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1984 by George Orwell - a discussion of Part 2 
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Post Re: 1984 by George Orwell - a discussion of Part 2
In Chapter 6, Winston Smith meets O’Brien, member of the Inner Party, who invites Winston to his home to get a copy of the newest Newspeak dictionary.

Winston regards O’Brien as a secret traitor like himself, more humane and cultured than the robotic functionaries who typify the upper echelons. Somehow he glosses over O’Brien’s reference to the liquidation of Syme, perceiving it as an invitation to join the Brotherhood.

This whole encounter in the corridors of the Ministry of Truth is slightly mysterious, imagined by Winston as a coded message of seditious solidarity, but perhaps more likely a warning that he was being watched, perhaps the play of a cat with a mouse.

Winston’s eager assumption of the first of these alternatives sits uneasily against his bleak words to Julia during their tryst that we are the dead, showing the psychological power of hope over reason.


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Post Re: 1984 by George Orwell - a discussion of Part 2
Orwell steadily ratchets up the tragedy, with Chapter 7 telling the story of Winston’s dream about his mother. After his father disappeared, Winston and his mother shared an unspoken secret, the knowledge that she too would disappear for the crime of integrity. The poignant language of the dream starts with an image of a vast luminous landscape, a summer evening after rain, all inside the glass paperweight that Winston first bought in the shop. The cluster of events surrounding his last days with his mother and sister were a time of starvation and war, with his baby sister so hungry she looked like a monkey. He runs away after stealing his sister’s tiny chocolate ration, and when he returns mother and baby are gone. Orwell describes Winston Smith’s mother as follows:
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she had possessed a kind of nobility, a kind of purity, simply because the standards that she obeyed were private ones. Her feelings were her own, and could not be altered from outside. It would not have occurred to her that an action which is ineffectual thereby becomes meaningless. If you loved someone, you loved him, and when you had nothing else to give, you still gave him love.


Here we see what I called the crime of integrity, the indestructible compulsion to live according to principle. Orwell encapsulates the contrast with the corruption of conformity in saying Winston's mother's feelings were her own and could not be altered from outside. And the loveless transactional mentality that confines the meaning of an action to its effects is a bitter observation of how authentic existence has values that clash with those of the Inner Party.

These memories of his mother lead Winston to regret how he has been traumatised and desensitised, shown in the episode where he kicked a severed hand into the gutter. These memories lead Winston to compare the 1984 world, where he has become hardened inside by loyalty to party, country and idea, to the people of only two generations ago. People in those days were not attempting to alter history, but instead were governed by private loyalties which they did not question. What mattered were individual relationships, and a completely helpless gesture, an embrace, a tear, a word spoken to a dying man, could have value in itself. These human values only survive among the proles, while party members who wish to remain human must re-learn primitive emotions by conscious effort.

Finally, Winston and Julia chat about the inevitability of their capture, and how even under torture the party will not be able to change how they think and feel. Winston wonders why Julia would sacrifice herself for him. She remarks that they can make you say anything but they can’t make you believe it. In a relationship of love the objective is not to stay alive but to stay human.

This chapter highlights the contrast between the authentic human existence of Winston and Julia and the heartless inauthentic inhumanity of imperial values. The trauma of wordless disappearance had most vividly been displayed to the world by Stalin’s purges and the Nazi final solution, leading Orwell to remark that the disappearance of Winston’s father had left his mother feeling completely without spirit. She was left waiting to disappear like a walking corpse, thoroughly traumatised by a world without soul. England has fallen to a Bolshevik empire which can only maintain power through a radical and systematic dehumanisation of the culture.


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Post Re: 1984 by George Orwell - a discussion of Part 2
I think the key to understanding '1984' is to read 'Homage To Catalonia' and then the transcripts of Orwell's War Broadcasts. There is a clear line of development and analysis which leads to '1984' (or '1948' as Orwell was fond of referring to it) from his experiences of the Stalinist betrayal of the Spanish Republicans and his concerns, following WW2 and the subsequent treaties and agreements that led, ultimately, to the Cold War. '1984' is a vision of a political dystopia, seeds of which Orwell thought he perceived in the post-war government of Britain, not a treatise on freedom of speech.



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Post Re: 1984 by George Orwell - a discussion of Part 2
Chapter 8 brings an astounding ray of hope. Casting caution to the winds, Winston and Julia go together to meet O’Brien, believing that his contact with Winston can only mean he is a member of the Brotherhood, the revolutionary secret society devoted to the overthrow of the Party. O’Brien is a member of the Inner Party, so it seems unbelievable that he could be a double agent, and yet this is the firm conviction that Winston and Julia have formed. The intense hypocrisy of the Party is casually shown with the wealth and privilege of luxury goods, servants and easy superiority, making it even more astounding that O’Brien could have risen so high while plotting the destruction of all this elitism.

The stench of hypocrisy here, like in Animal Farm, comes from how the communist rhetoric of equality enables the utterly corrupt rise of what in Russia they called the nomenclatura, the ruling class who are able to use bureaucratic control to give themselves a very easy life while the masses remain poor, deprived and oppressed. All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others. Considering Garry Kasparov's love of freedom, it is easy to see how life in the USSR totally disillusioned him about the false rhetoric of equality.

