[personal profile] wingedbeast
Chapter 5, I've been looking forward to this one. In the previous chapters, we mainly have characterization for Winston Smith and for Oceana in general. Yes, we have Mrs. Parsons, but she's less a character and more just an example of the put-upon-ness of parents in Oceana. The narrator had far more interest in her husband than in she, herself.

In this chapter, my view of Winston Smith as something of a burnout-kid only gets more credible (at least in my mind, feel free to argue). But, here's where I get to express my view that Winston Smith isn't so much a whole person as he is a survival method in Oceana.

Winston Smith tries to maintain something of himself, his own mind, some means of retaining some measure of control over his own existence. It's only in these small ways, at least so far. He's no rebel. He's just like a lot of us become in our teens, becoming cynical about things we can only barely comprehend. That cynicism is... not always wrong.

But, let's meat Syme, who represents another survival method in Oceana.

Syme was a philologist, a specialist in newspeak. Indeed, he was one of the enormous team of experts now engaged in compiling the Eleventh Edition of the Newspeak Dictionary. He was a tiny creature, smaller than Winston, with dark hair and large, protruberant eyes, at once mournful and derisive, which seemed to search your face closely while he was speaking to you.


Syme is responsible for Newspeak, for the words that make their way into the language and... we'll get to reverse. As far as Winston knows, Syme is entirely orthodox.

He would talk with a disagreeable gloating satisfaction of helicopter raids on enemy villages, the trials and confessions of thought-criminals, the executions in the cellars of the Ministry of Love. Talking to him was largely a matter of getting him away from such subjects and entangling him, if possible, in the technicalities of Newspeak, on which he wsa authoritative and interesting.


Syme is... the banality of evil. Another way to put it could be to think of Syme as Umbridge from the Harry Potter series. (I didn't come up with this interpretation of Umbridge, myself. Thank the commentariat (yes, spellcheck, that is a word) over at http://www.anamardoll.com for this view.) Umbridge wasn't inherently evil so much as amoral and loyal. That loyalty lead her to believe the official word on how Voldemort was dead and to punish Harry Potter for saying otherwise.

Given that same level of amoral loyalty to a good cause and she'd be very useful... if not someone to be trusted with power or a position of judgment. Syme, similarly shows every outward sign of believing fully in the cause of Big Brother and more than that, just an appreciation of doing his job.

'How is the Dictionary getting on?' said Winston raising his voice to overcome the noise.

'Slowly,' said Syme. 'I'm on the adgectives. It's fascinating.'
...
'The Eleventh Edition is the definitive edition,' he said. 'We're getting the language into its final shape-the shape it's going to have when nobody speaks anything else. When we've finished with it, people like you will have to learn it all over again. You think, I dare say, that our chief job is inventing new words. But not a bit of it! We're destroying words-scores of them, hundreds of them, every day. We're cutting the language down to the bone. The Eleventh Edition won't contain a single word that will become obsolete before the year 2050.'

He bit hungrily into his bread and swallowed a couple mouthfuls, then continued speaking, with a sort of pedant's passion. His thin dark face had become animated, his eeyes had lost their mocking expression and grown almost dreamy.


Well... here's another job that I kind of envy. At least, I envy the job-satisfaction. Syme is smart, detail oriented, perhaps even a geek for his kind of work. He enjoys the intellectual exercise of it and the accomplishment of it. If only it weren't in the effort of evil. He even admits that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought... something that I might have to tackle in another part of this deconstruction.

We'll get into a bit of the details of Newspeak in a bit, its intentions and... how actually accomplishable they really are. But, let's go back to looking at Syme as a survival technique in Oceana. Syme keeps himself loyal and plays his part of a good citizen(as opposed to Winston's attempts to keep his head down) and, most of all, he stays useful. Give him a job within his skill-set and he'll do that job.

Here, we also meet Parsons, not well liked by Syme.

Parsons has a similar survival strategy, but slightly different.

