The lunch queue moved slowly forward. The room was already very full and noisy.
“Just the man I was looking for,” said a voice at Winston’s back.
He turned round. It was his friend Syme, who worked in the Research Department. Perhaps “friend” was not exactly the right word. You did not have friends nowadays, you had comrades: but there were some comrades whose society was pleasanter than that of others. Syme was a philologist, a specialist in Newspeak.
“I wanted to ask you whether you’d got any razor blades,” he said.
“Not one!” said Winston with a sort of guilty haste. “I’ve tried all over the place. They don’t exist any longer. I’ve been using the same blade for six weeks.”
The queue gave another jerk forward.
“Did you go and see the prisoners hanged yesterday?” said Syme.
“I was working,” said Winston indifferently.
“It was a good hanging,” said Syme. “I think it spoils it when they tie their feet together. I like to see them kicking. And above all, at the end, the tongue sticking right out, and blue—a quite bright blue. That’s the detail that appeals to me.”
“Next”, please!” yelled the prole with the ladle.
Winston and Syme pushed their trays and got their lunch—a stew, a hunk of bread, a cube of cheese, a mug of milkless Victory Coffee, and one saccharine tablet.
“There’s a table over there, under that telescreen,” said Syme. “Let’s pick up a gin on the way.”
The gin was served out to them in handleless china mugs. They walked to the metal table, sat down, and began eating.
“How is the Dictionary getting on?” said Winston.
“Slowly,” said Syme. “I’m on the adjectives. It’s fascinating.”
He had brightened up immediately at the mention of Newspeak.
“The Eleventh Edition is the definitive edition,” he said. “We’re getting the language into its final shape—the shape it’s going to have when nobody speaks anything else. When we’ve finished with it, people like you will have to learn it all over again.”
He bit hungrily into his bread, then continued speaking.
“It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words. Take “good”, for instance. If you have a word like “good”, what need is there for a word like “bad”? “Ungood” will do just as well—better, because it’s an exact opposite, which the other is not. Or again, if you want a stronger version of “good”, what sense is there in having a whole string of vague useless words like “excellent” and all the rest of them? “Plusgood” covers the meaning. Don’t you see the beauty of that, Winston?”
A sort of vapid eagerness showed on Winston’s face. Syme immediately detected the lack of enthusiasm.
“You haven’t a real appreciation of Newspeak, Winston,” he said almost sadly. “Even when you write it you’re still thinking in Oldspeak. I’ve read some of those pieces that you write in “The Times” occasionally. They’re good enough, but they’re translations. Do you know that Newspeak is the only language in the world whose vocabulary gets smaller every year?”
Winston did know that, of course.
“Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Has it ever occurred to you, Winston, that by the year 2050, at the very latest, not a single human being will be alive who could understand such a conversation as we are having now?”
“Except—” began Winston doubtfully, and he stopped.
It had been on the tip of his tongue to say “Except the proles,” but he stopped himself.
One of these days, thought Winston with sudden deep conviction, Syme will be vaporized. He is too intelligent. He sees too clearly and speaks too plainly. The Party does not like such people. One day he will disappear. It is written in his face.
Winston had finished his bread and cheese. Syme had fallen silent for a moment.
“There is a word in Newspeak,” said Syme, “I don’t know whether you know it: DUCKSPEAK, to quack like a duck. It is one of those interesting words that have two contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it is abuse, applied to someone you agree with, it is praise.”
Unquestionably Syme will be vaporized, Winston thought again. He thought it with a kind of sadness. There was something subtly wrong with Syme. There was something that he lacked: discretion, aloofness, a sort of saving stupidity. You could not say that he was unorthodox. He believed in the principles of Ingsoc, he loved the Big Brother, he rejoiced over victories, he hated heretics. Yet said things that would have been better unsaid, he had read too many books.
Syme looked up. “Here comes Parsons,” he said.
Parsons, Winston’s fellow-tenant at Victory Mansions, was in fact walking across the room—a middle-sized man with fair hair and a froglike face. He greeted them both with a “Hullo, hullo!” and sat down at the table, giving off an intense smell of sweat.
“Smith, old boy, I’ll tell you why I’m chasing you. It’s that sub you forgot to give me.”
“Which sub is that?” said Winston, automatically feeling for money.
“For Hate Week. You know—the house-by-house fund. I’m treasurer for our block. We’re making an all-out effort—going to put on a tremendous show. Two dollars you promised me.”
