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Literature Study Guides1984Book 1 Chapter 3 Summary


George Orwell

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Book 1 | Chapter 3

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Book 1 | Chapter 3 of George Orwell's novel 1984.

1984 | Book 1, Chapter 3 | Summary



As Chapter 3 begins, Winston is dreaming of his mother, who disappeared with his younger sister in the 1950s during an early purge. He feels that his mother and sister were sacrificed so he could live. They lived in a time when one had privacy and could feel love. Now one can only feel fear, hatred, and pain. In his dream he has visions of pastures, swaying trees, and clear fish-filled pools.

Winston feels guilty when he recalls his mother. He regrets that he did not treat her well and that she disappeared before he could make amends. The responsibility and his nostalgia for that relationship are examples of Oldthink, or illegal memories of a time prior to the Revolution.

Suddenly the telescreen calls him to calisthenics, and as Winston exercises he cannot remember for sure a time when Oceania had not been at war. He vaguely remembers the surprise of the first atomic bomb and the scurrying of citizens into the subway stations. Although Winston remembers that Oceania had once been allied with Eurasia, the party line is that Oceania had always been at war with them. Winston reflects that, if you tell a lie often enough, it becomes accepted as truth. Reality control. Newspeak. Doublethink.

A voice from the telescreen screams that Winston is not exercising vigorously enough. Winston hides his emotions so as not to give away his disdain for the Party.


In reflecting on the disappearance of his mother and sister, Winston recalls enough of the past to call a lie a lie; the implication is that most people do not remember the past the way it was. Orwell is likely foreshadowing, or hinting at, a time when Winston himself won't be able to remember the past as it was. The Party rewrites history because, as a totalitarian regime, it cannot accept shades of grey. An evil enemy must be represented as "absolute evil." If a current enemy was an ally in the past, it must have some good qualities. If that's true then its evil can't be absolute. Yet Winston finds it "terrifying" that something historical can be said to have never happened. This creates inner conflict in Winston, because it is his job to rewrite history.

An often-quoted line from 1984 is "Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past." Capitalism (the political and economic system Big Brother replaced) had its excesses, but it wasn't nearly as bad as the Party makes it seem. By describing capitalism the way it does, the Party convinces a docile citizenry that, while things aren't great under totalitarianism, they are better than they were under capitalism.

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