What is the symbolic meaning of dust in "1984"?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Dust permeates life in Oceania, among both Party members and Proles. It is with Winston in one way or another from the start of the novel to the finish.

Dust symbolizes the decay and oppression that the state has visited on the people. It is also evidence of the constant warfare which Oceania engages in with its enemies, for much of the dust comes from bombs destroying buildings. Dust lays over everything, a real indicator that Oceania is not experiencing the progress the Party claims for it. Winston's flat is dusty, his office is dusty, Mr. Charrington's shop is dusty, the streets are dusty, and...

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gbeatty eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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jasonfkg | Student

Dust is dirty and unwanted.  It represents Party oppression for this reason.  The Party, as O'Brien writes, tries to oppress its people by keeping a poor standard of life.  This is why there is so much dust in London.  Winston has to blow dust off his speakwrite before he uses it, despite the fact that he uses it everyday.  Dust is often caused by war machines, showing directly how the Party causes dust to be in London.  Dust shows stress on Mrs Parsons face as she is too occupied with her troubles at home to concern herself with her appearance.  However, in Part II, references to dust are significantly different.  They illusrate how Julia and Winston are temporarily overcoming Party oppression are living for once (even though this means bringing their deaths nearer and nearer).  For example, Julia and Winston kiss through dust and Julia traces Winston a map to a meeting place in dust. 

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