Last Updated on March 10, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1264
Winston regains consciousness to find himself strapped to some kind of cot, with O’Brien and a man holding a syringe staring down at him. Though his memories of his time so far at the Ministry of Love are broken by bouts of unconsciousness, he remembers having gone through a nightmarish period of routine brutal beatings, which he eventually realized all prisoners are subjected to as a matter of course, just as all prisoners are forced to confess to a long list of crimes. Sometimes he fought against confessing; sometimes he begged for mercy before the beating even began. After a while the beatings stopped, and Winston was interrogated not by armed guards but by Party intellectuals who questioned him for hours at a time. Though these interrogators made sure he was constantly uncomfortable and in pain, their main method of breaking him down was the relentless questioning itself: they accused him of lying and contradicting himself, screamed at him, threatened to have him beaten again, then called him “comrade” and asked him to repent in the name of Ingsoc and Big Brother. These interrogations broke Winston down even more than the beatings had, reducing him to tears until he confessed to every crime he was falsely accused of and implicated almost everyone he had ever known. Since the Party recognizes no distinction between thought and action, Winston reasoned that in a way these confessions were all true. Winston also has several disconnected, dreamlike memories: He was diving into a pair of glowing eyes. He was sitting in a chair surrounded by dials beside a man in a white coat when guards arrived to take him to Room 101. In another memory he traveled down a huge, light-filled corridor along with Julia, Mr. Charrington, O’Brien, and all the employees of the Ministry of Love while joyfully confessing his crimes, feeling forgiven and as though he had miraculously avoided something terrible. All through this time, Winston had the feeling that O’Brien was the one directing every aspect of his interrogation. At one point, the same voice that had said “we shall meet in the place where there is no darkness” told Winston that he had watched over him for seven years and would now save him and make him “perfect.”
Now, strapped down flat on his back, Winston looks up at O’Brien’s face. When O’Brien moves his hand, Winston is met with a wave of wrenching pain from a machine beside the cot. O’Brien correctly states that Winston’s greatest fear at that moment is that his back will break. He then turns a dial that stops the pain. He warns Winston that he can inflict as much pain on him as he likes at any time and that he won’t hesitate to do so if Winston lies to him or fails to respond intelligently. Winston, O’Brien says, is suffering from mental derangement and a defective memory, but his condition can be cured. According to O’Brien, Winston’s memory of Oceania’s having once been at war with Eurasia rather than Eastasia is just one example of his illness; his “hallucination” of the photograph proving Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford’s innocence is another. O’Brien then produces the photograph, causing Winston to desperately reach for it, but O’Brien drops it down a memory hole, asserting that the photograph does not exist and never did. Winston argues that it exists in memory, but O’Brien replies that he does not remember it. Winston thinks with despair that O’Brien might be telling the truth. O’Brien then asks him if he believes the past exists. Winston replies that it exists in records and memories, but O’Brien says the Party controls all records and all memories and therefore controls the past as well. There is, he says, no such thing as external reality: reality exists only in the collective mind of the Party, and Winston must submit to the Party in order to see things as they really are. O’Brien then holds up four fingers and asks Winston how many fingers there are if the Party says there are five. Winston replies that there are still only four. O’Brien turns the dial and increases Winston’s pain every time he replies that he sees four fingers. Eventually Winston says he sees five, but O’Brien can tell he is lying and asks him if he really wants to see five instead of four. Winston says that he does. This time the pain is so great that he sees more fingers than he can count and forgets why he is supposed to count them. When O’Brien asks him how many fingers he sees, Winston doesn’t know. O’Brien says that this is an improvement, and Winston is given an injection that fills him with a feeling of bliss. Even though he knows O’Brien is torturing him and will eventually have him executed, Winston feels an intense love for his torturer in this moment.
With a look of insane enthusiasm, O’Brien tells Winston that the Party has brought him to the Ministry of Love not to make him confess or to punish him but to cure him of his insanity. He explains that the Party has done something the Medieval Inquisition and the Russian Communists failed to do: it has eliminated martyrdom by ensuring that every prisoner brought to the Ministry of Love is truly converted before being executed. This is what happened to Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford, who came to love Big Brother before they were shot. Winston despairs as he realizes that O’Brien, who is his intellectual superior, believes everything he is saying, meaning that in spite of how maniacal O’Brien looks, it must be true that Winston is the one who is insane. What the Party does to Winston in the Ministry of Love, O’Brien stresses, will be forever—he will not save himself, and he will never recover. Then two pads are fixed to Winston’s temples, and O’Brien tells the man in the white coat standing by to turn the dial to three thousand. Winston is met with a blinding flash of light and the sensation of having been knocked down. Afterward, feeling that there is an empty space in his brain for O’Brien to fill, he accepts without argument what O’Brien tells him: that Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia, that the photograph of Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford wasn’t real, and that O’Brien is holding up five fingers, not four. For an instant he really does see five fingers. O’Brien tells Winston that he is right to think O’Brien is someone he can talk to, as he enjoys their conversations and even thinks he and Winston are similar—except that Winston is insane. He invites Winston to ask a few questions. Winston asks what has been done to Julia, and O’Brien tells him that Julia betrayed him and converted immediately. When Winston asks if Big Brother exists in the same way that he himself exists, O’Brien replies that Winston does not exist. Winston is too disheartened to argue. Instead, he asks if the Brotherhood exists, but O’Brien replies that Winston will never learn the answer to that question. O’Brien appears to anticipate Winston’s next question and find it amusing: Winston asks what is in Room 101. O’Brien says that Winston already knows the answer. After another injection, Winston loses consciousness.
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