"As you lie there," said O'Brien, "you have often wondered
why the Ministry of Love should expend so much time and trouble on you.
Do you remember writing in your diary
'I understand how : I do not understand why '?"


"You are a flaw in the pattern, Winston.
You are a stain that must be wiped out.
We are not content with negative obedience,
nor with the most abject submission.
We do not destroy the heretic because he resists us:
so long as he resists us we never destroy him.
We convert him, we capture his inner mind, we reshape him.
We make him one of ourselves before we kill him.
It is intolerable to us that an erroneous thought
should exist anywhere in the world,
however secret and powerless it may be."

To Orwell Today,


I have a question about Winston and Julia.

Why do you think O'Brien and his cronies spent so much time reprogramming Winston and Julia? Why weren't they both immediately evaporated? It seems inconsistent with all we know about INGSOC that there was so much time devoted to these two "nobodies."

-Gary Plotkin

Greetings Gary,

Actually, Winston wasn't a "nobody" - he was symbolically "the last man in Europe" (Orwell's working title while he was writing 1984) or, more symbolically, he was "the spirit of man" - the force that could defeat Big Brother.

And Julia, through Winston and on her own merit, wasn't a "nobody" either. Both of them were outer-Party-member thought criminals and enemies of the Party and, if allowed to die hating Big Brother, would become martyrs to the cause capable of inspiring others to oppose and resist Big Brother.

That's why O'Brien and his cronies - fellow inner-Party members of Big Brother's brotherhood, devoted so much time attempting to wipe their slates clean.

Here it is, straight from the horse's mouth, where Orwell has Winston ask the exact same question you asked, and he answers it through O'Brien (during an electric-shock-brainwashing session) in the excerpt below:

Big Brother Tells Winston Why

..."Shall I tell you why we have brought you here, Winston? To cure you! To make you sane! Will you understand, Winston, that no one whom we bring to this place ever leaves our hands uncured? We are not interested in those stupid crimes that you have committed. The Party is not interested in the overt act: the thought is all we care about. We do not merely destroy our enemies, we change them....The first thing for you to understand is that in this place there are no martyrdoms. You have read of the religious persecutions of the past. In the Middle Ages there was the Inquisition. It was a failure. It set out to eradicate heresy, and ended by perpetuating it. For every heretic it burned at the stake, thousands of others rose up. Why was that? Because the Inquisition killed its enemies in the open, and killed them while they were still unrepentent: in fact, killed them because they were unrepentant. Men were dying because they would not abandon their true beliefs. Naturally all the glory belonged to the victim and all the shame to the Inquisitor who burned him....

Later, in the twentieth-century....the Russian Communists persecuted heresy more cruelly than the Inquisition had done. They had learned from the mistakes of the past. They knew that one must not make martyrs. Before they exposed their victims to public trial, they deliberately set themselves to destroy their dignity. They wore them down by torture and solitude until they were despicable, cringing wretches, confessing whatever was put into their mouths, covering themselves with abuse, accusing and sheltering behind one another, whimpering for mercy. And yet after only a few years the same thing had happened over again. The dead men had become martyrs and their degradation was forgotten. Once again, why was it? In the first place, because the confessions that they had made were obviously extorted and untrue. We do not make mistakes of that kind. All the confessions that are uttered here are true. We make them true. And above all we do not allow the dead to rise up against us. You must stop imagining that posterity will vindicate you, Winston. Posterity will never hear of you. You will be lifted clean out from the stream of history. We shall turn you into gas and pour you into the stratosphere. Nothing will remain of you -- not a name in a register, not a memory in a living brain. You will be annihilated in the past as well as in the future. You will never have existed."

