1984 Part 2, Chapter 7 Summary and Analysis

George Orwell

Part 2, Chapter 7 Summary and Analysis

Winston wakes up in tears from a vivid dream that seemed to take place inside the glass paperweight and that involved an arm gesture made by both his mother and the Jewish mother he saw on the news film. He tells a sleepy Julia that until now he had believed he had, metaphorically, murdered his mother. In his dream, he remembered the last time he saw his mother, when he was ten or twelve years old. On waking, he remembered the rest of that day. London was in chaos at the time, and Winston spent his afternoons scrounging for scraps of food in the garbage with other boys. Since his father’s recent disappearance, his mother had changed, seeming to completely lose spirit and to be quietly waiting for something inevitable. Winston lived with her and his sickly two- or three-year-old sister in a small, dark room. His strongest memory of this time is of his continuous hunger and the tantrums he threw at mealtimes in spite of the fact that, as the boy in the family, he was always given more than his share of food. When a ration of chocolate was issued for the first time in weeks, Winston begged for the whole piece until his mother gave three quarters to him and one to his sister. Winston took the chocolate from his sister’s hand and ran, stopping when his mother called for him to come back. As he watched her put her arm around his sister in a protective gesture, he knew that his sister was dying and that his mother was thinking of the event she never mentioned but was always waiting for. Then he turned and ran outside. When he returned to the apartment, his mother and sister had disappeared. Winston is still unsure whether the two of them are alive or dead.

The meaning of the dream seems to Winston to be contained in his mother’s protective gesture, and he is reminded of his earlier dream in which he saw his mother and sister sinking below him. Although his mother was not an unusual woman, Winston thinks of her as noble and pure because she lived according to her own private morals and feelings. For her, as for others of her generation who valued individual relationships and personal loyalties, an action such as shielding a child with one’s arm did not lack meaning just because it was ultimately ineffectual in the grand scheme of things. Under the Party, however, people have become convinced that their own feelings and actions make no difference, as they will inevitably vanish and leave no impact on the future. It occurs to Winston that this does not apply to the proles. He remembers kicking aside the severed hand the day he returned to the junk shop and thinks to himself that while the proles have remained human, Party members have not. When Julia wakes up, Winston tells her that if she walks away from their relationship and stays away from people like him, she might be able to survive. Julia refuses. They discuss their future arrest and torture, when they will be alone and powerless. While both acknowledge they will be forced to confess, they decide there is one thing the Party cannot do: they cannot “get inside” people or make them believe the things they are forced to say. They therefore cannot force Winston and Julia to commit the “ultimate betrayal” of ceasing to love each other. Winston believes the one way they can defeat the Party is not by staying alive but by staying human, and no matter what tortures the Party inflicts on them in the Ministry of Love, his and Julia’s feelings will remain unalterable.

(The entire section is 624 words.)