43. Winston Talks In Sleep

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 was much better. He was growing fatter and stronger every day, if it was a proper to speak of days. The white light and the humming sound were the same as ever, but the cell was a little more comfortable than the others he had been in. There was a pillow and a mattress on the plank bed, and a stool to sit on. They had given him a bath, and they allowed him to wash himself fairly frequently in a tin basin. They even gave him warm water to wash with. They had given him new underclothes and a clean suit of overalls. They had dressed his varicose ulcer with soothing ointment. They had pulled out the remnants of his teeth and given him a new set of dentures. Weeks or months must have passed. It would have been possible now to keep count of the passage of time, if he had felt any interest in doing so, since he was being fed at what appeared to be regular intervals. He was getting, he judged, three meals in the twenty-four hours; sometimes he wondered dimly whether he was getting them by night or by day. The food was surprisingly good, with meat at every third meal. Once there was even a packet of cigarettes. He had no matches, but the never-speaking guard who brought his food would give him a light. The first time he tried to smoke it made him sick, but her persevered, and spun the packet out for a long time, smoking half a cigarette after each meal.

They had given him a white slate with a stub of pencil tied to the corner. At first he made no use of it. Even when he was awake he was completely torpid. Often he would lie from one meal to the next almost without stirring, sometimes asleep, sometimes waking into vague reveries in which it was too much trouble to open his eyes. He had long grown used to sleeping with a strong light on his face. It seemed to make no difference, except that one's dreams were more coherent. He dreamed a great deal all through this time, and they were always happy dreams. He was in the Golden Country, or he was sitting among enormous glorious, sunlit ruins, with his mother, with Julia, with O'Brien - not doing anything, merely sitting in the sun, talking of peaceful things. Such thoughts as he had when he was awake were mostly about his dreams. He seemed to have lost the power of intellectual effort, now that the stimulus of pain had been removed. He was not bored. He had no desire for conversation or distraction. Merely to be alone, not to be beaten or questioned, to have enough to eat, and to be clean all over, was completely satisfying.

By degrees he came to spend less time in sleep, but he still felt no impulse to get off the bed. All he cared for was to lie quiet and feel the strength gathering in his body. He would finger himself here and there, trying to make sure that it was not an illusion that his muscles were growing rounder and his skin tauter. Finally it was established beyond a doubt that he was growing fatter; his thights were now definitely thicker than his knees. After that, reluctantly at first, he began exercising himself regularly. In a little while he could walk three kilometres, measured by pacing the cell, and his bowed shoulders were growing straighter. He attempted more elaborate exercises. He began to grow actually proud of his body, and to cherish an intermittent belief that his face also was growing back to normal.

His mind grew more active. He sat down on the plank bed, his back against the wall and the slate on his knees, and set to work deliberately at the task of re-educating himself. He had capitulated, that was agreeed. In reality, as he saw now, he had been ready to capitulate long before he had taken the decision. From the moment when he was inside the Ministry of Love - and yes, even during those minutes when he and Julia had stood helpless while the iron voice from the telescreen told them what to do - he had grasped the frivolity, the shallowness of his attempt to set himself up against the power of the Party.

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. Only - - !

The pencil felt thick and awkward in his fingers. He began to write down the thoughts that came into his head. He wrote first in large clumsy capitals:


Then almost without a pause he wrote beneath it:


But then there came a sort of check. His mind, as though shying away from something, seemed unable to concentrate. He knew that he knew what came next, but for the moment he could not recall it. When he did recall it, it was only by consciously reasoning out what it must be: it did not come of its own accord. He wrote:


He accepted everything. The past was alterable. The past never had been altered. Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia. All happenings are in the mind. Whatever happens in all minds, truly happens. How easy it all was! Only surrender, and everything else followed. It was like swimming against a current that swept you backwards however hard you struggled, and then suddenly deciding to turn round and go with the current instead of opposing it. Nothing had changed except your own attitude: the predestined thing happened in any case. He hardly knew why he had ever rebelled. 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 Newpseak. 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. "Everything depends on yourself," O'Brien had said. It might be ten minutes hence, or ten years. They might keep him for years in solitary confinement, they might send him to a labour-camp, they might release him for a while, as they sometimes did. It was perfectly possible that before he was shot the whole drama of his arrest and interrogation would be enacted all over again. 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.

Once he fell into a strange, blissful reverie. His body was healthy and strong. He walked with a feeling of walking in sunlight. He was not any longer in the Minstry of Love. He was in the Golden Country, following the foot-track across the old rabbit-cropped pasture. At the edge of the field were the elm trees, and somewhere beyond that was the stream where the dace lay in the green pools under the willows. Suddenly he started up with a shock of horror. The sweat broke out on his backbone. He had heard himself cry aloud:

"Julia! Julia! Julia, my love! Julia!

For a moment he had had an overwhelming hallucination of her presence. She had seemed to be not merely with him, but inside him. It was as though she had got into the texture of his skin. In that moment he had loved her far more than he had ever done when they were together and free. Also he knew that somewhere or other she was still alive and needed his help.

He lay back on the bed and tried to compose himself. What had he done? How many years had he added to his servitude by that moment of weakness? In another moment he would hear the tramp of boots outside. They could not let such an outburst go unpunished. They would know now, if they had not known before, that he was breaking the agreement he made with them. 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 and the heretical thought would be unpunished, unrepented, out of their reach for ever. To die hating them, that was freedom.

He shut his eyes. It was more difficult than accepting an intellectual discipline. It was a question of degrading himself, mutilating himself. He had got to plunge into the filthiest of filth. What was the most horrible, sickening thing of all? He thought of BIG BROTHER. The enormous face (because of constantly seeing it on posters he always thought of it as being a metre wide), wilth its heavy black moustache and the eyes that followed you to and from, seemed to float into his mind of its own accord. What were his true feelings towards BIG BROTHER?

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 alittle push towards the guards.

"Room 101," he said.

Is every memory worth keeping? (pills to make you forget). Washington Post, Oct 30, 2004. Go to PILL TO FORGET JFK

Brain operation performed live on TV (patient given an amnesiac agent so he wouldn't remember surgery). Telegraph, Oct 30, 2004. Go to 40.Electric Shock Brainwashing & 45.Chestnut Tree Cafe


China shows off "happy" prisoners (to dispel brutality rumours). Globe & Mail, Sep 16, 2002. Go to 42.The Party Tells 'Why'

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

email: orwelltoday@gmail.com
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