"Then why bother to torture me?" thought Winston, with a momentary bitterness. O'Brien checked his step as though Winston had uttered the thought aloud. His large ugly face came nearer, with the eyes a little narrowed. "You are thinking," he said, "that since we intend to destroy you utterly, so that nothing that you say or do can make the smallest difference - in that case, why do we go to the trouble of interrogating you first? That is what you are thinking, was it not?"...."Yes," said Winston. O'Brien smiled slightly...."You are a flaw in the pattern, Winston. You are a stain that must be wiped out. Did I not tell you just now that we are different from the persecutors of the past? We are not content with negative obedience, nor with the most abject submission. When finally you surrender to us, it must be of your own free will. We do not destroy the heretic because he resists us: so long as he resists us we never destroy him. We convert him, we capture his inner mind, we reshape him. We burn all evil and all illusion out of him; we bring him over to our side, not in appearance, but genuinely, heart and soul. We make him one of ourselves before we kill him. It is intolerable to us that an erroneous thought should exist anywhere in the world, however secret and powerless it may be. Even in the instant of death we cannot permit any deviation. In the old days the heretic walked to the stake still a heretic, proclaiming his heresy, exulting in it. Even the victim of the Russian purges could carry rebellion locked up in his skull as he walked down the passage waiting for the bullet.

But we make the brain perfect before we blow it out. The command of the old despotisms was "Thou shalt not". The command of the totalitarians was "Thou shalt". Our command is "Thou art". No one whom we bring to this place ever stands out against us. Everyone is washed clean.... You will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty, and then we shall fill you with ourselves....

..."As you lie there," said O'Brien, "you have often wondered - you have even asked me - why the Ministry of Love should expend so much time and trouble on you. And when you were free you were puzzled by what was essentially the same question. You could grasp the mechanics of the Society you lived in, but not its underlying motives. Do you remember writing in your diary "I understand how: I do not understand why"?...

"Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power....The first thing you must realize is that power is collective. The individual only has power in so far as he ceases to be an individual.... The second thing for you to realize is that power is power over human beings. Over the body, but, above all, over the mind.... O'Brien said: "The real power, the power we have to fight for night and day is not power over things, but over men. How does one man assert power over another, Winston?" "By making him suffer," Winston said. "Exactly, by making him suffer. Obedience is not enough. Unless he is suffering, how can you be sure that he is obeying your will and not his own. Power is in inflicting pain and humiliation. Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing....

Already we are breaking down the habits of thought which have survived from before the Revolution. We have cut the links between child and parent, and between man and man, and between man and woman. No one dares trust a wife or a child or a friend any longer.... There will be no loyalty, except loyalty towards the Party. There will be no love, except the love of BIG BROTHER.... But always - do not forget this, Winston - always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - for ever."

He paused as though he expected Winston to speak. Winston had tried to shrink back into the surface of the bed again. He could not say anything. His heart seemed to be frozen. O'Brien went on: "And remember that it is for ever. The face will always be there to be stamped upon. The heretic, the enemy of society, will always be there, so that he can be defeated and humiliated over again.... You are beginning, I can see, to realize what that world will be like. But in the end you will do more than understand it. You will accept it, welcome it, become part of it."

Winston had recovered himself sufficiently to speak. "You can't!" he said weakly. "What do you mean by that remark, Winston?" "You could not create such a world as you have just described. It is a dream. It is impossible." "Why?" said O'Brien. "It would have no vitality. It would disintegrate. It would commit suicide." said Winston. "Nonsense", said O'Brien. "Can you not understand that the death of the individual is not death? The Party is immortal." As usual, the voice had battered Winston into helplessness. Moreover he was in dread that if he persisted in his disagreement O'Brien would twist the dial again. And yet he could not keep silent. Feebly, without arguments, with nothing to support him except his inarticulate horror of what O'Brien had said, he returned to the attack: "I don't know - I don't care. Somehow you will fail. Something will defeat you. Life will defeat you."

"We control life, Winston, at all its levels. You are imagining that there is something called human nature which will be outraged by what we do and will turn against us. But we create human nature. Men are infinitely malleable. Or perhaps you have returned to your old idea that the proletarians or the slaves will arise and overthrow us. Put it out of your mind. They are helpless, like the animals. Humanity is the Party. The others are outside - irrelevant."...