Parsons, Winston's fellow-tenant at Victory Mansions, was in fact threading his way across the room-a tubby, middle-sized man with fair hair and a froglike face. At thirty-five he was already putting on rolls of fat at the neck and waistline, but his movements were brisk and boyish. His whole appearance was that of a little boy grown large, so much so that although he was wearing the regulation overalls, it was impossible not to think of him as being dressed in the blue shorts, grey shirt and red neckerchief of the Spies. In visualising him one saw always a picture of dimpled knees and sleeves rolled back from pudgy forearms.


Childish is a good way to describe Parsons' strategy. But, to get the full understanding of his strategy, listen to how he defends and describes his children on the topic of the incident earlier, in chapter 2, and their desire to go see an execution.

'Ah, well-what I mean to say, shows the right spirit, doesn't it? Mischievous little beggars they are, both of them, but talk about keenness! All they think about is the Spies, and the war, of course. D'you know what that little girl of mine did last Saturday, when her troop was on a hike out Berkhamsted way? She got two other girls to go with her, slipped off from the hike and spent the whole afternoon following a strange man. They kept on his tail for two hours, right through the woods, and then, when they got into Amersham, handed him over to the patrols.'

'What did they do that for?' asked Winston, somewhat taken aback. Parsons went on triumphantly:

'My kid made sure he was some kind of enemy agent-might have dropped by parachute, for instance. But here's the point, old boy. What do you think put her onto him in the first place? She spotted he was wearing a funny kind of shoes-said she'd never seen anyone wearing shoes like that before. So the chances were he was a foreigner. Pretty smart for a nipper of seven, eh?'


There's an off-hand suggestion that the man might have faced execution, to which the approved response is approval from Syme, Winston, and Parsons.

Parsons' survival strategy is best used in his own word for his children, "keenness". Parsons is keen. He's not ambitious (not that there'd be much to do with that ambition in Oceana). He's not as smart as Syme and possibly not as smart as Winston. What he is, how he tries to get along in Oceana, is excitedly enthusiastic for his part as a good citizen... keen.

Translated to a school dynamic, Winston is the burnout, Syme is the studious geek who enjoys his studies and exercising his mind, and Parsons isn't one of the popular kids, but certainly has a lot of school spirit.

By Winston's estimation, Parsons is the one who could survive. Winston doesn't think he'll last a year.

Of Syme...

There was something that he lacked: discretion, aloofness, a sort of saving stupidity. You could not say that he was unorthodox. He believed in the principles of Ingsoc, he venerated Big Brother, he rejoiced over victories, he hated heretics, not merely with sincerity, but with a sort of restless zeal, an up-to-dateness of information, which the ordinary Party member did not approach. Yet a faint air of disreputably always clung to him. He said things that would have been better unsaid, he had read too many books, he frequented the Chestnut Tree Cafe, haunt of painters and musicians. There was no law, not even an unwritten law, against frequenting the Chestnut Tree Cafe, yet the place was somehow ill-omened. The old, discredited leaders of the Party had been used to gather there before they were finally purged. Goldstein himself, it was said, had sometimes been there, years and decades ago.


Winston, as stated before, isn't good at seeing other people as having inner lives. I imagine that Syme is, if anything, good enough at playing the part. But, he's too smart not to see the issues. Perhaps he imagines that, by being smart enough to play along, Oceana will take that as good enough. But, I suppose that's the point, whether or not Syme does have an inner life, it's all too possible that he could develop one at any point.

Winston has a different view of Parsons.

For some reason Winston suddenly found himself thinking of Mrs Parsons, with her wispy hair and the dust in the creases of her face. Within two years those children would be denouncing her to the Thought Police. Mrs Parsons would be vaporized. Syme would be vaporized. Winston would be vaporized. O'Brien would be vaporized. Parsons, on the other hand, would never be vaporized.


Again, Winston isn't good at seeing past the surface of people. But, Parsons is a man that makes that easy, because he presents a man who puts everything so close to the surface that he just doesn't seem to have room for anything else.

In school, Winston, Syme, and Parsons wouldn't be the popular kids. But, in terms of who makes a good impression on the teachers, Parsons would be it. That might lend to Winston's view of Parsons as the one who would survive in Oceana, who wouldn't be vaporized.

But, Winston's already been wrong about a few things.
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