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1984 – Book Summary

The novel, published in 1949, takes place in 1984 and presents an imaginary future where a totalitarian state controls every aspect of life, even people’s thoughts. The state is called Oceania and is ruled by a group known as the Party; its leader and dictator is Big Brother.

Winston Smith, the central character, is a thirty-nine year old man living in London. He secretly hates the Party and decides to rebel by starting a diary in which he reveals his rebellious thoughts. Through keeping a diary, Winston commits thoughtcrime and knows that one day he will be discovered by the Thought Police and probably killed.

Winston is fascinated by “proles,” the lowest class in the social hierarchy of Oceania. They are the only group allowed to live pretty much as they like without heavy police surveillance. He befriends Mr. Charrington, the prole owner of a junk-shop, who shares his interest in the past and life before the rule of Big Brother.

At work, a dark-haired girl who works in another department approaches Winston in the corridor. She pretends to fall and hurt herself; when he helps her up she slips a piece of paper into his hand. It says “I love you.” Winston is surprised and disturbed by this; any sexual relationship between Party members is strictly forbidden. Nevertheless, he is intrigued. They secretly arrange to meet in the country. He begins a love affair with the girl, who finally introduces herself as Julia. They have to be very cautious and meet in places that aren’t watched: a clearing in the woods, an old church. Winston and Julia eventually rent the room above Mr. Charrington’s junk-shop as a long-term private place for the two of them.

A member of the Inner Party, O’Brien, finds an excuse to give Winston his home address, an unusual event. Winston, noticeably excited, has always believed O’Brien may not be politically orthodox and could sympathize with his hatred of the Party. Winston and Julia go to see O’Brien and he enlists them into the Brotherhood, a secret organization dedicated to fighting Big Brother. He arranges to give Winston a copy of “The Book,” a document that contains the truth about Big Brother and the development of the super-states. Winston and Julia go to their room above the junk-shop to read the book. The Thought Police burst in to arrest them and they discover that Mr. Charrington is a Thought Police agent. They are taken separately to the Ministry of Love. There, Winston learns that O’Brien is in fact an orthodox government agent and has deliberately tricked him. O’Brien takes charge of the process of “re-integrating” Winston, torturing and brainwashing him until he fully believes in the Party and its doctrines. As the final step of this process, Winston is forced to betray his love for Julia, and his feelings for her are destroyed.

Winston is released to live out his final days as a broken man. Soon, the Thought Police will execute him. Winston has submitted completely and loves Big Brother.

via FREE 1984 Plot Summary |

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