1984: Room 101 Surveillance and Proletariat
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Winston finds himself alone in a cell, probably within the walls of theMinistry of Love. Before bringing him to the cell, Winston was detained in an ordinary prison, along with a diverse group of proles and political Party prisoners. He heard two Party women whisper quickly to each other about something called “Room 101.”
Winston is hungry and frightened, knowing he will be facing physical abuse and possible torture. Conscious thoughts of Juliaare not necessary. He instinctively feels love for her and will not betray her; these feelings do not require conscious thought. His thoughts are of O’Brien. Winston wonders whether the Brotherhood will smuggle a razor blade in to him. He thinks of what it would be like to cut into his veins and wonders if he could do it. “It was more natural to exist from moment to moment, accepting another ten minutes’ life even with the certainty that there was torture at the end of it.” Part 3, Chapter 1, pg. 232 He does not know the time of day, for the lights are always on. His cell is “the place where there is no darkness.” The steel door opens and Ampleforth, one of Winston’s co-workers, is thrown into the cell. They talk. After about an hour, an officer comes and takes Ampleforth to Room 101. Much later, Parsons is brought to the cell. Winston is surprised. Parsons reveals he was incarcerated for thoughtcrime; he is afraid and feels terribly guilty. Topic Tracking: Surveillance 18
Parsons is taken away and other prisoners come and go, including a woman who is sent to Room 101. She crumples in fear as the orders are given. Opposite Winston is a man with a chinless, toothy, rodent-like face. Another prisoner, a skull-faced man, is brought into the cell. The other prisoners notice he is starving to death, and the chinless man finds a dirty piece of bread in a pocket and holds it out to him. The telescreen voice roars and guards break into the cell and beat up the chinless man until his face and mouth are bruised and swollen and blood is oozing from his mouth and nose. An officer comes to take the skull-faced man to Room 101. He howls and clings to the bench, but eventually they drag him away. A long time passes. The door opens and O’Brien comes in. Winston is shocked and cries, “They’ve got you too!” O’Brien replies, “They got me a long time ago.” and steps aside to let in a guard who hits Winston’s elbow with a truncheon, knocking him down. This is the first of a series of beatings. Guards kick Winston, and beat him with their fists, truncheons, and steel rods.
“There were times when it went on and on until the cruel, wicked, unforgivable thing seemed to him not that the guards continued to beat him but that he could not force himself into losing consciousness.” Part 3, Chapter 2, pg. 244 He later realizes that this is part of the routine. Every person who is brought in to the Ministry is first tortured and forced to confess to a variety of crimes such as espionage, sabotage, or worse. Gradually the beatings subside and the interrogation begins. The interrogators constantly keep Winston in slight pain, pulling his hair, and shining glaring lights in his eyes, to keep him in a state of discomfort. Their real weapon, however, is the continuous questioning and abuse. After hours of this, Winston is completely broken and willingly confesses anything and everything to which he is accused. All the time, Winston strangely feels O’Brien’s presence, as if he were watching and controlling what is happening to him. Suddenly, he finds himself in a cell, flat on his back on a surface resembling a high camp bed.
Somehow he is held down completely immobile. At one side of him is O’Brien, at the other is a man in a white coat holding a syringe. Beneath O’Brien’s hand is a dial. As he turns it, a wave of pain floods through Winston’s body. After the pain subsides, O’Brien informs Winston of a conversation they will be having. If Winston attempts to lie in any way or does not think with intelligence, he will use the dial again. He tells Winston that he has become deranged and his memory has become defective. Winston must make the effort to cure himself. O’Brien refers to things like the war against Eastasia, and mentions the photograph Winston once ‘hallucinated’ of Jones, Aaronson and Rutherford. He pulls the photograph out, prompting a cry from Winston, then puts it down the memory hole to the incinerator. He tells Winston the photograph never existed and that he does not remember it. This is an example ofdoublethink. They speak about the nature of reality. O’Brien holds up four fingers and asks Winston how many fingers he is holding up. Winston answers four. O’Brien asks what were to happen if the Party said five. Winston replies that he would still be holding four. O’Brien turns up the dial on the pain machine until Winston can no longer even see the fingers.
