1984 Summary

1984 is a dystopian novel by George Orwell published in 1949. The protagonist, Winston Smith, attempts to rebel against the repressive government of Oceania, symbolized by Big Brother.

  • Winston, an Outer Party member, begins writing down seditious thoughts in his diary.
  • Winston and Julia, his coworker at the Ministry of Truth, begin a love affair and are initiated into a resistance movement called the Brotherhood by O’Brien, an Inner Party member.
  • The couple is arrested by the Thought Police, and O’Brien tortures Winston at the Ministry of Love until Winston betrays Julia. In the end, Winston finally comes to love Big Brother.

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.

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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 a corridor at the Ministry of Truth, Winston sees the same woman trip and fall on her arm, which is in a sling. Winston feels empathy for her in spite of his suspicions, and as he helps her up, she slips him a note that says “I LOVE YOU.” The two arrange a clandestine meeting in the countryside and begin a love affair,...

(The entire section is 1,465 words.)