Last Updated on May 5, 2017, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 946
Winston slowly recovers his physical strength in a new, slightly more comfortable cell. He is no longer beaten or interrogated, and he is given better food, clean clothes, water to wash with, medicine for his ulcer, a set of dentures, and even cigarettes. At first he spends almost all of his time asleep, dreaming “happy dreams” of peacefully talking with his mother, Julia, or O’Brien. He is satisfied with being alone and thinks mostly about his dreams, feeling that without the constant threat of pain, he has “lost the power of intellectual effort.” Eventually he begins to sleep less and to build his strength by exercising. Though he is still very weak, he believes his body and even his face may be getting back to normal. He thinks to himself that it was absurd of him to ever have tried to fight the power of the Party, who had watched his every move for seven years before his arrest. Sanity is statistical, he thinks, and the Party is both immortal and in the right. Taking up a slate and a pencil that have been left for him, Winston writes “FREEDOM IS SLAVERY,” “TWO AND TWO MAKE FIVE,” and “GOD IS POWER.” Accepting and surrendering to Party doctrine, he now regards his memories of the war with Eurasia and the photograph of Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford as false memories. But when he tries to tell himself that because the Party dictates the laws of nature, O’Brien could float off the floor if he wanted to, Winston runs up against his old belief that this is impossible and could only occur as a hallucination, not as a real event. Though he stops himself immediately, telling himself that there is no such thing as the “real” world and that reality is only in the mind, Winston knows he never should have had the thought at all. He decides to train himself in crimestop by thinking up illogical statements the Party could make and forcing himself to believe in them, exerting great mental effort to deliberately not understand the arguments that would prove them false.
At the same time, Winston wonders when the Party will shoot him. He begins to imagine he is walking down the sunny passage from his earlier dreams and then through the Golden Country, feeling joyful, healthy, and finally free from fear, pain, and doubt as he waits to be shot. Suddenly, though, he returns to reality as he realizes that he has just called Julia’s name. In that moment he felt that he loved her more than ever and that she needed his help. Winston is horrified at what he has done, realizing that his cry has served as an involuntary confession of the fact that although he has surrendered to the Party intellectually, in his heart he still hates them. He resolves that from now on he will keep his surface thoughts and feelings entirely orthodox, but he will keep his hatred locked away, concealed even from himself, until the moment before he is shot, when he will defy the Party by dying an unrepentant heretic. “To die hating them, that was freedom,” he decides. Meditating on the degradation he will have to inflict on himself in order to achieve this almost total orthodoxy, Winston asks himself how he really feels about Big Brother. He is interrupted by the arrival of O’Brien and a group of guards. Clutching him by the shoulders and looking at him closely, O’Brien tells Winston that he was stupid to think he could deceive O’Brien; he has progressed intellectually but not emotionally. O’Brien asks Winston what his true feelings are toward Big Brother, and Winston replies that he hates him. O’Brien says that Winston must now take the last step in his “recovery”: he must love Big Brother. Winston is sent to Room 101.
In Room 101, deep underground at the very bottom of the Ministry of Love, Winston is strapped to a chair, unable to move even his head. O’Brien reminds him that he already knows—that everyone knows—what is in Room 101: the worst thing in the world, which varies from person to person according to their individual fears. A guard brings in a cage with a mask-like attachment on one side. Inside are two rats. For Winston, rats are the worst thing in the world. O’Brien even knows about Winston’s recurring nightmare about the wall of darkness, and he tells him that rats were the horrible thing behind the wall that Winston never wanted to name. Winston cries out that O’Brien doesn’t have to do this to him, but O’Brien says that Winston must face something unendurable in order to do “what is required” of him. What that requirement is O’Brien refuses to say. Winston feels utterly alone as O’Brien brings the cage closer and closer to his face, describing all the while how rats attack people in the poor quarters of London and how, when the mask is fitted over his head, the starving rats in the cage will eat Winston’s face. After nearly blacking out from panic, Winston realizes that he can save himself by putting another person’s body between himself and the rats. When the mask touches his face, Winston suddenly understands that the only person to whom he can transfer his punishment is Julia. He begs O’Brien to “Do it to Julia! Not me! Julia!” In the next instant Winston feels that he is falling through space, away from the rats, and he hears a click as O’Brien shuts the door of the cage.
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