pain, no more fear. His body was healthy and strong.”
Winston is back at the Golden Country. He is dreaming again of an existence he has never, and will never know, and, startled awake, he is terrified, calling out for Julia. His abysmal existence will continue, but at least now he will be resigned to it, which can be comforting.
The Golden Country is the land of freedom; it represents the hope of mankind. The Golden Country is the opposite of the world in which Winston Smith lives where no one is free to even think for himself. On a more literal level in the story, the Golden Country is the land that Winston has dreams about and it is where he and Julia make love for the first time. This is one reason the Golden Country is important to Winston. The main reason it is important, however, is that the place represents the possibility of freedom to Winston. If he can believe in it, then he can believe that he could have a better life and that there is a world in which one can live and think as he likes.