Winston found and handed over two filthy notes.
“By the way, old boy,” he said. “I hear that little beggar of mine shot at you yesterday. I told him I’d take the catapult away if he does it again.”
“I think he was a little upset at not going to the execution,” said Winston.
“Ah, well—what I mean to say, shows the right spirit, doesn’t it? All they think about is the Spies, and the war, of course. D’you know what that little girl of mine did last Saturday? She got two other girls to go with her, slipped off from the hike, and spent the whole afternoon following a strange man. They kept on his tail for two hours, right through the woods, and then, when they got into Amersham, handed him over to the patrols.”
“What did they do that for?” said Winston. Parsons went on:
“My kid made sure he was some kind of enemy agent. She spotted he was wearing a funny kind of shoes—said she’d never seen anyone wearing shoes like that before. So the chances were he was a foreigner. Pretty smart, eh?”
“What happened to the man?” said Winston.
“Ah, that I couldn’t say, of course. But I wouldn’t be altogether surprised if—” Parsons made the motion of aiming a rifle, and clicked his tongue for the explosion.
“Good,” said Syme, without looking up.
“Of course we can’t afford to take chances,” agreed Winston.
“What I mean to say, there is a war on,” said Parsons.
As though in confirmation of this, a trumpet call sounded from the telescreen just above their heads.
“Comrades!” cried an eager youthful voice. “Attention, comrades! We have glorious news for you. We have won the battle for production! All over Oceania this morning there were spontaneous demonstrations when workers marched out of factories and offices and paraded through the streets with banners voicing their gratitude to Big Brother for the new, happy life. Here are—”
Winston looked round the canteen again. Nearly everyone was ugly, and would still have been ugly even if dressed otherwise than in the uniform blue overalls. On the far side of the room, sitting at a table alone, a small man was drinking a cup of coffee. How easy it was, thought Winston, if you did not look about you, to believe that the physical type set up by the Party as an ideal—tall muscular youths and deep-bosomed maidens, blond-haired, vital, sunburnt, carefree—existed and even predominated. Actually, so far as he could judge, the majority of people were small, dark, and ill-favoured. It was the type that seemed to flourish best under the Party.
The announcement from the Ministry of Plenty ended. Parsons took his pipe out of his mouth.
“The Ministry of Plenty’s certainly done a good job this year,” he said with a knowing shake of his head. “By the way, Smith old boy, I suppose you haven’t got any razor blades you can let me have?”
“Not one,” said Winston. “I’ve been using the same blade for six weeks myself.”
“Ah, well—just thought I’d ask you, old boy.”
“Sorry,” said Winston.
For some reason Winston suddenly found himself thinking of Mrs Parsons. Within two years those children would be denouncing her to the Thought Police. Mrs Parsons would be vaporized. Syme would be vaporized. Winston would be vaporized. O’Brien would be vaporized. Parsons, on the other hand, would never be vaporized. And the girl with dark hair, the girl from the Fiction Department—she would never be vaporized either.
At this moment he noticed that a girl at the next table was looking at him. It was the girl with dark hair. The instant she caught his eye she looked away again.
The sweat started out on Winston’s backbone. Terror went through him. Why was she watching him? Why did she keep following him about?
The girl had turned her back on him again. Perhaps it was coincidence that she had sat so close to him two days running. His cigarette had gone out, and he laid it carefully on the edge of the table. He would finish smoking it after work, if he could keep the tobacco in it.
“Did I ever tell you, old boy,” said Parsons, “about the time when my children set fire to the old market-woman’s skirt because they saw her wrapping up sausages in a poster of B.B.? Sneaked up behind her and set fire to it with a box of matches. Burned her quite badly, I believe.”
At this moment the telescreen let out a whistle.
It was the signal to return to work. All three men got up and made their way to the lifts. The remaining tobacco fell out of Winston’s cigarette.
Winston was writing in his diary:
It was three years ago. It was on a dark evening, in a narrow side-street near one of the big railway stations. She was standing near a doorway in the wall, under a street lamp that hardly gave any light. She had a young face, painted very thick. It was really the paint that appealed to me, the whiteness of it, like a mask, and the bright red lips. Party women never paint their faces. There was nobody else in the street, and no telescreens. She said two dollars. I—
For the moment it was too difficult to go on. He shut his eyes and pressed his fingers against them. He wanted to shout a string of filthy words at the top of his voice. Or to bang his head against the wall, to kick over the table, and throw the inkpot through the window.
