1984 Part 2, Chapter 9 Summary and Analysis
by George Orwell

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Part 2, Chapter 9 Summary and Analysis

Everyone at the Ministry of Truth has been working almost nonstop for the past five days. Winston, overwhelmed with fatigue, is on his way to the rented room to rest, the rush of work finally over. In his hand is a briefcase containing Goldstein’s book, which he hasn’t had a chance to open since receiving it six days ago, on the sixth day of Hate Week. On the night of that sixth day, just as Londoners’ hatred of Eurasia was approaching a climax spurred on by parades, songs, films, decorations, displays of Oceania’s military power, and the promise of a public hanging of two thousand Eurasian war criminals, an announcement was made that Oceania was not at war with Eurasia but with Eastasia. Winston was at a demonstration that night, listening to a grotesque-looking Inner Party orator deliver a furious anti-Eurasian speech that stirred the crowd of thousands to a wild, hate-filled roar. Then a messenger handed the orator a slip of paper. He continued his speech without a pause, but now he condemned Eastasia instead of Eurasia. The crowd, accepting this immediately, assumed the anti-Eurasian posters and banners everywhere were the result of acts of sabotage by agents of Goldstein and ripped them from the walls. Meanwhile the orator continued his speech. After a few minutes, the crowd returned to yelling in rage, only this time at a different target. Winston is impressed, looking back, by how the orator shifted so seamlessly into directing his speech at Eastasia. At the time, however, he was distracted by a man handing him a briefcase, just as O’Brien had promised, and by the vast amount of work he knew he would have to begin. Immediately after the demonstration, he and the entire staff of the Ministry of Truth returned to their posts to remove every trace of evidence of the war with Eurasia and the alliance with Eastasia from the record. The work was not only seemingly endless but difficult, and Winston found himself concerned only with completing it rather than with the fact that he was producing lies. Finally, when every relevant record had been rectified, the workers were released until the next morning. Winston now arrives at the rented room and sits down to read Goldstein’s book while he waits for Julia.

The book, which is worn and heavy, is titled The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism . Chapter one is titled “Ignorance Is Strength.” Winston reads for a while and then pauses to appreciate the fact that he can do so in safety and privacy. With a blissful sense of having eternity to read the book, he opens it to chapter three, “War Is Peace,” which describes the splitting up of the world into three perpetually warring superstates. This continuous war is very different from the previous wars of the twentieth century: none of the three superstates could conceivably defeat the others, acts that would previously have been considered war crimes are normal and right when performed by one’s own country, the actual fighting is done by small numbers of specialists, and there is no real ideological reason for the fighting. Since each superstate has its own self-contained economy, there is also no economic reason to fight except to obtain labor power from people living in the disputed territories near the superstates’ constantly fluctuating borders. The primary purpose of modern warfare, according to Goldstein, is for each superstate to have a way to use up whatever it can produce without raising the standard of living for its inhabitants. Before 1914, he says, people looked forward to a future in which technological progress and the new surplus of consumer goods would lead to a higher standard of living for everyone. Industrialization did raise the standard of living for a time, but a series of wars interfered. Moreover, it became apparent that an equal distribution of wealth would be fatal to the hierarchical basis of society. Even if power remained concentrated in the hands of a privileged few, people...

(The entire section is 2,506 words.)