1984 Nineteen Eighty-Four: Novel Summary

Part 1 Chapter 1: The opening lines of 1984 introduce readers to Winston Smith, Orwells main protagonist, as he returns to his dismal apartment in Victory Mansion on a gritty, cold, early spring afternoon. As Winston moves through his cabbage-smelling building he barely notices a poster of Big Brother, “an enormous face, more than a meter wide: the face of a man of about forty-five, with a heavy black mustache and ruggedly handsome face” (p. 3). Plastered all over London, posters of Big Brother and Party slogans “War is Peace,” “Freedom is Slavery,” and “Ignorance is Strength,” constantly remind citizens that their country, Oceania, belongs to the omnipotent, omnipresent Party and that citizens must obey Party rules or face the Thought Police.Upon reaching his apartment, Winston cautiously begins to write in his new diary. The telescreen in his apartment can see and hear everything that he does, so Winston forces himself to stay calm as his mind races with anxiety. Winston recalls the incident at his work, The Ministry of Truth, that prompted him to buy the diary. Earlier that morning, Winston had made eye contact with OBrien, a colleague and member of the Inner Party (Winston belongs to the Outer Party), during the Two Minutes Hate. Winston finds this incident deeply significant because not only is it dangerous to make eye contact with people who could be spies, but Winston senses that he and OBrien share a common hatred of the Party. Winston hopes to make contact with OBrien again in the future to see if, in fact, OBrien shares his beliefs.Winstons memories of the morning encounter reveal a lot of information about the world in 1984. Orwell introduces readers to Newspeak, the language developed and employed by the Party, and to Emmanuel Goldstein, a mythic Party traitor who is rumored to lead The Brotherhood in a revolt against Big Brother. Orwell also introduces readers to Julia, whose name Winston does not yet know. A member of the Junior Anti-Sex League, Julia appears dangerous to Winston because she behaves like a “thoughtcrime” spy. Having introduced all of the main characters and symbols-Winston, OBrien, Julia, Big Brother, and Goldstein-Orwell closes the chapter with Winston committing a dramatic thoughtcrime by writing “Down with Big Brother” in his diary.Part 1 Chapter 2: A harsh knock on the door interrupts Winston as he scribbles thoughtcrimes in his diary. For a moment, Winston believes that the telescreen and the Thought Police have already caught him so he is relieved to find his neighbor, Mrs. Parsons, at his door. As Winston enters Mrs. Parsons apartment to help her with her sink, he meets the Parsons children, both Junior Spies. The children harass Winston, calling him a Thought Criminal, a Goldstein, and a Eurasian spy. The Parsons family represent the average Outer Party, Oceania family. They dedicate themselves fully and without question to the Party and, if provoked, would not hesitate to turn Winston over to the Thought Police.When Winston returns to his apartment, he returns to his diary and his thoughts of OBrien. Although he cannot explain why, Winston connects OBrien with a dream that he once had. In his dream, Winston “that he was walking through a pitch-dark 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” (p. 26). The telescreen interrupts Winstons reverie with news about the war against Eurasia and an announcement of the impending chocolate ration. The chapter closes with more references to Newspeak, Party slogans, and INGSOC, the “scared principles” upon which the Party was built. Reflecting on INGSOC, Winston feels lost: “He felt as though he were wandering in the forests of the sea bottom, lost in a monstrous world where he himself was the monster. 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” (p. 27).