Your worst enemy, he reflected, was your own nervous system. At any moment the tension inside you could turn into some visible symptom.
He drew his breath and went on writing:
I went with her through the doorway and across a backyard into a basement kitchen. There was a bed against the wall, and a lamp on the table, turned down very low. She—
He would have liked to spit. Simultaneously with the woman in the basement kitchen he thought of Katharine, his wife. Winston was married—had been married: probably he still was married, so far as he knew his wife was not dead.
When he had gone with that woman it had been his first lapse in two years or thereabouts. Consorting with prostitutes was forbidden, of course, but it was one of those rules that you could occasionally break. It was dangerous, but it was not a life-and-death matter. To be caught with a prostitute might mean five years in a forced labour camp: not more, if you had committed no other offence. And it was easy enough, provided that you could avoid being caught in the act.
The aim of the Party was not merely to prevent men and women from forming loyalties which it might not be able to control. Its purpose was to remove all pleasure from the sexual act. All marriages between Party members had to be approved by a committee appointed for the purpose, and permission was always refused if the couple seemed physically attracted to one another. The only recognized purpose of marriage was to make children for the service of the Party.
He thought again of Katharine. It must be nine, ten—nearly eleven years since they had parted. It was curious how seldom he thought of her. They had only been together for about fifteen months.
Katharine was a tall, fair-haired girl, very straight, with splendid movements. She had a bold face, a face that one might have called noble until one discovered that there was as nearly as possible nothing behind it. Very early in her married life he had decided that she had without exception the most stupid, vulgar, empty mind that he had ever encountered. Yet he could have endured living with her if it had not been for just one thing—sex.
As soon as he touched her she seemed to wince and stiffen. To embrace her was like embracing a wooden image. And what was strange was that even when she was clasping him against her he had the feeling that she was simultaneously pushing him away with all her strength. They must, Katharine said, produce a child if they could. So the performance continued to happen, once a week quite regularly. But luckily no child appeared, and in the end she agreed to give up trying, and soon afterwards they parted.
Winston sighed. He picked up his pen again and wrote:
She threw herself down on the bed, and at once, without any kind of preliminary in the most coarse, horrible way you can imagine, pulled up her skirt. I—
He saw himself standing there in the dim lamplight. Why did it always have to be like this? Why could he not have a woman of his own instead of this? But a real love affair was an almost unthinkable event. The women of the Party were all alike. Chastity was as deep ingrained in them as Party loyalty. Desire was thoughtcrime.
But the rest of the story had got to be written down. He wrote:
I turned up the lamp. When I saw her in the light—
For the first time he could see the woman properly. He had taken a step towards her and then halted, full of lust and terror. He was painfully conscious of the risk he had taken in coming here. It was perfectly possible that the patrols would catch him on the way out.
What he had suddenly seen was that the woman was OLD. The paint was plastered so thick on her face that it looked as though it might crack like a mask. There were streaks of white in her hair; but the truly dreadful detail was that her mouth had no teeth at all.
He wrote hurriedly:
When I saw her in the light she was quite an old woman, fifty years old at least. But I went ahead and did it just the same.
He pressed his fingers against his eyelids again. He had written it down at last, but it made no difference. The therapy had not worked. The urge to shout filthy words at the top of his voice was as strong as ever.
“If there is hope,” wrote Winston, “it lies in the proles.”
If there was hope, it MUST lie in the proles, because only there in those swarming masses, could the force to destroy the Party ever be generated. The Party could not be overthrown from within. Even if the legendary Brotherhood existed, it was inconceivable that its members could ever assemble in larger numbers than twos and threes.
He remembered how once he had been walking down a crowded street when he heard shouting of hundreds of voices women’s voices ahead. It was a cry of anger and despair, a deep, loud “Oh-o-o-o-oh!” His heart had leapt. It’s started! he had thought. A riot! The proles are breaking loose at last! When he had reached the spot it was to see a mob of two or three hundred women crowding round the stalls of a street market. It appeared that one of the stalls had been selling tin saucepans. The supply had ended. The successful women were trying to make off with their saucepans while dozens of others were standing round the stall, accusing the stall-keeper of favouritism. Winston watched them with disgust. And yet, just for a moment, what almost frightening power had sounded in that cry!
Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.