Afterwards, Winston begins to cry like a baby, clinging to O’Brien. The man in the white coat injects him with something that takes the pain away. “The old feeling, that at bottom it did not matter whether O’Brien was a friend or an enemy, had come back. O’Brien was a person who could be talked to… O’Brien had tortured him to the edge of lunacy, and in a little while, it was certain, he would send him to his death. It made no difference.” Part 3, Chapter 2, pg. 255-6 O’Brien tells Winston why the Party brings its enemies into the Ministry of Love. It is important not to destroy enemies, but to change them. He tells Winston he is here so that they can “cure” him and “make him sane.” To avoid making martyrs out of their enemies, The Party forces all to confess their thoughtcrime before being killed. Their minds must be purified and aligned to the ideals of Big Brother before they are eliminated. O’Brien speaks of the breaking down of Jones, Aaronson and Rutherford. “There was nothing left in them except sorrow for what they had done, and love of Big Brother.
It was touching to see how they loved him. They begged to be shot quickly, so that they could die while their minds were still clean.” Part 3, Chapter 2, pg. 259 To further prove the point, O’Brien has the man in the white coat give Winston shock therapy, a few seconds after which, Winston will believe anything O’Brien tells him, even that he is holding up five fingers when there are only four. After Winston recovers from the effects of shock therapy, O’Brien allows Winston to ask a few questions. Winston asks where Julia was taken, and O’Brien responds that she had betrayed him immediately and converted to The Party completely. He asks if Big Brother exists and O’Brien simply responds that Big Brother will never die.
He asks if the Brotherhood exists, and O’Brien says Winston will never know. He asks what is in Room 101, and O’Brien tells him that everyone already knows what is in Room 101. The man in the white coat sedates Winston and he falls asleep. The sessions with O’Brien continue. Gradually, Winston’s bonds loosen and O’Brien uses the dial less. One day, O’Brien informs him of three stages of reintegration: learning, understanding and acceptance. It is time to enter the second stage. O’Brien informs him of the why behind the mind control of The Party. The goal is pure power itself. The individual is mortal and can never have power alone, but when he destroys his own identity and relinquishes control to the Party, he will live and be powerful forever. The Party is omnipotent. “We control matter because we control the mind. Reality is inside the skull.”
Power, O’Brien says, is defined by the ability to make other human beings suffer. Blind obedience is not enough, for unless someone is suffering, how do you know they are obeying your will and not their own? In order to maintain power, The Party must remove all pleasures of the individual. The vision of the future will be a boot stamping on a human face, forever. Heretics like Winston, rise only to be defeated, humiliated, and realigned by The Party. Winston becomes violently upset, telling O’Brien The Party must be defeated. There must be something about life and the human spirit that will not allow what he outlines to continue.
In response to his outburst, O’Brien mocks Winston’s moral superiority to The Party by showing Winston a mirror. Winston stares at his filthy, broken, emaciated body and weeps as O’Brien tells him that his mind is in the same condition, completely broken. Winston, searching for some evidence of strength, reveals to O’Brien that he has refused to betray Julia. O’Brien understands this means he still loves Julia, even though he has confessed everything about their meetings together. In time, Winston regains his health, getting fatter and stronger. He is now in a slightly more comfortable cell, allowed to wash regularly and fed three times every twenty-four hours. They have also given him a white slate and a piece of pencil. He often sleeps or lies around, dreaming of the Golden Country, conversations in the sunshine with his mother, Julia, or O’Brien. Gradually, as his health improves, he begins small exercises and works his way up to doing push-ups. Winston realizes that his attempt to rebel was frivolous; for seven years the Thought Police have watched his every action.
He begins making a conscious effort to re-educate himself. On the slate he writes the Party slogan, “Freedom is Slavery,” followed by “Two and Two Make Five,” and “God is Power.” He re-remembers the past and accepts everything The Party declares. His education is very easy. “It was like swimming against a current that swept you backwards however hard you struggled, and then suddenly deciding to turn round and go with the current instead of opposing it. Nothing had changed except your own attitude; the predestined thing happened in any case.”
He starts trying to teach himself Crimestop. He practices, wondering how long it will take (days? years?) before they decide to shoot him. He has a dream in which he is walking down a corridor waiting for the bullet, feeling calm and joyful. It changes and he is in the Golden Country, following the track. Suddenly he has an overwhelming sense of Julia’s presence; she seems to be not just with him, but inside him. He knows that somewhere she is still alive and needs his help. He wakes himself by crying out, “Julia! Julia! Julia, my love! Julia!” He begins to panic. Winston knows he has been obeying the Party with his mind, but still, in the depths of his heart, he hates them. “For the first time he perceived that if you want to keep a secret you must also hide it from yourself.”
