Book 1, Chapter 11
Theo recounts in his diary his visit with Xan. He is able to get an appointment, but the Warden rejects Theo’s request to drive himself and sends a car for him instead. Theo half expects that he will be picked up by his former driver, George, but he is met instead by an impassive and smartly dressed driver he does not recognize. When he inquires about George, the new driver tells him that George died in a traffic accident. Theo finds this answer suspicious but knows it would be unwise to say anything further.
In the car, Theo wonders how his meeting with Xan will go. Though Theo and Xan did not part on bad terms, Theo knows that his resignation was unforgivable in Xan’s eyes. He recalls his time spent as Xan’s advisor and describes each of the Council members: Martin Woolvington, who heads Industry and Production; Harriet Marwood, who is in charge of Health, Science, and Recreation; Felicia Rankin, who takes care of Home Affairs; and Carl Inglebach, who manages State Security as Minister for Justice. Council decisions were always made by a majority vote in which Theo was not allowed to take part. In retrospect, Theo wonders if his resignation had more to do with the humiliation of being left out than any actual realization of how powerless and ineffectual he was. After Theo left, Martin became Xan’s closest confidant and most loyal follower. Theo describes his relationship with Felicia as one of “mutual antipathy,” perhaps in part due to his obsession with her asymmetrical appearance. Harriet is sixty-eight, making her the oldest member of the board. She has a comforting, almost grandmotherly appearance, which makes the public quick to trust her; Theo considers her rather dangerous. Carl is, in Theo’s opinion, the most sinister member of the Council and the most powerful after Xan.
Theo’s driver takes him past Parliament Square, and Theo reveals that Parliament now only meets once a year to advise and make recommendations to the Council. This helps create the appearance of democracy, though the Council may do whatever they want, regardless of Parliament’s recommendation. Theo notes that the lack of democracy matters little to people now when compared with what the Warden can provide: “freedom from fear, freedom from want, freedom from boredom.” As they approach their destination, the car passes by a group of flagellates, prompting Theo to ask his driver whether or not he believes in God. The driver replies that perhaps God did not know what he was doing, or the Omega was his way of ending a failed experiment. Either way, he hopes God “burns in his own hell.”
In this chapter we gain further insight into Theo’s previous role as Xan’s advisor. Theo’s admission that he resigned mostly because he felt humiliated and excluded by his relative lack of power speaks to his emotional immaturity and his tendency to shut down when he feels excluded. At this point, it is unclear exactly what Theo’s resignation means. Does he truly not care about being in power, or does his departure suggest that he would rather be totally uninvolved than occupy a position of lesser power? Despite Theo’s protestations that Xan is not as evil as the group believes, this chapter exposes both Xan’s power and his capacity for cruelty. Theo clearly suspects that Xan had his former driver killed and reveals that Xan keeps the former king under house arrest so as to prevent any challenge to his authority. It is also revealed that the role of Parliament has been reduced even further, and at this point it only exists to provide a small semblance of democracy for the remaining few who actually care.
(The entire section is 634 words.)