That, he reflected, might have been a transcription from one of the Party textbooks. The Party claimed, of course, to have liberated the proles from bondage. Before the Revolution they had been oppressed by the capitalists. The Party taught that the proles were natural inferiors. In reality very little was known about the proles. It was not necessary to know much. So long as they continued to work and breed, their other activities were without importance. Heavy physical work, the care of home and children, petty quarrels with neighbours, films, football, beer, and above all, gambling, filled up their minds. To keep them in control was not difficult. A few agents of the Thought Police moved always among them, spreading false rumours and eliminating the few individuals who were judged capable of becoming dangerous. The great majority of proles did not even have telescreens in their homes. Even the civil police interfered with them very little. The sexual Puritanism of the Party was not imposed upon them. As the Party slogan put it: “Proles and animals are free.”
Winston took out of the drawer a copy of a children’s history textbook which he had borrowed from Mrs Parsons, and began copying a passage into the diary:
In the old days (it ran), before the glorious Revolution, London was not the beautiful city that we know today. It was a dark, dirty, miserable place where hardly anybody had enough to eat and where hundreds and thousands of poor people had no boots on their feet and not even a roof to sleep under. Children no older than you had to work twelve hours a day for cruel masters who flogged them with whips if they worked too slowly and fed them on nothing but stale breadcrusts and water. But in among all this terrible poverty there were just a few great big beautiful houses that were lived in by rich men who had as many as thirty servants to look after them. These rich men were called capitalists. They were fat, ugly men with wicked faces, like the one in the picture on the opposite page. You can see that he is dressed in a long black coat which was called a frock coat, and a queer, shiny hat shaped like a stovepipe, which was called a top hat. This was the uniform of the capitalists, and no one else was allowed to wear it. The capitalists owned everything in the world, and everyone else was their slave. They owned all the land, all the houses, all the factories, and all the money. If anyone disobeyed them they could throw them into prison, or they could take his job away and starve him to death. When any ordinary person spoke to a capitalist he had to cringe and bow to him, and take off his cap and address him as “Sir”. The chief of all the capitalists was called the King, and—
How could you tell how much of it was lies? It MIGHT be true that the average human being was better off now than he had been before the Revolution. The only evidence to the contrary was the mute protest in your own bones. It struck him that the truly characteristic thing about modern life was not its cruelty and insecurity, but simply its bareness. The ideal set up by the Party was something huge, terrible—a world of steel and concrete—a nation of warriors and fanatics, marching forward in perfect unity. The reality was decaying cities where underfed people shuffled to and fro in leaky shoes.
Day and night the telescreens bruised your ears with statistics proving that people today had more food, more clothes, better houses, better recreations—that they lived longer, worked shorter hours, were bigger, healthier, stronger, happier, more intelligent, better educated, than the people of fifty years ago. Not a word of it could ever be proved or disproved. The Party claimed, for example, that today 40 per cent of adult proles were literate: before the Revolution, it was said, the number had only been 15 per cent. The Party claimed that the infant mortality rate was now only 160 per thousand, whereas before the Revolution it had been 300—and so it went on. It was like a single equation with two unknowns. It might very well be that literally every word in the history books, even the things that one accepted without question, was pure fantasy. For all he knew there might never have been any such law as the JUS PRIMAE NOCTIS, or any such creature as a capitalist, or any such garment as a top hat.
Everything faded into mist. The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth. Just once in his life he had possessed—AFTER the event: that was what counted—concrete, unmistakable evidence of an act of falsification. He had held it between his fingers for as long as thirty seconds. In 1973, it must have been—at any rate, it was at about the time when he and Katharine had parted. But the really relevant date was seven or eight years earlier.
The story really began in the middle sixties, the period of the great purges in which the original leaders of the Revolution were wiped out once and for all. By 1970 none of them was left, except Big Brother himself. Goldstein had fled and was hiding no one knew where, and of the others, a few had simply disappeared, while the majority had been executed. Among the last survivors were three men named Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford. It must have been in 1965 that these three had been arrested. As often happened, they had vanished for a year or more, so that one did not know whether they were alive or dead, and then had suddenly been brought forth to incriminate themselves in the usual way. They had confessed working with the enemy. After confessing they had been pardoned, and given posts in the Party which didn’t mean anything but which sounded important.
Some time after their release Winston had actually seen all three of them in the Chestnut Tree Cafe. He remembered the sort of terrified fascination with which he had watched them out of the corner of his eye. They were like corpses waiting to be sent back to the grave.
