Part 3, Chapter 3 Summary

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Winston’s “sessions” with O’Brien continue, though he is no longer strapped down so tightly. He is less afraid of the dial now that he knows O’Brien usually only turns it when Winston shows stupidity. Today, O’Brien tells Winston that his “reintegration” in the Ministry of Love has three phases—learning, understanding, and acceptance—and that it is time for him to enter the second phase. He reveals that he himself is one of the authors of the book supposedly written by Goldstein and tells Winston that while the book’s description of the Party’s methods is accurate, its description of a gradual spread of free thinking followed by a proletarian rebellion is nonsense—the Party will remain in power forever. O’Brien acknowledges that Winston understands how the Party maintains power and asks him why he thinks the Party clings to that power. Winston, feeling weary at the sight of the unhinged enthusiasm in O’Brien’s eyes, replies that the Party believes it is ruling over Oceania for the good of the masses, who are unfit to govern themselves and are being given happiness in exchange for freedom. O’Brien sends Winston a jolt of pain with the dial and tells him that was a stupid thing to say. He explains that the Party cares nothing for the good of the masses and seeks power for its own sake. Unlike past oligarchies like the Russian Communists or the Nazis, the Party does not bother to pretend to itself that its dictatorial rule is a means to an end. Rather, the Party regards power, persecution, and torture as ends in themselves. Individuals can achieve power only by completely merging themselves with the immortal Party. God is power, O’Brien says, and power is power over other human beings, particularly their minds; the Party has already achieved absolute power over matter. Winston protests that it is impossible to control external reality, but O’Brien replies that reality exists only within the human mind. O’Brien even claims that he could float into the air if he chose, because the Party can rewrite the laws of nature however it sees fit. The real struggle is to maintain power over human minds, and the way to assert power over human beings is to make them suffer. The world the Party is creating is the opposite of the utopias people dreamed of in the past: it is a world based on hatred, fear, and pain in which the only love left will be love of Big Brother, and the only pleasure will be the pleasure of triumphing over an enemy. “If you want a picture of the future,” O’Brien says, “imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.” The Party intends for there to always be “heretics” like Winston so that it can continually triumph over them with ever-increasing brutality. O’Brien tells Winston that he will eventually come not only to understand this world but to welcome it. Winston is horrified. Although he feels helpless against O’Brien, he argues that the world the Party envisions is impossible, that it lacks the vitality to survive, and that life will defeat it. O’Brien responds that the Party is immortal, that it controls every aspect of life and creates human nature. The proles, O’Brien says, don’t count—humanity belongs only to the Party. Yet Winston persists in his belief that the proles will one day overthrow the Party and that a universal principle he calls the “spirit of Man” will triumph. O’Brien asks Winston if he considers himself to be morally superior to the Party. When Winston says he does, O’Brien plays a recording of Winston agreeing to perform a long list of immoral acts on behalf of the Brotherhood. Then, calling Winston the “last man” and the “guardian of the human spirit,” O’Brien orders him to stand up, take off his clothes, and look in a mirror on the other side of the room. When he sees himself in the mirror, Winston is frightened: he has become hunched, battered-looking, partially bald, and horribly emaciated. His body is scarred and dirty, his face hardly recognizable, and his varicose ulcer inflamed. O’Brien pulls out a clump of Winston’s hair and even one of the few teeth he has left. The state Winston is in, O’Brien says, is the state of the humanity in which Winston says he believes. Winston begins to weep. O’Brien tells him that just as he brought this state upon himself, so too can he escape it whenever he chooses. When O’Brien asks him if there is anything he hasn’t been made to suffer during his torture, Winston says he has not betrayed Julia. O’Brien agrees, understanding that Winston means he has not stopped loving Julia even though he has confessed to every aspect of their relationship. Winston then asks when he can expect to be shot. O’Brien tells him not to give up hope: although Winston is a “difficult case,” he will eventually be cured and shot.

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