"I don't care. In the end they will beat you. Sooner or later they will see you for what you are, and then they will tear you to pieces."... "Do you see any evidence that that is happening? Or any reason why it should?"... "No. I believe it. I know that you will fail. There is something in the universe - I don't know, some spirit, some principle - that you will never overcome.".... "Do you believe in God, Winston?".... "No.".... "Then what is it, this principle that will defeat us?".... "I don't know. The spirit of Man."... "And do you consider yourself a man?"...."Yes."...."If you are a man, Winston, you are the last man. Your kind is extinct; we are the inheritors. Do you understand thatyou are alone? You are outside history, you are non-existent."...."You are the last man," said O'Brien. "You are the guardian of the human spirit....

"It will not last for ever," O'Brien said. "You can escape from it whenever you choose. Everything depends on yourself."...."You did it!" sobbed Winston. "You reduced me to this state."...."No, Winston, you reduced yourself to it. This is what you accepted when you set yourself up against the Party. It was all contained in the first act. Nothing has happened that you did not foresee. We have beaten you, Winston. We have broken you up. You have seen what your body is like. Your mind is in the same state. I do not think there can be much pride left in you. You have been kicked and flogged and insulted, you have screamed with pain, you have rolled on the floor in your own blood and vomit. You have whimpered for mercy, you have betrayed everybody, and everything. Can you think of a single degradation that has not happened to you?"

Winston had stopped weeping, though the tears were still coming out of his eyes. He looked up at O'Brien. "I have not betrayed Julia." he said. O'Brien looked down at him thoughtfully. "No," he said; "no, that is perfectly true, You have not betrayed Julia." Under torture he had told them everything he knew about her, her habits, her character her past life; everything that had happened at their meetings, all that he had said to her and she to him, their black-market meals, their adulteries, their vague plottings against the Party - everything. And yet, in the sense in which he intended the word, he had not betrayed her. He had not stopped loving her; his feelings towards her remained the same. O'Brien had seen what he meant without the need for explanation...."Tell me," Winston said, "how soon will they shoot me?"...."It might be a long time," said O'Brien. "You are a difficult case. But don't give up hope. Everyone is cured sooner or later. In the end we shall shoot you"....

He obeyed the Party, but he still hated the Party....One day they would decide to shoot him and the heretical thought would be unpunished, unrepented, out of their reach for ever. To die hating them, that was freedom....There was a heavy tramp of boots in the passage. The steel door swung open with a clang. O'Brien walked into the cell. Behind him were the waxen-faced officer and the black-uniformed guards."Get up," said O'Brien. "Come here."....Winston stood opposite him. O'Brien took Winston's shoulders between his strong hands and looked at him closely. "You have had thoughts of deceiving me," he said. "That was stupid. Stand up straighter. Look me in the face." He paused, and went on in a gentler tone: "You are improving. Intellectually there is very little wrong with you. It is only emotionally that you have failed to make progress. Tell me, Winston - and remember, no lies: you know that I am always able to detect a lie - tell me, what are your true feelings towards BIG BROTHER?"...."I hate him."...."You hate him. Good. Then the time has come for you to take the last step. You must love BIG BROTHER. It is not enough to obey him: you must love him."...He released Winston with a little push towards the guards. "Room 101," he said....

end quoting from "1984"

I hope that answers your question - direct from Orwell himself - as to why O'Brien and his cronies devoted so much time reprogramming those two "nobodies", Winston and Julia.

All the best,
Jackie Jura

PS - Below are previous articles and email exchanges along this same theme (with most recent on top)





















26.Julia & Rebellion & 31.Winston Love Nest & 32.Enemies of the Party

43.Winston Talks in Sleep & 45.Chestnut Tree Cafe

39.Interrogation & Torture & 40.Electric Shock Brainwashing & 44.Room 101

41.BB Tells How & 42.BB Tells Why

5.Pyramidal Big Brother Party & 35.BB's Brotherhood

Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~

email: orwelltoday@gmail.com
website: www.orwelltoday.com