Last Updated on March 10, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 765
Winston sits in the corner that has become his usual seat at the Chestnut Tree Café, drinking gin and occasionally glancing up at a poster of Big Brother as he waits for the telescreen to broadcast a bulletin from the Ministry of Peace. Oceania is now and supposedly has always been at war with Eurasia, and for the first time in history, Oceania’s own territory is threatened as the Eurasian army approaches Central Africa. Winston feels momentarily excited as he thinks about the war but stops thinking about it a second later, having lately lost his ability to focus. Though he continues to drink it, Winston hates the smell of the gin. It reminds him of the rats, which he avoids naming or visualizing in his thoughts. Since his release, Winston has gained weight, and his skin has become coarse and ruddy. The staff of the café know him, and a waiter now brings him more gin, a copy of The Times, and a chessboard as usual. After listening to an announcement that the Ministry of Plenty has overfulfilled the bootlaces quota laid out in the Party’s Tenth Three-Year Plan, Winston turns to the chess problem in the newspaper. Looking up at the picture of Big Brother, he thinks to himself that in chess, “white always mates” and black never wins. To Winston this represents the “eternal, unvarying triumph of Good over Evil.” The telescreen then announces that important news will soon be broadcast. Winston has been thinking about the war off and on all day and expects the news to be bad. He picks up a white knight, visualizes the African front, and imagines a mysterious third army gaining control of Africa and cutting Oceania in two, thereby potentially bringing about the defeat of the Party—a thought that causes Winston a momentary spasm of conflicting emotions.
When these feelings pass, he traces “2 + 2 = 5” in the dust on the table, reflecting on the fact that he and Julia were wrong about the Party not being able to get inside them; O’Brien was right when he said what happened in the Ministry of Love would be forever. Something has died in Winston. Since his release, he has only met with Julia once, on a freezing day when he saw her in the park. Knowing that the Party no longer takes any interest in what he does, he followed her, though she appeared reluctant to speak with him. She seemed to have changed in some fundamental way. Julia had no reaction when Winston put his arm around her waist, and Winston felt nothing but horror when he thought of having sex with Julia. The change in her, he realized, was that her waist had grown thick and stiff and reminded him of a corpse he had once dragged from the rubble after a rocket bomb explosion. When Julia looked at him, it was with contempt. They confessed that they had betrayed each other and that when they begged for their punishments to be transferred, they meant it, caring only about themselves. This betrayal irreparably altered their feelings for each other. Though they agreed to meet again, Winston was overwhelmed by a desire to return to the Chestnut Tree Café as he followed Julia out of the park. Eventually he gave up on trying to keep up with her.
Winston is jerked out of these memories by an oddly jeering note that comes into the music on the telescreen, and his eyes fill with tears as he drinks another glass of gin. He now spends all day almost every day drinking gin in the café, though he sometimes goes to his new job at the Ministry of Truth, where he works on a pointless sub-committee charged with drafting a report related to the Eleventh Edition of the Newspeak dictionary. As he fiddles with the chess set, Winston finds himself remembering a rare happy day of his childhood when he played snakes and ladders with his mother and sister. He immediately dismisses this as one of the false memories that still trouble him from time to time. Then there is a trumpet call from the telescreen, and a voice announces Oceania’s victory over Eurasia. As he looks worshipfully up at the picture of Big Brother, Winston feels that the last of the changes begun in him by his experience in the Ministry of Love has now occurred. He imagines being back in the Ministry of Love, blissfully confessing, being forgiven, and being shot. His struggle finally over, Winston is filled with love for Big Brother.
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