Literature Study Guides1984Book 1 Chapter 5 Summary

1984 | Study Guide

George Orwell

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Book 1 | Chapter 5

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Book 1 | Chapter 5 of George Orwell's novel 1984.

1984 | Book 1, Chapter 5 | Summary

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Summary

Winston is in the canteen (lunchroom) at work when his coworker Syme joins him. Syme is working on the 11th edition of the Newspeak dictionary. The purpose of this dictionary is to eliminate words from the language, thereby reducing the range of possible thoughts and thus limiting people's consciousness. Syme says that reading classic literature will be impossible one day. Even having a conversation like Syme and Winston are having will be impossible. Party slogans will have to change. Syme explains by saying, "How could you have a slogan like 'freedom is slavery' when the concept of freedom has been abolished?"

They overhear a conversation at another table. The man isn't expressing a single original thought; he's parroting what he's been spoon-fed. "Duckspeak," Syme calls it, and he notes that it has two contradictory meanings: it can be an insult or praise. Winston thinks Syme is too intelligent to survive. He reads too much, thinks too deeply, and says things he shouldn't. One day, Winston is sure, he'll be vaporized.

Mr. Parsons, who also works at the Ministry of Truth, approaches the two bragging about how his daughter turned a man over to the Thought Police. Just then an announcement from the Ministry of Plenty touts production increases in everything from food to helicopters, and the reader considers that the Ministry's name is another example of doublethink. Winston knows the reality: scarcity of just about everything and general bleakness in daily life. But he also knows that memories have been toyed with. Why should anyone feel that life is "intolerable" if they can't remember that anything had once been different?

As everyone listens to the announcement, the dark-haired girl is looking at Winston, hoping her glances will not be noticed. But Winston does notice and is filled with fear. He worries his facial expression, or "facecrime," might give him away. As the chapter ends, a piercing whistle signals time to return to work.

Analysis

The characters in this chapter all have some reason to be worried about survival. Syme, who is very good at his job and is even enthusiastic about removing subtlety from communication, still has a trait that may do him in after all. He's intelligent, and intelligent people can't be controlled as easily as the Party would like them to be. Is Winston's certainty that Syme will eventually be vaporized warranted? Judging from the reasons that people have been vaporized before, Winston is likely correct.

But what about Parsons? Parsons is proud of his kids for reporting people, but pride doesn't make him safe. If family members are encouraged to report each other, it's only a matter of time before Parsons loses his place in this highly stressful world.

Winston, of course, being a rebel, is worried all of the time that he's going to get caught, so his survival is at stake. The girl, if caught noticing Winston in a way that is anything but unemotional or hateful, could also get into trouble with the Party. The fact that Winston has to control his facial expressions around the girl foreshadows a more intense emotional connection with her than he's currently having.

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