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Literature Study Guides1984Book 3 Chapter 1 Summary


George Orwell

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Book 3 | Chapter 1

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

1984 | Book 3, Chapter 1 | Summary



Chapter 1 of Book 3 begins with Winston in a cell. He believes he's in the Ministry of Love. A hungry ache in his belly never goes away. He imagines what will happen to him—the smash of truncheons (clubs) on his body, begging for mercy from the floor. Sometimes he thinks of Julia and for a time believes he'd double his pain if it would take some from her. He doesn't know where she is.

Winston's one hope is that O'Brien will save him or that the Brotherhood will get a razor blade to him. Others arrive: Ampleforth, Winston's coworker and a poet; his neighbor, Parsons; a mean-looking man with a face as thin as a skull. When the starving skull-faced man is told to go to Room 101, he begs for anything but that.

Eventually the door opens. It is O'Brien. "They've got you too!" Winston cries, only to find out that O'Brien is with Big Brother. "They got me a long time ago," O'Brien says. O'Brien comes in with a guard who now slams a truncheon into Winston's elbow, and everything explodes in pain.


At the end of Book 1, because the Thought Police always come for people at night, Winston hoped to find "the place where there is no darkness." He thought he would be safe there. As it turns out, he is there now, but it's a cell where the lights are always on. Orwell was foreshadowing this cell with that image rather than giving readers a sign of hope for Winston's future.

After O'Brien reveals that he has been a faithful Party member for a long time, the narrator tells readers that Winston had always known it. Nothing Winston has been said to have thought has prepared the reader for this. Perhaps the reader doubted O'Brien, but nothing indicated that Winston had doubted him. If Winston had known, then readers begin to wonder if Winston is an unreliable narrator—one who doesn't fully understand a situation or who draws incorrect conclusions. Readers are reminded that they trusted Winston when he believed Julia loved him because of how she appeared when she handed him the note. But readers are also reminded that, while they may have trusted Winston's original instinct about O'Brien, he was wrong on that count. The story is told only through Winston's eyes, so if the reader believes the world of Big Brother is as oppressive as he says it is, readers have to trust that he is a reliable narrator. Here, the novel makes the reader doubt his or her own assumptions, just as Winston has to do.

There are two possible answers. One is that Winston was hiding the knowledge about O'Brien from himself. Psychologists call this self-deception. Perhaps in a world of doublethink, it should come as no surprise that Winston, a rewriter of history, should be fooled by self-deception. Or maybe O'Brien is playing with Winston's mind—revising history even in this statement, convincing Winston that he has always known what he says he knows now.

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