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Literature Study Guides1984Book 3 Chapter 5 Summary


George Orwell

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Book 3 | Chapter 5

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Book 3 | Chapter 5 of George Orwell's novel 1984.

1984 | Book 3, Chapter 5 | Summary



Winston is taken to Room 101 many meters underground. He's strapped to a chair so tightly that he can't move his head. O'Brien tells him that Room 101 is different for each person. What happens there is the worst thing that the person can imagine, and for Winston that means rats. O'Brien shows Winston a mask that looks like the kind a fencer wears, with a fine mesh covering for the face. This mask, however, has two compartments. Winston's face fits in one compartment, and there are two hungry sewer rats in the other. There is a door at the front that O'Brien can open. The mask is coming closer to Winston. Terrified, he calls out, "Do it to Julia! ... Not me! Julia!" Winston loses consciousness and hears a sound in the darkness. It is the cage door clicking shut, not open.


To die with hatred in his heart meant freedom to Winston; it meant holding onto his humanity and his love for Julia. At the end of Book 3, Chapter 3, Winston was happy that, at least in his heart, he had not betrayed Julia. O'Brien had agreed, or so it appeared. But now readers know that O'Brien must fully destroy any shred of humanity left in Winston and that the only way to do this is to cause him to betray Julia. O'Brien, of course, knew this to be their weakness from the meeting in his apartment. Once it's complete and Winston betrays his lover, it no longer matters if he lives or dies. The Party has triumphed.

There are two echoes of things that have already happened. O'Brien's choice of rats for Winston's torture reveals again that the Party invaded Winston and Julia's "private" space, where Winston told Julia he was afraid of rats. Second, when Winston betrays Julia, this echoes the experience of the "skeleton man" who joined Winston in his first cell. The man offered to see his own young child killed rather than go to Room 101. Winston has become the skeleton man, literally and figuratively reduced to bare bones.

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