by George Orwell
Analysis: Plot Analysis
Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice.
Winston leads a squalid existence in 1984, Oceania; he is sexually frustrated and psychologically oppressed by the Party. He starts a journal to catalog his subversive thoughts against the Party.
Although there’s some action right off the bat regarding Winston’s subversive act and whatnot, it’s still kind of boring. And pessimistic. We get the sense that Winston’s life has always been this way—totally banal—and he’s finally gotten to the point of expressing that frustration. But not quite enough to constitute a conflict.
Julia approaches Winston, and the two start a secret love affair. They meet at places they think evade telescreens and microphones and fall deeper and deeper in love with each other, all the while talking incessantly about rebelling against the Party.
Real acts of subversion! Winston has gained an ally in his covert acts of rebellion against the Party. Will they succeed in their plans against the Party? Julia’s involvement adds a second dimension to our protagonist’s life, and we wonder how it will all turn out. Now, not only does Winston have to hide his journal writing from the Party, but must find hideouts to consummate his love. Will this make it harder or easier for Winston to survive and succeed? All these questions sound like conflict, don’t they?
O’Brien approaches Winston and inducts both him and Julia into the Brotherhood. Supposedly. O’Brien arranges for Winston to receive a copy of Goldstein’s manifesto, detailing the "how" and "why" of the rebellion.
We all knew it was going to get complicated once the enigmatic Inner Party member got involved. Why does Winston trust him? Why isn’t Winston paranoid, for once? And what about that odd interaction at O’Brien’s residence? That was sure fishy. And in traditional English Major language, fishy = complicated.
Winston and Julia wake up feeling like an ordinary, non-repressed couple. They discuss their future, now that they have joined the Brotherhood. They conclude that they are "the dead." A voice coming from behind the picture of St. Clement’s Church echoes what they say. They are surrounded by the Thought Police.
Were the entire first two Books hinting at Winston’s ultimate demise? Didn’t Winston know from the moment he put ink to paper that he was going to get caught? We knew it was coming. But at this of all moments – come on. The poor guy’s in bed after sex and feeling all loved and happy, until his metaphorical teddy bear is ripped violently from his grip.
Winston is cooped up at the Ministry of Love, where there is no darkness. He meets a series of other prisoners, who all seem to fear being sent to the mysterious "Room 101." He undergoes a series of torturous interrogations by O’Brien, but still does not know what waits for him in Room 101.
What is Room 101? What happens there? Why does everyone fear it? Just when we thought things could not get worse than being cooped up and beaten to near-death, they do.
Winston is sent to Room 101, where O’Brien confronts him with a cage of vociferous rats ready to chew him up. Winston’s spirit is finally broken by this, his biggest fear, and he betrays Julia in a final cry of surrender.
Room 101, where one confronts one’s worst fear, has arrived. This is where the last inkling of rebellion – and, figuratively speaking (or possibly literal, given the torture), the last backbone of Winston’s subversion – is broken. We know nothing more will come after this. This is the anti-climax, the "falling action," as Winston surrenders his will.
Having been released, Winston sits at the Chestnut Tree Café and reflects about scenes in his life, as well as an apathetic chance meeting with Julia. Winston smiles, and is overcome by a feeling of total love and acceptance for the Party.
Quite the resolution, Orwell. The rebel has been reformed and now loves the Party he attempted to overthrow. His being at the Chestnut Tree signifies the ending also – that’s the spot where old Party members go to spend their retirement. Not to mention that his chance meeting with Julia, the former love of his life and muse to his soul, was apathetic. This guy is obviously done for.