“It appeared that one of the stalls had been selling tin saucepans. They were wretched, flimsy things, but cooking-pots of any kind were always difficult to get. Now the supply had unexpectedly given out. The successful women, bumped and jostled by the rest, were trying to make off with their saucepans while dozens of others clamoured round the stall, accusing the stallkeeper of favouritism and of having more saucepans somewhere in reserve. There was a fresh outburst of yells. Two bloated women, one of them with her hair coming down, had got hold of the same saucepan and were trying to tear it out of one another's hands. For a moment they were both tugging, and then the handle came off. Winston watched them disgustedly. And yet, just for a moment, what almost frightening power had sounded in that cry from only a few hundred throats! Why was it that they could never shout like that about anything that mattered?”
Winston is upset because he sees the raw power of the masses and knows that their power will never be directed to tearing down the oppressive power structure of The Party or Big Brother. The Proles are only concerned with trivial aspects of life and will never know how bad they have it according to Winston’s beliefs.
When out in the streets one day, Winston comes across a bunch of prole women fighting over cooking-pots on a stall. From afar, he had heard the noise of the brawl and excitedly imagined that the proles, or common people, were finally staging an uprising. When he realizes the actual cause he is very disappointed because the proles are just wasting their energy and anger over a very trivial matter, instead of protesting against society and against the ruthless ruling Party. He feels that they could turn their passions to these far more important, worthwhile matters, and effect the change in society that is so badly needed.
And yet, just for a moment, what almost frightening power had sounded in that cry from only a few hundred throats! Why was it that they could never shout like that about anything that mattered?
Winston feels, then, that the proles potentially have great, 'almost frightening power', enough to overthrow the Party. They live natural, instinctual lives, of the kind that the Party disdains, but they never put their strengths to good use. They are incapable of organizing themselves into any effective resistance; they are not even interested in doing so. They simply are not intellectual enough. Nevertheless, Winston still has hopes for them.