One day they will shoot him. It is always unexpected, but a few seconds beforehand it should be possible for him to guess. In that time, the subconscious psychological barriers he has constructed would disintegrate and his hatred would consume him as the bullet hit. He would be free, finally, by dying hating The Party. He hears boots and O’Brien arrives with the guards. He tells Winston it is stupid to try to deceive him. He asks him how he feels about Big Brother. Winston replies that he hates him. O’Brien replies it is time for the final step. He must love Big Brother.
Winston is in room 101 of the Ministry of Love. He can see only two small tables straight in front of him, covered with green baize. He is strapped into a chair, so tightly that he cannot move a muscle. His head is gripped from behind by a kind of pad. O’Brien comes in and reminds him that he already knows what is in Room 101. Everyone knows what is in room 101; it is the worst thing in the world. A guard enters and puts an oblong wire cage on the table further away from Winston. Fixed to the front is something that looks like a fencing mask, the concave side facing outward to be fitted on to someone’s face. The cage is divided into two compartments, each containing a live rat. O’Brien knows Winston’s deepest fear. Winston is frozen in terror. O’Brien reminds him of the panic he used to have in his dreams, visions of something unimaginably terrible on the other side of a black wall. Pain, O’Brien says, is not enough; sometimes people will stand out against pain, but for everyone there is a terror they cannot withstand. Faced with the rats, Winston will have no choice but to give in to control by The Party. O’Brien picks up the cage and brings it to the nearer table.
The rats are huge. O’Brien speaks of how they eat flesh, attack babies and the sick or dying, leap onto the face and attack the eyes, or burrow through the cheeks to eat the tongue. Winston almost faints in fear. He can smell the foul, musty odor of the rats. The cage is coming nearer. O’Brien plans to attach the mask to Winston’s head and open the interior cage door so that the rats can attack his face. As O’Brien approaches, Winston can only think of shielding himself from the rats with the living body of another person. O’Brien brings them closer and closer. Suddenly Winston understands that there is one person in the world to whom he can transfer his punishment. He shouts frantically over and over, “Do it to Julia! Do it to Julia! Not me! Julia! I don’t care what you do to her. Tear her face off, strip her to the bones. Not me! Julia! Not me!”Part 3, Chapter 5, pg. 289 He feels as if he is falling from a great distance, and he hears O’Brien closing the cage door instead of opening it.
After being released, Winston is sitting in the Chestnut Tree Café. It is almost empty and it is three o’clock in the afternoon. Now and again he glances up at the vast poster of Big Brother facing him from the opposite wall. A waiter brings him more Victory Gin with cloves. The telescreen is showing news about the war. Excitement flares in Winston, only to fade away. Nowadays he can only focus his mind on any one subject for a few minutes at a time. He has gotten fatter since they released him, his nose and cheeks a deeper shade of red. He spends most of his time in the café, playing chess with himself and following current events written in “The Times.” Winston ponders different strategies to win the war. When not drinking large amounts of gin, he occasionally shows up to do a little work on a sub-committee of a sub-committee, where he has been give a pointless job. Almost unconsciously, Winston traces in the dust on the table, “2+2=5.”
Julia had once said, “They can’t get inside you.” She had been wrong. “There were things, your own acts, from which you could not recover. Something was killed in your breast; burnt out, cauterized out.” Part 3, Chapter 6, pg. 293 By chance, he met Julia in the park. They had almost passed each other, when Winston turned and followed. She walked to a clump of shrubs and stopped. Her face was sallow and there was a scar across her forehead and temple. He clasped his arm around her waist, which seemed thick and stiff. She made no response. They walked back to the grass and sat in iron chairs. Admitting their betrayal in Room 101, Winston and Julia looked at each other with indifference. They did not see each other again. Suddenly, as Winston sits in the café, a trumpet call draws attention to the telescreen. Victory is announced. Winston is moved to tears. He sits in a blissful dream-state, feeling the final change in himself. He imagines himself in the Ministry of Love – innocent, where all is forgiven. He imagines himself walking down a corridor, the long-hoped-for bullet entering his brain. “But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself.