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Literature Study Guides1984Book 1 Chapter 8 Summary


George Orwell

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Book 1 | Chapter 8

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Book 1 | Chapter 8 of George Orwell's novel 1984.

1984 | Book 1, Chapter 8 | Summary



Winston wanders into the slums of London. After narrowly escaping a rocket bomb, he sees a severed hand on the street and kicks it to the gutter. As he strolls past a pub, he sees a very old man. Winston decides he might remember life before the Revolution, so he follows the man into the pub, buys him a beer, and asks him to compare his life as a boy with now. The man is eager to talk but can't stay on track.

Winston leaves the pub and finds himself at the junk shop where he'd purchased his diary. It seems spooky. Oddly, late as it is, the shop is still open, so he goes in. The proprietor lets him look around, and Winston buys a glass paperweight with coral inside it. The proprietor, Mr. Charrington, invites Winston to see more antiques in an upstairs room. They climb the stairs, and the room conjures vague memories. On the wall is a picture of an old church (St. Clement's), and Mr. Charrington recites part of a children's rhyme that includes its name. Near the end is the ominous line, "Here comes a chopper to chop off your head." There is no telescreen in this room, and Winston believes he could be alone and secure here. He considers risking renting it for a few dollars a month. As he leaves the shop, he sees the dark-haired girl from the Ministry of Truth and wonders if she is spying on him. While walking home Winston considers the fact that they always come for you at night. As the chapter ends, he recalls O'Brien's words, "We shall meet in the place where there is no darkness."


In this chapter it becomes clear to the reader that Winston is torn between the man the Party wants him to be and the man he is allowing himself to become. When he kicks the severed hand, his lack of empathy is in line with Party policies that discourage relationships between people. Winston is not yet as human as he aspires to be.

When the old man is unable to stay on track, Winston despairs. Yet, when he thinks about what O'Brien tells him about the place where there is no darkness, he insists on seeing it as a sign of hope. Something is propelling Winston forward: Maybe it's his inability to fit in or to accept the prevailing society. Maybe it's his improbable wish to change it, which some in the novel would call a character flaw. It may lead to Winston's demise.

Here, the narrator introduces the word ownlife, another no-no. Individualism and eccentricity are dangerous for a Party member. And Winston is a Party member, albeit one in the Outer Party. The proles may be destitute, but at least they're free from constant surveillance. Winston's feet mysteriously bring him back to the same shop where he bought his diary. He buys the paperweight, which is beautiful and useless, two characteristics that make it dangerous, and now he's considering renting the upstairs room.

Orwell takes time to describe Mr. Charrington, the owner of the junk shop, yet he doesn't give readers the name of the old man in the pub. There's something different about this man: He's not the usual prole. The narrator describes him as having "a vague air of intellectuality" with an "accent less debased than that of the majority of proles." These "differences" suggest to Winston that perhaps Mr. Charrington's memories of the past have not yet been weakened to the extent of most proles and that he might find an ally in Mr. Charrington.

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