[personal profile] wingedbeast
Chapter eight, now. Here's where we get something important happening. Winston and Julia, approaching separately to allow for a potential thought that they both happened to be coming, coincidentally, at the same time, go to O'Brien's home.

As an Inner Party member, O'Brien lives in a gated community. He lives in a wealthy community. He has servants and access to things like real tobacco. More will come, but the most important luxury of the Inner Party is that O'Brien can turn off the telescreen.

This is immediately shocking. Julia is so taken aback that she can't speak and Winston is so taken aback that he can't hold his tongue. O'Brien can turn off the telescreen.

There's an element that Winston and Julia might not have noticed and Orwell might not have noticed himself... or he might have intended for us not to notice. But, it's impossible for us, today, not to notice. It's a part of cyber-security.

Just because your computer is off doesn't mean the built-in webcam is off. You would have no way of knowing. Some cyber-stalker might find this or some shadowy element of the government or any conspiracy will do. But, it is a technical reality that we live with in 2017 that Orwell may not have predicted.

Or, he may have.

'Shall I say it, or will you?' he [O'Brien] said.

'I will say it,' said Winston promptly. 'That thing really is turned off?'

'Yes, everything is turned off. We are alone.'

'We are here because---'

He paused, realising for the first time the vagueness of his own motives. Since he did not in fact know what kind of help he expected from O'Brien, it was not easy to say why he had come here. He went on, conscious that what he was saying must sound both feeble and pretentious:

'We believe that there is some kind of conspiracy, some kind of secret organisation working against the Party, and that you are involved in it. We want to join it and work for it. We are enemies of the Party. We disbelieve in the principles of Ingsoc. We are thought-criminals. We are also adulterers. I tell you this because we want to put ourselves at your mercy. If you want us to incriminate ourselves in any other way, we are ready.'


Well, after I've been so angry with Winston for doing nothing and thinking highly of himself for it, he's put his money where his mouth is. Neither I nor Winston himself know what Winston hopes to accomplish with any of this. But, he's doing it. He's taken the risk and made the plunge on nothing more than the thought that, maybe, it might lead to him accomplishing something.

And, O'Brien approves. He goes so far as to call forth his servant and have him bring wine to celebrate this new induction into this conspiracy.

Here's where something occurs to me. Young Adult literature, of which I am adult enough to enjoy as I do but perhaps not young enough, seems to have a consistent trope. Whether the works of Rick Riordan, Harry Potter (which starts out as children's literature but matures as it goes), or the Hunger Games, there seems to be a steady trope. In that trope, the main characters enter into an unusual world, one that has new dangers and new purpose, but is dressed in new indulgences.

Harry Potter has his chocolate frogs and ginger beer and pumpkin juice. The various Rick Riordan characters that find themselves in worlds of myth and legend with indulgences both familiar and strange, mixing the modern with the ancient myth. And, Katniss Everdeen gets an introduction not unlike that of Winston and Julia, a new world with the pleasures we of the old find common place.

It's a strange thing to notice, but it can't be said that Orwell took this trope from YA literature. It's also true that this trope is somewhat older, coming from tales of mortals who visit the realms of gods and Fair Folk. So, maybe Orwell isn't responsible for all of YA literature as it is today... but he's certainly had an influence.

Moving past that, we note something about O'Brien's conspiracy. His first drink is a toast to the leader of the conspiracy, Emmanuel Goldstein, that character I thought, so long ago, could be made whole-cloth, as a creation just so that people would have someone to hate. What's more, the dark conspiracy that the Party tells lower Party members and the Proles to fear, the Brotherhood, really exists with that name.

Now, I take this from the perspective of one who has read this before. It's hard for me to read this and not see that as a giant red flag. It would be as though I found my way into a force for liberal values and found it to be a conspiracy by George Soros to (insert antisemitic conspiracy theory here). I would find myself skeptical.

Then there are the questions that O'Brien asks of the two.

'You are prepared to give your lives?'
'Yes.'
'You are prepared to commit murder?'
'Yes.'
'To commit acts of sabotage which may cause the deaths of hundreds of innocent people?'
'Yes.'
'To betray your country to foreign powers?'
'Yes.'
'You are prepared to cheat, to forge, to blackmail, to corrupt the minds of children, to distribute habit-forming drugs, to encourage prostitution, to disseminate venereal diseases-to do anything which is likely to cause demoralisation and weaken the power of the Party?'
'Yes.'
'If, for example, it would somehow serve our interests to throw sulphuric acid in a child's face-are you prepared to do that?'
'Yes.'
'You are prepared to lose your identity and live out the rest of your life as a waiter or dock-worker?'
'Yes.'
'You are prepared to commit suicide, if and when we order you to do so?'
'Yes.'
'You are prepared, the two of you, to separate and never see one another again?'
'No!' broke in Julia.


On this reread, what strikes me is how wrongheaded this is as the initial questioning. There's no question about Winston's skills or abilities or positioning. Certainly, from his position, he could sneak in a word here a capitalization there that could spread coded messages. But, the questions are nothing about what he can do but about hwo evil he could be.

For Winston's side in this, I can see why he might say "yes". If he hasn't noticed what's going on, any of those could be a lesser evil to letting the Party go on as they are. Yes, that includes throwing acid in the face of a child. But, what Winston should notice is that questions are less about his utility to some secret conspiracy and more to do with propaganda.

In the tales of witchcraft and devil worship, there's always the evils done. Child sacrifice, blasphemy, repressed memories, etc. All of this despite the fact that, as I've said before, it just plays into the hands of divine expectation. It would almost be as though these are created not for effectiveness but so that those agreeing can be made to seem worse than the alternative.

I guess I can't fault Winston for not seeing any of this. But I can fault myself for not seeing it on the first read.

The rules of the conspiracy are put forth. They'll never be attached to more than a small number of conspirators. They'll often work on projects for reasons of which they have no means of guessing. They may be instructed to commit suicide. They'll put on the face of loyal citizens of Oceana. They'll... do exactly the same but thinking they're working against the Party.

And, sometime in the future, Winston will get his own copy of Goldstein's book. Reading that book will make him a member of the Brotherhood.

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