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Here are my STUDY NOTES AND REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR CHAPTER 1. The rest of the notes are available with Membership. To become a member, please go to SERVICES.
Before starting to read, think of these 2 concepts:
UTOPIA (perfect, unreal society in which everyone is happy and everything is “good” and “right) & DYSTOPIA (also unreal; a society that is so corrupted, there is nothing “right” in it)
“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” (1st line of the book)
What is “wrong” with this sentence? – Obviously time is measured differently from our way of measuring it.
We meet the main character, Winston, 39 yrs old; has a little “handicap;” a varicose ulcer in his leg.
“BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU”
Winston comes home from work, to his apartment at the “Victory Mansions”(which is an ironic name because the apartment building is actually quite run down, old and raggedy).
Winston works at the Ministry of Truth and is part of the “Party,” which, we can assume is the ruling government. He lives in London, which is the “chief city” of Airstrip One, a province in the country of Oceania. Winston is sitting home, his back turned away from the “telescreen,” which is a two-way TV – the telescreen serves as a TV but is also a device that allows the government to watch and listen to people in their own homes.
From his window, Winston can see the Ministry of Truth (Minitrue) in Newspeak (the language of Oceania) and the slogans painted on it:
WAR IS PEACE
- War can bring peace? – through war, eventually a country can get peace
- By constantly maintaining a state of war, the government controls the citizens by convincing them to stay united against a common/outside enemy
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
- Freedom is a burden because you have to accept responsibility too; if the Party thinks and makes the decisions for you, you are spared from the “burden” of thinking
- If you are “free” from control, you are a slave of your own thoughts and desires
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH
- People who just “believe” and follow orders, without questioning their leaders, draw strength from their beliefs – they are strong in their beliefs
4 buildings tower in London – they are each corresponding to one of the 4 Ministries:
Minitrue – Ministry of Truth – in charge of news, entertainment, education and fine arts
Minipax – Ministry of Peace – in charge of war
Miniluv – Ministry of Love – maintain law and order
Miniplenty – Ministry of Plenty – in charge of economic affairs
This is a special evening for Winston – sitting in a small alcove, he manages to be completely out of the line of view of the telescreen. He has bought a notebook and an old ink-pen and he is starting a diary. Why is this a big deal? It is not illegal because, Winston says, there are no longer any laws, but, one could definitely be sentenced to death for such an action.
Who is he writing for? Winston is asking himself this question; maybe some future generations; but he has doubts that his writing will make any difference.
Winston’s first diary entry is about going to the movies the night before. He describes a scene in the movie which is terribly gory; a ship of refugees is being bombed and people are trying to escape; a boat full of children is being bombed by a helicopter and everyone who is sitting in the “Party seats,” is laughing and enjoying this; but a “prole” woman is “kicking up a fuss,” and gets kicked out of the movies for saying that such goriness should not be shown in front of the kids.
Winston remembers an “incident” that happened at his work:
We meet 2 more characters (which will be important in the book)
A girl with dark hair, a freckled face (pretty) but who wears a red sash (emblem of the Anti-Sex League); Winston is afraid of her; she seems dangerous.
O’Brien – he is a member of the “Inner Party” – he is in a high position with the party. Unlike the girl, O’Brien makes Winston feel comfortable; Winston thinks this man is intelligent looking and he has a feeling that O’Brien is not totally brainwashed by the Party. Winston says that O’Brien is the sort of guy one feels “you could talk to;” (we will see later whether or not his impressions on these two people are right or wrong)
Two Minute Hate – everyone is required to attend the “Two Minutes Hate” – this is a organized get-together during which the Party members are shown images of “traitors” and “defilers” of the Party; especially one individual named Goldstein; and the members take this opportunity to express their rage by yelling, crying, shaking their fists at the telescreen, etc. Goldstein represents some sort of underground movement which is feared and hated in the same time; he is supposedly controlling some movement intended to de-throne the Party, called “The Brotherhood,” and he is supposedly the author of a book, referred to simply as “the book.”
Why is the Party insisting on the Two Minute Hate?
Partly because it is a way to remind people of the constant “threat” of a shadowy enemy (represented by Goldstein, Eurasia or Eastasia); but partly this is a form of control because it allows people to voice their frustrations (this is a legal outlet for people to express their hatred and frustrations; which is often directed against Big Brother and the Party and the Thought Police) but many people do not realize who they really hate.
During the “Hate” Winston is actually screaming along with everyone but he realizes that his hatred is against the Party and he feels a connection with those “renegades” in the underground movement.
During this time, Winston realizes there are many things he hates and one of the things he hates is the “dark-haired girl,” because she is so young and pretty and “sexless,” that Winston gets all these crazy fantasies about her and his hatred seems to go against her and all women like her; women he cannot have.
At the end of the “Two Minutes Hate,” O’Brien and Winston have an exchange of glances – Winston seems to recognize in O’Brien’s eyes the same contempt and hatred for the Party that he himself feels.
Winston realizes he had been writing “Down with Big Brother” in his diary. He is scared by his own actions although he realizes that this is not a bigger deal than buying the diary or opening it; his biggest crime is “thoughtcrime” (to think badly of Big Brother) and he knows that sooner or later he will be caught by the Thought Police, snatched from his bed in the middle of the night and “vaporized,” which means that the whole memory of him will be erased. As he is thinking these thoughts, he hears a knock on the door.