After completing some newspeak Party work, O’Brien proceeds to induct Winston and Julia into the Brotherhood. The theme is that the overwhelming power of the Party means the Brotherhood uses a cell structure, leaving its members isolated without any knowledge. This approach seems to be based on Orwell’s experience with Trotskyist organisations in Spain.

For those who know the result, O’Brien’s remarks supporting the Brotherhood are hard to credit, but Orwell is such a masterful writer than it is easy to imagine a first reading of this chapter leading to the idea that completely different endings might be possible.


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Post Re: 1984 by George Orwell - a discussion of Part 2
Chapter 9 of Part 2 is perhaps the key chapter of 1984. It opens with Winston reflecting on the shift of Oceania’s enemy from Eurasia to Eastasia, then finds him with time to start reading The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism by Emmanuel Goldstein, Orwell’s key reflection on the observable political tendencies of our world that inspired him to write the book.

Orwell is a supreme master of finding the right word. He opens this chapter searching for a word, and has Winston spontaneously find gelatinous as the right word to describe his fatigue after the non-stop work at the Ministry of Truth to remove all evidence that Oceania had ever been at war with Eurasia.

This looks like nonsensical satire of the power of the state, but this episode exactly describes what I think the Roman Empire did in its suppression of Christian heresy. Maybe it took a thousand years rather than a week, but the results were just as comprehensive, with only a few cracks in the edifice of the false claim that the gospels are historical documents at core.

So I greatly admire George Orwell for his prophetic insight that such a deed is politically permissible for our species. An empire operates by propaganda. The obliteration of facts that contradict the imperial narrative is a key element of the conversion of coercion into consent.

Orwell simply takes this principle of stability to its absurd logical conclusion of the total control of information generating social inability to dissent.


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Last edited by Robert Tulip on Mon Jan 28, 2019 6:19 am, edited 1 time in total.



Mon Jan 28, 2019 6:17 am
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Post Re: 1984 by George Orwell - a discussion of Part 2
Orwell tells a great story here. It is the sixth day of Hate Week, quivering toward social orgasm in mindless rage toward Eurasia, when in the middle of a great public frothathon, the foaming orator is handed a slip of paper and without missing a beat switches the object of his hatred to Eastasia, at which the vast exulting crowd exhibits barely a moment of cognitive dissonance before reordering the world against the new myth, tearing down posters and such like. Winston spends ninety hours at work to rectify the past, and takes quiet pride in his loyal performance, despite his apparent perfidious treachery of private attitude.

Some major points here about mass psychology reflect the trauma Orwell had observed as the orators of Nazi Germany and Communist Russia displayed similar feats of rhetorical gymnastry. The sense of blind loyalty to the state was so intense that the mass audience were swept up into a sacrificial bond, an emotional acceptance of patriotic national duty that must exist for totalitarian systems to operate. Against the critical ironic scepticism that is Orwell’s natural habit of mind, such fervour is repugnant and incomprehensible, and yet is observed as a major social phenomenon. So his frightening description of the orator as a blend between Goebbels and Rumpelstiltskin serves well to explain how even rather psychotic language can be convincing and then maddening when given a state platform, evoking uncontrollable rage in the audience.

Winston was particularly impressed by the syntax of the orator, his ability to switch line without pause. This faculty of immediate political obedience is the communist idea of the Party Line, observed by Orwell in Spain as the Communist Party took orders from Moscow in ways that hindered the fight against Franco.

And Winston himself becomes an automaton obeying the party line, immediately reporting for work at 2300 hours without need for anyone to tell him to do this. Five years of history had to be rectified, without any written directive, just an osmotic sniff of the vibe.

Winston was not troubled that all this massive effort was a comprehensive and deliberate lie. A secret sigh goes through the organisation as the great imperial psychotic task is accomplished, so no one will ever be able to prove that the war with Eurasia had ever happened.

Above Mr Charrington’s shop, in his own private Idaho, Winston finally opens the much read copy he has been given via O’Brien of The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism by Emmanuel Goldstein.


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Post Re: 1984 by George Orwell - a discussion of Part 2
The High, the Middle and the Low form the unaltered essential structure of society throughout recorded time, says Goldstein. This sociology model provides the basis for the rule of the Inner Party over the Outer Party and the proles, suggested as a rough description of the actual political relationships between the elites, the middle class and the rest.

In the eternal bliss of a summer breeze with no sound but the insect voice of the clock, Winston jumps to Chapter Three. War and Peace tells the back story of how Oceania came to vie with Eastasia and Eurasia over the great planetary quadrilateral stretching roughly from Tangier to Brazzaville, Darwin and Hong Kong, making the India subcontinent a permanent war zone.

This is fascinating alternative history. Orwell takes this opportunity to posit Oceania as reflecting the Anglosphere including South Africa. Eurasia is based on Russian conquest of Europe, and Eastasia combines China, Indo-China and Japan. AirStrip One’s rocket problems are due to Russia running France.


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