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Literature Study Guides1984Book 3 Chapter 2 Summary


George Orwell

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Book 3 | Chapter 2

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Book 3 | Chapter 2 of George Orwell's novel 1984.

1984 | Book 3, Chapter 2 | Summary



Winston is in a cell, drifting in and out of consciousness because of endless interrogations and beatings. He confesses to all kinds of things he's never done. Hallucinations begin, and he imagines O'Brien there.

Eventually O'Brien really is there. He hooks Winston to a machine, which can inflict pain on a scale from 0 to 100. The pain can be increased or decreased depending on Winston's answers. O'Brien is reprogramming Winston's mind so that he believes the Party's truth of the moment, that history's never been revised, and that, when he holds up four fingers, he's holding up five.

O'Brien explains that it is not the Party's goal to destroy heretics but to convert them because it is intolerable to the Party to allow individual thought to exist. Thus, they must torture and interrogate a person until everything is dead inside and the person is free of emotions.


Readers are now seeing O'Brien for who he is. Like Winston, he takes truth and untruth seriously. The only problem is the two men have diametrically opposed opinions about what is true. Maybe it was O'Brien's commitment to truth (as he saw it) that first drew Winston to him and to conjecture, "Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood."

Throughout the novel Winston and Julia have asserted that their private thoughts and memories are their own and are true records of the past. In this chapter O'Brien destroys that certainty by tearing down what Winston remembers to be true. O'Brien tries to get Winston to believe that being in a minority of one makes you crazy because there is no truth but the truth the Party tells you. Because Winston believes something different, it only follows that he must be insane.

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