[personal profile] wingedbeast
Here we are at Part 3, where that which was set up will lead to pay-off. This will be the part of the series in which you are meant to be at your most uncomfortable and that's a tall order. We're already uncomfortable with the ever-present eyes of Big Brother and your neighbors watching you. We're already uncomfortable with the degree that the people around us are willing to believe the obviously untrue, or at least pretend to in order to go along with everybody else. And, we're already uncomfortable with whatever degree of empathy we have for Winston Smith.

To remind, Winston Smith fantasized about raping and murdering the woman who, eventually, turned out to be his girlfriend. In one occasion, prior to getting to know her, he's internally honest enough to admit that the only reason he didn't murder her when he had motive, means, and opportunity, was a lack of trust in his own physical capacities.

He's internally spiteful of those around him. He's a judgmental prick with regards to the choices of the Proles, respecting them only in the abstract. Whatever absence of emotional abuse levied toward his wife must have been only out of fear and propriety, for all the disrespect we see, in him, toward her in his memories of their time together.

The reasons to hate him are many and I still find myself empathizing with him. In the coming chapters, with what Winston goes through, it'll be easy to forget all those reasons to hate him. Because, right here, in this part, he's somebody being tortured and, in the modern language of the real world, aggressively gaslighted.

His survival method has failed. Before he even broke from it, the foreshadowing that he would find himself here, in a room where there are no windows and the lights are never off (where there is no darkness), was set forth. Whatever else his sins, here he is.

Let's take a look at who else is here.

One of the characters we meet is "the poet Ampleforth". I don't know why. We haven't met him thus far, but we do know that Syme, who did similar work, was similarly vaporized. So, I'm going to do a minor bit of mental work and, in my own mind, replace Ampleforth with Syme.

When discussing what it might have been that got him pulled into the tender mercies of Mini-Love, the person I deem to be Syme has the following to say.

'These things happen,' he began vaguely. 'I have been able to recall one instance-a possible instance. It was an indiscretion, undoubtedly. We were producing a definitive edition of the poems of Kipling. I allowed the word "God" to remain at the end at the end of a line. I could not help it!' he added almost indignantly, raising his face to look at Winston. 'It was impossible to change the line. The rhyme was "rod". Do you realize there are only twelve rhymes to "rod" in the entire language? For days I racked my brains. There was no other rhyme.

In Part 10 of this deconstruction, I identified Syme as the banality of evil. His survival method in Oceana, under the eyes of the Party, was to be just too useful, too valuable to throw away. In order to do that, however, he had to be too smart, too much an intellectual. That made him a potential threat.

For all the The Party claims to take care of the issue of ambition by examination and bringing the smart ones up to the Inner Party, they can't be perfect at that. They don't have a world-view that allows them to get better at judging people, because that would acknowledge some failure to the way they're doing things. Syme, as he is an intellectual and enjoys exercising his intellect, makes him, potentially, a threat to the power structure.

Of course, Syme/Ampleforth isn't a surprise to Winston. Parsons is a surprise to Winston.

'Thoughtcrime is a dreadful thing, old man,' he said sententiously. 'It's insidious. It can get hold of you without your even knowing it. Do you know how it got hold of me? In my sleep! Yes, that's a fact. There I was, working away, trying to do my bit-never knew I had any bad stuff in my mind at all. And then I started talking in my sleep. Do you know what they heard me saying?'

He sank his voice, like someone who is obliged for medical reasons to utter an obscenity.

'"Down with Big Brother!" Yes, I said that! Said it over and over again, it seems. Between you and me, old man, I'm glad they got me before it went any further. Do you know what I'm going to say to them when I go up before the tribunal? "Thank you," I'm going to say, "thank you for saving me before it was too late."'

'Who denounced you?' said Winston.

'It was my little daughter,'

There are a couple things to be said on that. One of which is that this hearkens back to something I skipped over, back in Chapter Six. The notion that your own nervous system could give away your thought-crime. It was quick enough and didn't come back until now, but now it's worth addressing.

Your worst enemy, he reflected, was your own nervous system. At any moment the tension inside you was liable to translate itself into some visible symptom. He thought of a man whom he had passed in the street a few weeks back: quite ordinary-looking man, a Party member, aged thirty-five or forty, tallish and thin, carrying a briefcase. They were a few metres apart when the left side of the man's face was suddenly contorted by a sort of spasm. It happened again just as they were passing one another: it was only a twitch, a quiver, rapid as the clicking of a camera shutter, but obviously habitual. He remembered thinking at the time: That poor devil is done for.

Whether we're talking these kinds of twitches or talking in one's sleep as a communication of thought-crime, I have to call bullshit. We know more about these things, today, then George Orwell did. The Party has little opportunity to learn. Stress can cause these kinds of nervous system issues, such as twitches or talking in sleep, to get worse, but it can't create them whole-cloth.

That said, even if the Party knew, I doubt they'd care. They don't need an actual criminal. That's not the point. The point is to publicly be known to have this power. The point is the constant reminder that you can't get away.

And, for that reason, even someone like Parsons is doomed. The keenness with which he approaches submission to The Party and Big Brother, the very reason that Winston thought him to be the one to survive, is his undoing.

I'll quote from a comment from the post back in part 14, by bluecarrot.

The Proles would be better-off if they could band together and work communally to cook and fix broken windows and tend children -- but who has the time and energy to organize that? Who's going to do the work of tending the groups so they don't self-destruct? Who's going to do the work to build trust in the first place (in a world with thoughtcrime) so that working together is even possible?

I didn't say it right away, but Parsons would be exactly the one in position. Keenness is his survival strategy. He organizes the neighborhood contributions to Hate Week, organizes for the Junior Anti-sex league and for the Spies. He gets to know people and does so in a context that The Party wouldn't be able to prove was seditious.

Nothing in his personality suggests that Parsons would do anything seditious with his position. But, he could, quite easily. It wouldn't need to be out of a desire for a new revolution, just out of the base seeing of a need. That kind of thing could, conceivably, grow.

The problem is that since The Party wouldn't be able to prove sedition in its presence, it certainly can't prove its absence. The Party doesn't wait for guilt. It assumes guilt. It waits for the opportunity. And, it will construct the opportunity.

'They got me a long time ago' said O'Brien with a mild, almost regretful irony.

A long time ago. That would mean before even the beginning of the book. That would mean back before Winston bought his diary. That would mean that, when O'Brien gave Winston that one line of meeting where there is no darkness, the decision to do this to Winston had already been made. Everything else was just details.

On a long enough timeline, everybody goes to room 101. On a long enough timeline, everybody is broken. O'Brien, throughout the rest of this book, should be remembered to be a man who's will has been broken by the system.



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