1984 Questions and Answers
by George Orwell

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What was in room 101?

A person experiences their worst fear in Room 101. Since each person's worst fear can be different, the means of torture vary in Room 101. Winston's worst fear is rats and he experiences the threat of having his face consumed by grotesque rats in Room 101.

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Room 101 is a specific type of torture chamber located in the depths of the Ministry of Love, where political prisoners are taken to be psychologically broken and reeducated to love Big Brother. In the story, Winston witnesses several prisoners allude to the horrors of Room 101 when they are taken out of their prison cells by guards but he does not fully comprehend the experience until he is taken there himself. O'Brien explains Room 101 as "the worst thing in the world," which is specific to each individual. In Room 101, prisoners experience their worst fears and come face-to-face with unimaginable horrors. Since each person has their own specific fears, the means of torture vary in Room 101.
O'Brien tells Winston that some people's fears are fatal like being buried alive or burned to death while other people's fears are quite trivial. In any case, the Party can determine a prisoner's greatest fear and they will experience it in Room 101. The experience will be so terrifying that the prisoner will psychologically break down and accept Big Brother as their loving, omniscient guardian. Winston's greatest fear is rats and he is forced to wear a contraption strapped around his head, which separates several hungry rats inches from his face. If O'Brien presses a lever, the rats will attack and consume Winston's face. The threat of being eating by grotesque rats is too much for Winston to handle and he eventually betrays Julia at the last second, making his transformation complete.