Course Hero. "1984 Study Guide." Course Hero. 28 July 2016. Web. 5 May 2021. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/1984/>.
Course Hero. (2016, July 28). 1984 Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved May 5, 2021, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/1984/
(Course Hero, 2016)
Course Hero. "1984 Study Guide." July 28, 2016. Accessed May 5, 2021. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/1984/.
Course Hero, "1984 Study Guide," July 28, 2016, accessed May 5, 2021, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/1984/.
Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Book 3 | Chapter 6 of George Orwell's novel 1984.
As the final chapter of the novel opens, Winston sits in his usual corner of the Chestnut Tree Café. Gin is his life now, his death and resurrection. He's listening to the telescreen, awaiting a bulletin about a battle between Oceania and Eurasia. Winston is worried because he thinks the news will be bad. As he plays chess, he traces the equation 2 + 2 = 5 in the dust.
Winston knows now that the Party can get inside people after all. In a flashback the narrator reveals that Winston and Julia had run into each other once after being released. The Thought Police didn't care about them now, so the two could have talked, even made love. But both were so completely changed that they didn't care about each other. Before they parted they admitted that they had betrayed each other. They pretended they would meet again, but neither actually cared enough to do so.
Winston has been promoted to a new job at the Ministry of Truth, working on the newest edition of the Newspeak dictionary. He still has memories of an earlier time, even of his childhood, but he pushes them out of his mind. After all, he knows now that they're false. On the telescreen the announcer says that Oceania won the battle. There is cheering in the street, and Winston is relieved. He has a waking dream in which he's back in the Ministry of Love and has been forgiven. As Winston walks down the hall, the narrator explains that finally "the long-hoped-for bullet was entering his [Winston's] brain." He looks up at the face of Big Brother and wonders why he had ever rebelled against that loving face.
The change in Winston is gradually revealed to readers in the last chapter of the book. One of the clues the narrator gives is about Winston's belief in what the telescreen tells him. Another is that he no longer cares whether he sees Julia again. By the time the narrator tells readers that he sees a memory of his childhood as false, it's clear that he has lost his ability to think for himself—even to the point of believing that 2 + 2 = 5 and that Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia.
There is controversy among readers of the novel about how to interpret the end of the novel—literally or metaphorically. The narrator tells readers that a bullet is entering Winston's brain. Is this a real bullet, or is the narrator speaking metaphorically? The last paragraph of the novel says, "The struggle was finished. ... He loved Big Brother." Therefore, the best interpretation is to understand the bullet as a metaphor. Winston's goal up until he was tortured in Room 101 was for the Party not to get inside of him, to continue to believe that 2 + 2 = 4 no matter what the Party said. But Winston lost that battle.
Death was never Winston's concern; he always believed he would be vaporized. Because death was inevitable, it would not be a tragedy. What he has lost—the metaphorical bullet in his brain—is his humanity, his independence, and his knowledge of what is real. Now Winston is one of the people who is "already dead" but just doesn't know it. This is the tragedy. And with this the novel ends.