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Book 1 | Chapter 6

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Book 1 | Chapter 6 of George Orwell's novel 1984.

1984 | Book 1, Chapter 6 | Summary

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Summary

Winston is writing in his journal about a time when he had hired a prostitute. The practice is forbidden, but even if Winston had been caught, the sentence would have been light: maybe only five years in a forced-labor camp. The Party says sexual urges occasionally need to be indulged, as long as the sex is joyless. Sex is discouraged except to produce children; couples have to get Party approval to marry, and those who seem attracted to each other are always denied. The Party is trying to kill human instincts, and, if the sexual instinct can't be killed, at least the act should be considered dirty and unpleasant. Winston recalls that the prostitute was old and toothless and that the experience had been dreadful. He hopes that, in writing it down, he will be purged of it, but it doesn't work.

Winston is, in fact, married to a woman named Katharine. His estranged wife is a Party hack incapable of an original thought, but divorce is unlawful and separation discouraged. However, after 15 months the marriage became intolerable, so they were allowed to separate. It has been almost 11 years since Winston has seen Katharine. Winston might have stuck with her except that sexual intercourse with her was "like embracing a jointed wooden image." Winston compares her to a vulgar, old prostitute. Katharine had insisted on intercourse once a week, because she viewed it as their duty to the Party, but Winston couldn't stand that idea. The narrator says that organizations like the Junior Anti-Sex League, of which the dark-haired girl (Julia) is a member, are so successful in convincing Party women that sex is ugly that they believe it. Yet Winston wants to feel love and to destroy the "wall of virtue" that controls sex and other connections between human beings.


Analysis

Another side of Winston comes clear in this chapter. He seems to know that sex could be something more than intolerable. It becomes clear through Winston's diary entry and memories of the lack of love that he actually yearns for love or, at the very least, an intimate connection with a partner who desires him.

Using the description of the awful encounter with the prostitute and the passionless marriage with Katharine, Orwell shows how thoroughly the Party has taken all joy out of life. It has turned one of humankind's best gifts into something loveless and repellent. The narrator tells readers that the "sexual act, successfully performed, was rebellion." Winston has already been described as a rebel. What is Orwell foreshadowing?

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