What Happens in 1984?

Winston Smith lives in a dystopian world where the Party, headed by Big Brother, rules Oceania with an iron fist. Winston works in the Records Department of the Ministry of Truth. His job is to rewrite historical documents according to the Party's demands.

  • Winston begins keeping a diary where he writes seditious entries like "DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER." He believes a Party member named O'Brien may be involved with an underground resistance group called the Brotherhood.

  • Winston's coworker, Julia, passes him a love note, sparking a clandestine affair. They meet in a rented room above a junk shop whose owner is secretly a member of the Thought Police. O’Brien initiates Winston and Julia into the Brotherhood.

  • Winston and Julia are arrested and interrogated. O’Brien, revealed to be a loyal Party member, tortures Winston in the Ministry of Love until he breaks down and betrays Julia. After his release, Winston finally comes to love Big Brother.

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Summary

In the year 1984, London is the principal city of the Oceanian province known as Airstrip One. Oceania, alongside Eurasia and Eastasia, is one of the three totalitarian superpowers into which the world is now divided. The ruling power in Oceania is known as the Party and headed by the mysterious Big Brother, whose face appears all over the city on posters reading “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU.” The Party’s rule is supported by four Ministries: the Ministry of Love, the Ministry of Peace, the Ministry of Plenty, and the Ministry of Truth, where thirty-nine-year-old Winston Smith works in the Records Department. His job is to alter, or “rectify,” records and documents in order to make them agree with current Party policy, thereby ensuring that the Party always appears infallible. Engraved on the front of the huge white building that houses the Ministry of Truth are three Party slogans: “WAR IS PEACE,” “FREEDOM IS SLAVERY,” and “IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.” Through the telescreens installed in every Party member’s home and throughout the city, the Party is able to keep its citizens under constant surveillance while simultaneously subjecting them to an endless stream of propaganda. Most of Oceania’s populace is made up of the “proles,” or proletariat, whom the Party regards as natural inferiors. Meanwhile, the nation is perpetually at war with either Eurasia or Eastasia, though as they are currently at war with Eurasia, the Party claims they have never been at war with Eastasia. An equally important enemy is Emmanuel Goldstein, a discredited former leader of the revolution that brought the Party to power who supposedly now heads an underground resistance from abroad.

Winston still dimly remembers the time before the Party seized power and before his parents disappeared, and he secretly harbors unorthodox ideas. He begins a diary in which he writes “DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER” and other dangerous entries that could get him arrested by the Thought Police and executed for thoughtcrime. Though he doesn’t believe anyone but the Thought Police will ever read his diary, Winston feels he is addressing it to O’Brien, a high-ranking Inner Party member whom Winston believes might share his anti-Party sentiments. Meanwhile, Winston also becomes convinced that a young woman who works in the Fiction Department is spying on him. One evening he takes the risk of skipping the government-sponsored group activities at the Community Center to take a solitary walk. In a prole pub, he attempts to question an old man about whether life was better or worse before the revolution but receives only the man’s vague and disconnected recollections in answer. Afterward, Winston takes the further risk of going into the junk shop where he bought his diary and chatting with the proprietor, Mr. Charrington, from whom he buys a beautiful antique glass paperweight. On his way out, Winston sees the woman from the Fiction Department coming toward him and rushes home in terror. Sometime later, in...

(The entire section is 2,690 words.)