Download 1984 Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Part 3, Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis

Winston sits on a bench in a bright white, windowless cell that he thinks must be in the Ministry of Love. The only other things in the cell are a door, a lavatory pan, and four telescreens. His stomach aches with hunger; though he isn’t sure how many hours ago he was arrested, he has not been fed since. He sits as still as possible before giving in to the temptation to fish for breadcrumbs in the pocket of his overalls, at which point a voice from the telescreen yells for him to keep his hands out of his pockets. Keeping still again, Winston remembers the first place he was brought after his arrest, an ordinary prison cell that resembled his current one except that it was dirty, noisy, and crowded with ten to fifteen people at a time, including both Party members and proles. While the Party prisoners looked terrified and said nothing, the prole prisoners seemed not to care about their situation, fighting with or trying to bribe the guards and yelling at the telescreens. Most of the proles expected to be sent to forced-labor camps where violent common criminals would form a privileged class and political prisoners would do the dirty work. At one point, the guards hauled in a huge, kicking, yelling woman of about sixty and dumped her on top of Winston. The woman slid off Winston’s lap, apologizing, then vomited on the floor. She seemed to like Winston and drew him nearer. When she found out his last name was Smith, she exclaimed that that was her last name too and that she could be his mother. Winston thought to himself that this was actually possible, considering how years in a forced-labor camp might change a person. No one else spoke to Winston, and the other Party prisoners seemed terrified of speaking at all, though Winston did overhear two women Party members whispering about something called “room one-oh-one.”

The pain in Winston’s stomach brings him back to the present. When the pain grows worse, all he can think about is his hunger, but when it recedes, he is seized by panic at the thought of the torture he will be made to endure. He knows that he loves Julia and won’t betray her, but he doesn’t feel love for her and is unable to concentrate on thinking about her. Instead he thinks of O’Brien and hopes the Brotherhood will send him a razor blade, although he isn’t sure he would use it if they did. Winston knows the lights will never be turned off in this cell and realizes that this is the “place where there is no darkness” from his dreams.

A group of guards brings in a new prisoner: Winston’s old coworker Ampleforth, the poet. Ampleforth is shoeless, unshaven, and troubled-looking. He only notices he isn’t alone in the cell when Winston says his name. Ampleforth explains that he has also been accused of thoughtcrime—the “one offense”—and he thinks it may be due to the fact that he once left the word “God” in a poem by Rudyard Kipling. The two men talk for a few minutes until a voice from the telescreen tells them to stop. After a while the guards return and send Ampleforth to “Room 101.” Alone again, Winston thinks repetitively of the pain in his stomach, the piece of bread he longs to eat, the torture in his future, O’Brien, Julia, and the razor blade. These thoughts are interrupted by the return of the guards, who bring a miserable-looking Parsons into the cell. Winston is shocked to see him. Parsons believes he will receive a fair hearing and hopes to be sent to a forced-labor camp rather than shot. He does, however, fully admit to being guilty of thoughtcrime and is unable to imagine the Party would arrest an innocent person. He explains that he was denounced by his own daughter, who heard him repeating “Down with Big Brother!” in his sleep. Parsons is proud of his daughter and plans to thank the Party for saving him from his crimes. He is removed some time later, and other prisoners continue to come and go from the cell. Eventually there...

(The entire section is 1,102 words.)