Literature Study Guides1984Book 1 Chapter 7 Summary

1984 | Study Guide

George Orwell

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Book 1 | Chapter 7

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Book 1 | Chapter 7 of George Orwell's novel 1984.

1984 | Book 1, Chapter 7 | Summary

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Summary

"If there is hope," Winston writes, "it lies in the proles." Winston is reflecting on the proletariat, or working class, which makes up 85 percent of Oceania's population. He believes that only a rising up of the wretched, disregarded majority can overthrow the Party. In his alcove he takes out a children's history book loaned to him by Mrs. Parsons. He copies a passage that describes the horrors of capitalism. He wonders how much of what he is copying is true.

Winston thinks back to the one time he held in his hand proof that the Party history is not true. Back in the 1960s, many original leaders of the Revolution were declared traitors. Many others were killed. A few went into hiding, including Goldstein. Three men who survived were Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford. The three "confessed" and were temporarily paroled. Winston had seen them once at the Chestnut Tree Café. Five years later a photograph came across Winston's desk rolled inside another piece of paper; he shouldn't have seen it. It showed the three at a Party function in New York on the date on which the three had confessed to having been on enemy soil. Here was something he could hold onto—proof positive that the Party did lie about history. He did not, of course, hold onto it, but he also never forgot it.

Winston begins questioning his sanity. Even though his job entails "revising" documents, something tells him that history should not be alterable. The Party believes it is. If he is right, Winston wonders, and the Party is wrong, does that make him crazy?

Orwell also poses this for readers to consider: If a person is the only one to believe something, does that make that person a lunatic? Or does it simply make that person a minority of one? There was a time, Winston reflects, when one person (Copernicus) declared that the earth goes around the sun rather than the sun going around the earth. He was proved right and therefore wasn't crazy. The chapter ends with Winston writing "Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four."

Analysis

In this chapter Winston admits to himself that, if the photo of Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford had come across his desk now, he'd probably have kept it as evidence of Party deceit. As he considers how his actions would be different now, it becomes obvious to the reader that his desire for an engaged rebellion is growing.

This chapter also presents the party line that before the Revolution London was "not the beautiful city" that the Party declares it to be today. If people hear a lie long enough, and there are no dissenting voices, they begin to believe the lie. This is another of Orwell's themes: Be vigilant. Remember the past. Recognize lies. Winston is trying to do all of that, but he was so young when the Party took over that all he has are a few vague memories and an instinct that things should be better.

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