[personal profile] wingedbeast
Well, if I wanted to get through this deconstruction with any kind of speed, Orwell helped me out. In Chapter five, not much happens. Syme disappears, to be commented on by some on the first day, then not commented on at all. The rest of the chapter is focused on re-establishing what we already know.

The rented room is, psychologically, very important to Winston. The owner of the antiques shop likes to talk about the past and Winston has imbued the past with a spirit that I don't think it really deserves. We rehash the fact of Winston having, for a few minutes, had that picture of people who had been vaporized. Julia doesn't care about such things. Despite viewing the Party to be a bunch of liars, she doesn't think to reject what they say except where the Party touches on her life. Winston outright tells Julia that she's only a rebel from the waist down and she finds that brilliantly witty.

Most of that is told in somewhat florid exposition. In storytelling, there's "show, don't tell". Well, I get the impulse to tell. It's quicker. It's easier. In writing, it's hard to be exactly clear on what you want your readers and/or audience to know and to never actually tell them. But, what am I complaining about? I get to move on.

In Chapter six, something happens. O'Brien makes direct, personal contact with Winston. And, one thing I want to note about Winston is how he focuses on the wrong thing.

'I had been hoping for an opportunity of talking to you,' he [O'Brien] said. 'I was reading one of your Newspeak articles in the Times the other day. You take a scholarly interest in Newspeak, I believe?

Winston had recovered part of his self-possession. 'Hardly scholarly,' he said. 'I'm only an amateur. It's not my subject. I have never had anything to do with the actual construction of language.'

'But you write it very elegantly,' said O'Brien. 'That is not only my own opinion. I was talking recently to a friend of yours who is certainly an expert. His name has slipped my memory for the moment.'

Again Winston's heart stirred painfully. It was inconceivable that this was anything other than a reference to Syme. But Syme was not only dead, he was abolished, an unperson. Any identifiable reference to him would have been mortally dangerous. O'Brien's remark must obviously have been intended as a signal, a code-word.


Winston is focusing on the fact that Syme has disappeared and, to all available evidence, has been wiped from history. It would certainly be dangerous, particularly in front of a telescreen, to reference Syme specifically. But, in generalities, well... you have to keep some effects. Syme has acted. And, where someone worked on the Newspeak editions, that has to be referenced. The Party has limits.

But, if it was Syme, would Syme, Party Loyalist that we are to believe he was, tell an Inner Party member that Winston was elegant? Syme's opinion on Winston was that he wasn't eloquent. Syme's opinion was that Winston was competant at the language but didn't think in it. So, either Syme lied to O'Brien or O'Brien is stepping out of the truth in order to compliment Winston, something very safe as far as Party reaction is concerned.

By Winston's belief, this is by way of an excuse for O'Brien, in front of the omnipresent telescreens in the Ministry of Truth, to give Winston his address. As such, it would be both a signal of being allies in a rebellion and a cover for giving the information by which Winston would make use of that alliance.

And, just to fill things out, let's go over chapter eight as well. Winston, yet again, talks about a dream and about memories of his youth. It was early in the post-revolution time frame. His father had already been disappeared and, in his childhood and hunger, he was, as Julia put it "a beastly little swine".

He was greedy for food (understandable given his hunger), stealing some from his baby sister. He had to be guarded against taking from the pantry. And, in a moment when the three of them were allotted a two-ounce slab of chocolate, he'd demanded the whole thing for himself. When his mother broke off three quarters and handed one to himself and one to his sister, he stole the chocolate from her and fled.

That had been the last time he'd ever seen his mother or sister. They might be dead. His mother might be in a work-camp while his sister might have gone into, like Winston himself, a colony for homeless children. Either way, they were out of his life entirely and the last moment he'd ever had with them was a moment of selfishness that, even then, he'd felt ashamed of.

He recalls the movie, from the beginning of the book, that included a woman trying, fruitlessly, to protect her child from a hale of bullets and likens it to his mother's gesture toward her daughter (who may or may not be dying). There was nothing else to give, but love, so love was the thing to give. It was entirely personal and useless in that it produced neither protection nor chocolate, but it was meaningful.

And this leads to one of the great sins of all societies.

The terrible thing that the Party had done was to persuade you that mere impulses, mere feelings, were of no account, while at the same time robbing you of all power over the material world.


In Oceana, that's because you're going to be disappeared either way, assuming that you survive long enough and don't kill yourself just before they catch you. In another society, that's because the odds are stacked against you by parts of the system that the system doesn't admit to itself and all means of protest are deemed improper, becoming the topic of discussion rather than what you are protesting. In a not-too-different society, that's because you're already living pay-check to pay-check and even considering a minor change would be considered "class warfare".

To Winston, this means that the Proles are the real humans and the Party Members aren't. He thinks that the Proles haven't been hardened on the inside and I will disagree. In part, I do this as defense of the Proles. High pedestals in low social strata are not a good place to be. It leaves one still without what they need, but with more restrictions.

In part, the reason Winston, as a Party Member, has more attention by the Party is because, as powerless as he is, he has more power. For as little as he has, he has rank. For as difficult as his life may be, he has the privileges that make it easier. And, as much as they have little attention from the Party, they also have poverty.

You'll recall that, when Julia got her supply of real bread, real jam, real tea, real coffee, and real chocolate, the supply had been stolen from those in the Inner Party. As industrious and innovative as the proles may be (and I have no reason to believe that they're not), they just don't have the resources.

What it takes a Party full of thought-police, ever-present telescreens, and a general paranoia about a world where all your associates really are out to get you to accomplish in Winston, poverty can do for the Proles. Not to mention that they're in largely the same boat.

Winston has an idea of humanity that is... common for Orwell's time. It was part of the language of optimism and idealism, the notion that humanity is, inherently, better than the animals. Winston sees, in himself, the things that bring him down. So, he sees himself as lesser and imagines the Proles as doing, somehow, better.

Yet, they have the same desperation. They have poverty and the omnipresent Ministry of Truth as their only source of information and a world full of people who could get the rewards of patriotism by denouncing their neighbors.

Winston, don't go idealizing people who have enough trouble just surviving. That can be as bad as hating them. The two are sides of the same coin. Remember your thoughts when they fought over tin sauce-pans.

Still, in this chapter, we do get two bits of motion. Julia says that, if Winston tries to be a more impactful rebel, she will support him in that. She's good at staying alive, but she'll support him despite the risks.

And, he notes that it's important that they not betray each other. Oh, it's a certainty that they'll, when found, confess and name names. But, they shouldn't stop loving each other, because the Party will try to do that.

Being that I'm rereading this, I know he's right. But, I also know he's right because I live in a society and, as I've said before, all societies share these sins. One of those sins is to try to manipulate people into not feeling the inconvenient emotions.

Anger and a lack of immediate forgiveness can be turned into a sin. Lack of appreciation for your lot in life can be a sin. Lack of ambition can be a sin. Not being angry enough can be a sin. The narrow set of correct emotions is... everywhere.

Sometimes, Winston isn't entirely wrong.

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