"He obeyed the Party, but he still hated the Party.
In his mind he had surrendered, but he kept his inner heart inviolate.
He must keep his hatred locked up inside him
like a ball of matter which was part of himself
and yet unconnected with the rest of him,
a kind of cyst."
WINSTON HID HIS HATE
"To die hating them, that was freedom."
To Orwell Today,
re: WHY O'BRIEN WATCHED WINSTON
I finished reading Ninteen Eighty-Four last night [December 23, 2007] and I was disgusted with what I thought were plot holes. I searched the internet to see if anybody was talking about the things I didn't understand. Today I reread some parts which filled in some of the gaps in my understanding, but the principal thing I wasn't getting was how did O'brien seem to be able to read Winston's mind. Along with that was why did he not erase Winston when he realized that he was a thought criminal. Why didn't they erase all thought criminals right away?
You answered both questions to me in your answer to Kellie's email, "Why O'brien watched Winston." One of my other problems was that it seemed that Carrington and O'brien actually contributed to Winston's crimes, exacerbating his condition, so to speak. Carrington, who is later revealed to be a member of the thought police, deliberately sells him the diary and lets him rent the room. Before I was wary of that, I was wary of the fact that it took them so long to get caught. In the type of society described, it seemed that anyone who deviated from their normal routine more than twice would get caught by the thought police, but Winston and Julia went to the country, to the church, and to their love nest numerous times. They could have even deliberately made sure he saw the picture of Jones, Aaronson and Rutherford.
But all of this makes sense when you consider that they were listening to him to get enough information on him to break him down for his re-education. And as for them actually contributing to his criminality or even committing crimes themselves, as you said, the crimes weren't important to them, but the thoughts.
Again I thank you. This was really bothering me. I'd tried to let it go, but I couldn't. Most reviews of the book I read were positive, but I was really hating it after I read it, so I figured the problem must not be the book but my understanding of it, and I was determined to find out what I had missed.
I'm so glad you pursued that gap in your understanding because it is one that is confusing to many others as well, ie why Big Brother allowed Winston to get away with thoughtcrime for so long, ie the answer being that O'Brien wanted to know as much about Winston's inner mind as possible in order to erase it later.
Another important concept of "1984" that angers people toward Orwell (including myself until I came to a greater understanding) is how Winston seemingly loses in the end and loves Big Brother. I wrote about it a few years back in the email exchange WINSTON EXISTED, STILL EXISTS.
Two very important themes to read are 43.Winston Talks in Sleep and 45.Chestnut Tree Cafe because there Orwell explains how long Big Brother had been watching Winston commit thoughtcrime and Winston's secret tactic for continuing to commit thoughtcrime and get away with it:
"...He knew now that for seven years the Thought Police had watched him like a beetle under a magnifying glass. There was no physical act, no word spoken aloud, that they had not noticed, no train of thought that they had not been able to infer. Even the speck of whitish dust on the cover of his diary they had carefully replaced. They had played sound-tracks to him, shown him photographs. Some of them were photographs of Julia and himself. Yes, even. ... He could not fight against the Party any longer. Besides, the Party was in the right. It must be so: how could the immortal, collective brain be mistaken? By what external standard could you check its judgements? Sanity was statistical. It was merely a question of learning to think as they thought...
"Everything was easy, except - - ! Suddenly, like a lump of submerged wreckage breaking the surface of the water, thoughts would burst into Winston's mind saying: "No, somewhere, outside of oneself, there is a 'real' world where 'real' things happen."
"He realized these thoughts ought never to have occurred to him. The mind should develop a blind spot whenever a dangerous thought presented itself. The process should be automatic, instinctive. Crimestop, they called in in Newspeak. He set to work to exercise himself in crimestop. He presented himself with propositions - "The Party says the earth is flat," "The Party says that ice is heavier than water" - and trained himself in not seeing or not understanding the arguments that contradicted them. It was not easy. It needed great powers of reasoning and improvisation. The arithmetical problems raised, for instance, by such a statement as "two and two make five" were beyond his intellectual grasp. It needed also a sort of athleticism of mind, and abiltity at one moment to make the most delicate use of logic and at the next to be unconscious of the crudest logical errors. Stupidity was as necessary as intelligence, and as difficult to attain.
"All the while, with one part of his mind, he wondered how soon they would shoot him....The one certain thing was that death never came at an expected moment. The tradition - the unspoken tradition: somehow you knew it, though you never heard it said - was that they shot you from behind: always in the back of the head, without warning, as you walked down a corridor from cell to cell....
"He obeyed the Party, but he still hated the Party. In the old days he had hidden a heretical mind beneath an appearance of conformity. Now he had retreated a step further: in the mind he had surrendered, but he had hoped to keep the inner heart inviolate. Mere control of your facial features was not enough. For the first time he perceived that if you want to keep a secret you must also hide it from yourself. You must know all the while that it is there, but until it is needed you must never let it emerge into your consciousness in any shape that could be given a name. From now onwards he must not only think right; he must feel right, dream right. And all the while he must keep his hatred locked up inside him like a ball of matter which was part of himself and yet unconnected with the rest of him, a kind of cyst....
"One day they would decide to shoot him. You could not tell when it would happen, but a few seconds beforehand it should be possible to guess. It was always from behind, walking down a corridor. Ten seconds would be enough. In that time the world inside him could turn over. And then suddenly, without a word uttered, without a check in his step, without the changing of a line in his face — suddenly the camouflage would be down and bang! would go the batteries of his hatred. Hatred would fill him like an enormous roaring flame. And almost in the same instant bang! would go the bullet, too late, or too early. They would have blown his brain to pieces before they could reclaim it. The heretical thought would be unpunished, unrepented, out of their reach for ever. They would have blown a hole in their own perfection. To die hating them, that was freedom..."
A couple weeks ago, in response to a reader's question about five ways "1984" is evident in 2007, I was reminded of the poem "How Do I Love Thee, Let Me Count the Ways" and adapted it to "How Do I Hate Thee" with the "thee" being Big Brother. See COUNTING BIG BROTHER WAYS.
In adapting Elizabeth Barrett Browning's masterpiece it hit home how powerful poetry can be, and why - even more so - that poem is a classic. It expresses not only LOVE in a powerful way but also - in its exact opposite - it expresses HATE in a way that Orwell's Winston would relate to:
"How do I hate Big Brother?
Let me count the ways...
I hate Big Brother with a hate I seem to gain...
I hate Big Brother with the breath,
smiles, tears, of all my life!
--- and, if God choose,
I shall hate Big Brother better after death.
All the best,
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~