[personal profile] wingedbeast
I've been hard on Winston Smith, so far. And, I will continue to be so. In part, I'm arguing against the notion that Winston Smith is, in any way, more whole a person than anybody else in the text. A more important part is that Winston Smith is already a victim of Oceana, or at least of similar thought-control techniques to those used by Oceana.

We approach Winston's perspective and his flaws from three decades after the time in which the book is set, which is still approximately three and a half decades after it was published. Winston Smith comes at his world with a heavy amount of isolation. Even in that time of "freedom" he barely remembers from his childhood, much of a person's identity was chosen for them, far ahead of time.

Which isn't to say that 1950s London was just as unfree as Oceana, of course. But, he's not exactly coming at this from a place where anybody's helped him view other people outside of the life-scripts to which they had been taught, from early age, to adhere. And, that's in a society that genuinely wanted him to form connections to other people.

Oceana doesn't. He's left with only his imagination and an imperfect memory.

Suddenly he began thinking of O'Brien again.

Years ago-how long was it? Seven years it must be-he had dreamed that he was walking through a pitchdark room. And someone sitting to one side of him had said as he passed: 'we shall meet in the place where there is no darkness.' It was said very quietly, almost casually-a statement, not a command. He had walked on without pausing. What was curious was thatt at the time, in the dream, the words had not made much impression on him. It was only later and by degrees that they had seemed to take on significance. He could not remember whether it was before or after having the dream that he had seen O'Brien for the first time; nor could he remember when he had first identified th voice as O'Brien's. But at any rate the identification existed. It was O'Brien who had spoken to him out of the dark.

Winston had never been able to feel sure-even after this morning's flash of the eyes it was impossible to be sure-whether O'Brien was a friend or an enemy. Nor did it even seem to matter greatly. There was a link of understanding between them, more important than affection or partisanship. 'We shall meet in the place where there is no darkness,' he had said. Winston did not know what it meant, only that in some way or another it would come true.


In another text, that line, potentially originating in a dream and potentially not, could be a satire of the basic concept of using prophecy in fiction. It's completely useless. The text even states it outright. "...in some way or another it would come true."

But, that's not a prophecy, in part because of how easily that line can be stretched to mean just about anything. In this text, that line is Winston Smith reaching beyond logic and even beyond reality itself to forge a connection with another person via use of a line he remembers from a dream. There's no magic in this world. That dream is entirely something constructed by his brain for his brain. And, it's the best he's got.

He might have more if he had our advantages. If he had a world that trained people not just to look past appearances, but to look at conditions, look for our own privileges, even if he grew up in a world like today's, were we enrichen our appreciation of things we love by taking them apart and mocking them. We enjoy finding ways to make bad guys into good guys.

Or he might not have that. I'm not so sure I, even with a basic primer on the theory of it, would do better than Winston Smith, here.

I'll skip past a good chunk of text to make another point of compassion for Winston Smith. Quick summary is that it's about a telescreen announcement and a bit more about how omnipresent the control is in Oceana and how the chocolate ration's going to be reduced from thirty grams to twenty. That's not plot-relevant but I'd like to point out that a normal sized Three Musketeers bar is sixty grams. So, we've gone from a half a three musketeers a week to approximately those bite-sized things they have the nerve to call "fun sized".

One thing I will note is the three sacred principles of Ingsoc, the political philosophy of the ruling party of Oceana. Newspeak (that is the new language), doublethink (the ability to consciously convince yourself of what you know to be a lie), and the mutability of the past.

He was alone. The past was dead, the future was unimaginable. What certainty had he that a single human creature now living was on his side? And what way of knowing that hte dominion of the Party would not endure for everWAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH


The line that encapsulates the issue for Winston is "Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimetres inside your own skull." (Side note: Holding to the spelling and punctuation native to the text as opposed to my own is an unforeseen mental twinge.) Winston didn't have a reasonable expectation of anybody his diary, that he writes ostensibly for the purpose of others taking value, that erase both it and him from all history.

His writing of the diary is an act of hope, a notion that, at some point in the future, someone will be capable of taking value from his writing. Yet, it's not a reasonable act of hope. It might be called an act of faith if he had any faith that his hope would come to fruition.

But, there's another element to his writing.

He was already dead, he reflected. It seemed to him that it was only now, when he had begun to be able to formulate his thoughts, that he had taken the decisive step. The consequences of every act are included in the act itself. He wrote:

Thoughtcrime does not entail deat: thoughcrime IS death.


He's committing suicide. I don't think that's what Orwell necessarily intended. But, I think that's what Winston Smith is doing. He doesn't have much power in the world. Even the power to control what goes on inside his own head is severely limited. His memory of a world before Oceana is indistinct, more a memory of having once been a child than anything.

Based on what he knows of how Oceana works, he can do something to make it all stop.

Looking at his situation. Noting the times when I felt that I couldn't escape things. Yeah, it's easier for me to see myself in him, faults and all, knowing that.

He's still not to the point of committing suicide directly. He's still conflicted regarding that most basic question of "to be or not to be" (not that Oceana will let Hamlet be available to anybody). So, the chapter ends off with him swiping some dust onto his diary, so that he might be able to tell if it's been tampered with.

Wow, only two posts on this chapter. This might go faster than I thought.

Seed of Bismuth

Date: 2017-02-27 05:40 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
"Wow, only two posts on this chapter. This might go faster than I thought." prediction this will now take you 5 years minimum to complete just because you pissed of causality with that sentence - ta

Date: 2017-04-03 09:45 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
i'd enjoy this book much more if i didn't dislike Winston so strongly. UGH. and he's so closely aligned with the narrative voice that i can't tell if we're meant to dislike him, or see him as an Everyman, or appreciate his rebellion, or or or or ...

(bluecarrot)

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