There was no one at any of the tables nearest to them. It was not wise even to be seen in near such people. They were sitting in silence before glasses of the gin flavoured with cloves which was the speciality of the cafe. Of the three, it was Rutherford whose appearance had most impressed Winston. Rutherford had once been a famous caricaturist. Even now, at long intervals, his cartoons were appearing in The Times. They were simply an imitation of his earlier manner, lifeless and unconvincing. He was a monstrous man, with a mane of greasy grey hair. At one time he must have been immensely strong; now his great body was sagging, falling away in every direction. He seemed to be breaking up before one’s eyes.
Winston could not now remember how he had come to be in the cafe at such a time. The place was almost empty. The three men sat in their corner almost motionless, never speaking. Uncommanded, the waiter brought fresh glasses of gin. There was a chessboard on the table beside them, with the pieces set out but no game started. And then, for perhaps half a minute in all, something happened to the telescreens. The tune that they were playing changed. It was a peculiar, cracked, jeering note: in his mind Winston called it a yellow note. And then a voice from the telescreen was singing:
Under the spreading chestnut tree
I sold you and you sold me:
There lie they, and here lie we
Under the spreading chestnut tree.
The three men never stirred. But when Winston glanced again at Rutherford’s face, he saw that his eyes were full of tears. And for the first time he noticed, and yet not knowing AT WHAT he shuddered, that both Aaronson and Rutherford had broken noses.
A little later all three were re-arrested. It appeared that they had engaged in fresh conspiracies from the very moment of their release. At their second trial they confessed to all their old crimes over again. They were executed, and their fate was recorded in the Party histories. About five years after this, in 1973, Winston was working on documents when he came on a fragment of paper which had evidently been slipped in among the others and then forgotten. The instant he had flattened it out he saw its significance. It was a half-page torn out of “The Times” of about ten years earlier—the top half of the page, so that it included the date—and it contained a photograph of the delegates at some Party function in New York. Prominent in the middle of the group were Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford. There was no mistaking them, and their names were in the caption at the bottom.
The point was that at both trials all three men had confessed that on that date they had been on Eurasian soil. They had flown to Siberia, and had worked with members of the Eurasian General Staff, to whom they had betrayed important military secrets. There was only one possible conclusion: the confessions were lies.
It was concrete evidence; it was a fragment of the abolished past. It was enough to blow the Party to atoms.
He had gone straight on working. As soon as he saw what the photograph was, and what it meant, he had covered it up with another sheet of paper. Luckily, when he unrolled it, it had been upside-down from the point of view of the telescreen.
He took his scribbling pad on his knee and pushed back his chair so as to get as far away from the telescreen as possible. To keep your face expressionless was not difficult, and even your breathing could be controlled, with an effort: but you could not control the beating of your heart, and the telescreen was quite delicate enough to pick it up. Without uncovering the picture again, he dropped it into the memory hole, along with some other waste papers.
That was ten—eleven years ago. Today, probably, he would have kept that photograph. But today, it might not even be evidence. Already, at the time when he made his discovery, Oceania was no longer at war with Eurasia, and it must have been to the agents of Eastasia that the three dead men had betrayed their country. Since then there had been other changes—two, three, he could not remember how many. Very likely the confessions had been rewritten and rewritten until the original facts and dates no longer mattered. The past changed continuously. He took up his pen again and wrote:
I understand HOW: I do not understand WHY.
He wondered, as he had many times wondered before, whether he himself was a lunatic. Perhaps a lunatic was simply a minority of one. At one time it had been a sign of madness to believe that the earth goes round the sun; today, to believe that the past is inalterable. He might be ALONE in holding that belief, and if alone, then a lunatic. But the thought of being a lunatic did not greatly trouble him: the horror was that he might also be wrong.
He picked up the children’s history book and looked at the portrait of Big Brother on the cover. The eyes gazed into his own. It was as though some huge force were pressing down upon you—something that penetrated inside your skull,
His courage seemed suddenly to stiffen of its own accord. The face of O’Brien had floated into his mind. He knew, with more certainty than before, that O’Brien was on his side. He was writing the diary for O’Brien—TO O’Brien.
The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their most essential command. His heart sank as he thought of the enormous power positioned against him,.And yet he was in the right! They were wrong and he was right. The obvious, the silly, and the true had got to be defended. The solid world exists, its laws do not change. Stones are hard, water is wet, objects unsupported fall towards the earth’s centre. With the feeling that he was speaking to O’Brien, he wrote:
Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.