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:
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.