In Book 3, Chapter 2 of George Orwell’s 1984, Winston is being tortured and interrogated by O’Brien. This is a crucial section of the story because it reveals the true intentions of Big Brother (aka the state). Ironically, the location for this section is referred to as the “Ministry of Love.” What Winston and the other prisoners endure here is, to our way of thinking, anything but love. We would probably call it something more like the “Ministry of Brainwashing” or the “Ministry of Torture.”
The readers, like Winston, assume that the state’s goal is to punish wayward citizens and to frighten them into behaving appropriately. However, as Winston’s interrogation proceeds, the reader sees that O’Brien is not simply torturing him for information or to change his behavior, but is actually trying to change his thought process. This idea is demonstrated as O’Brien holds up four fingers and asks Winston to tell him how many fingers he sees. Winston insists that he sees four until the pain of the torture becomes too great, and he seems to begin to doubt that he really sees four. O’Brien is making him compliant, able to believe what he is told even if it flies in the face of reason and common sense.
Finally, near the end of this sequence, O’Brien tells Winston what the ultimate goal of the torture process is:
We shall squeeze you empty, and then we shall fill you with ourselves.
So, the Ministry of Love functions to create citizens that will obey the state not only out of fear, but also because they have been brainwashed to believe that the state is actually right about everything.