Winston had woken up with his eyes full of tears. Julia rolled sleepily
against him, murmuring something that might have been 'What's the matter?'
'I dreamt – ' he began, and stopped short. It was too complex to be put
into words. There was the dream itself, and there was a memory connected
with it that had swum into his mind in the few seconds after waking.
He lay back with his eyes shut, still sodden in the atmosphere of the
dream. It was a vast, luminous dream in which his whole life seemed to
stretch out before him like a landscape on a summer evening after rain.
It had all occurred inside the glass paperweight, but the surface of the
glass was the dome of the sky, and inside the dome everything was flooded
with clear soft light in which one could see into interminable distances.
The dream had also been comprehended by – indeed, in some sense it had
consisted in – a gesture of the arm made by his mother, and made again
thirty years later by the Jewish woman he had seen on the news film,
trying to shelter the small boy from the bullets, before the helicopter
blew them both to pieces.
'Do you know,' he said, 'that until this moment I believed I had murdered
'Why did you murder her?' said Julia, almost asleep.
'I didn't murder her. Not physically.'
In the dream he had remembered his last glimpse of his mother, and within
a few moments of waking the cluster of small events surrounding it had all
come back. It was a memory that he must have deliberately pushed out of
his consciousness over many years. He was not certain of the date, but he
could not have been less than ten years old, possibly twelve, when it had
His father had disappeared some time earlier, how much earlier he could
not remember. He remembered better the rackety, uneasy circumstances of
the time: the periodical panics about air-raids and the sheltering in Tube
stations, the piles of rubble everywhere, the unintelligible proclamations
posted at street corners, the gangs of youths in shirts all the same
colour, the enormous queues outside the bakeries, the intermittent
machine-gun fire in the distance – above all, the fact that there was
never enough to eat. He remembered long afternoons spent with other boys
in scrounging round dustbins and rubbish heaps, picking out the ribs of
cabbage leaves, potato peelings, sometimes even scraps of stale breadcrust
from which they carefully scraped away the cinders; and also in waiting
for the passing of trucks which travelled over a certain route and were
known to carry cattle feed, and which, when they jolted over the bad
patches in the road, sometimes spilt a few fragments of oil-cake.
When his father disappeared, his mother did not show any surprise or any
violent grief, but a sudden change came over her. She seemed to have
become completely spiritless. It was evident even to Winston that she was
waiting for something that she knew must happen. She did everything that
was needed – cooked, washed, mended, made the bed, swept the floor, dusted
the mantelpiece – always very slowly and with a curious lack of superfluous
motion, like an artist's lay-figure moving of its own accord. Her large
shapely body seemed to relapse naturally into stillness. For hours at a
time she would sit almost immobile on the bed, nursing his young sister,
a tiny, ailing, very silent child of two or three, with a face made simian
by thinness. Very occasionally she would take Winston in her arms and
press him against her for a long time without saying anything. He was
aware, in spite of his youthfulness and selfishness, that this was somehow
connected with the never-mentioned thing that was about to happen.
He remembered the room where they lived, a dark, close-smelling room that
seemed half filled by a bed with a white counterpane. There was a gas ring
in the fender, and a shelf where food was kept, and on the landing outside
there was a brown earthenware sink, common to several rooms. He remembered
his mother's statuesque body bending over the gas ring to stir at something
in a saucepan. Above all he remembered his continuous hunger, and the
fierce sordid battles at mealtimes. He would ask his mother naggingly,
over and over again, why there was not more food, he would shout and storm
at her (he even remembered the tones of his voice, which was beginning to
break prematurely and sometimes boomed in a peculiar way), or he would
attempt a snivelling note of pathos in his efforts to get more than his
share. His mother was quite ready to give him more than his share. She
took it for granted that he, 'the boy', should have the biggest portion;
but however much she gave him he invariably demanded more. At every meal
she would beseech him not to be selfish and to remember that his little
sister was sick and also needed food, but it was no use. He would cry out
with rage when she stopped ladling, he would try to wrench the saucepan
and spoon out of her hands, he would grab bits from his sister's plate.
He knew that he was starving the other two, but he could not help it; he
even felt that he had a right to do it. The clamorous hunger in his belly
seemed to justify him. Between meals, if his mother did not stand guard,
he was constantly pilfering at the wretched store of food on the shelf.
One day a chocolate ration was issued. There had been no such issue for
weeks or months past. He remembered quite clearly that precious little
morsel of chocolate. It was a two-ounce slab (they still talked about
ounces in those days) between the three of them. It was obvious that it
ought to be divided into three equal parts. Suddenly, as though he were
listening to somebody else, Winston heard himself demanding in a loud
booming voice that he should be given the whole piece. His mother told him
not to be greedy. There was a long, nagging argument that went round and
round, with shouts, whines, tears, remonstrances, bargainings. His tiny
sister, clinging to her mother with both hands, exactly like a baby monkey,
sat looking over her shoulder at him with large, mournful eyes. In the
end his mother broke off three-quarters of the chocolate and gave it to
Winston, giving the other quarter to his sister. The little girl took hold
of it and looked at it dully, perhaps not knowing what it was. Winston
stood watching her for a moment. Then with a sudden swift spring he had
snatched the piece of chocolate out of his sister's hand and was fleeing
for the door.
'Winston, Winston!' his mother called after him. 'Come back! Give your
sister back her chocolate!'
He stopped, but did not come back. His mother's anxious eyes were fixed on
his face. Even now he was thinking about the thing, he did not know what
it was that was on the point of happening. His sister, conscious of having
been robbed of something, had set up a feeble wail. His mother drew her
arm round the child and pressed its face against her breast. Something in
the gesture told him that his sister was dying. He turned and fled down
the stairs, with the chocolate growing sticky in his hand.
He never saw his mother again. After he had devoured the chocolate he felt
somewhat ashamed of himself and hung about in the streets for several
hours, until hunger drove him home. When he came back his mother had
disappeared. This was already becoming normal at that time. Nothing was
gone from the room except his mother and his sister. They had not taken
any clothes, not even his mother's overcoat. To this day he did not know
with any certainty that his mother was dead. It was perfectly possible
that she had merely been sent to a forced-labour camp. As for his sister,
she might have been removed, like Winston himself, to one of the colonies
for homeless children (Reclamation Centres, they were called) which had
grown up as a result of the civil war, or she might have been sent to the
labour camp along with his mother, or simply left somewhere or other
The dream was still vivid in his mind, especially the enveloping protecting
gesture of the arm in which its whole meaning seemed to be contained. His
mind went back to another dream of two months ago. Exactly as his mother
had sat on the dingy white-quilted bed, with the child clinging to her, so
she had sat in the sunken ship, far underneath him, and drowning deeper
every minute, but still looking up at him through the darkening water.
He told Julia the story of his mother's disappearance. Without opening her
eyes she rolled over and settled herself into a more comfortable position.
'I expect you were a beastly little swine in those days,' she said
indistinctly. 'All children are swine.'
'Yes. But the real point of the story – – '
From her breathing it was evident that she was going off to sleep again.
He would have liked to continue talking about his mother. He did not
suppose, from what he could remember of her, that she had been an unusual
woman, still less an intelligent one; and yet she had possessed a kind of
nobility, a kind of purity, simply because the standards that she obeyed
were private ones. Her feelings were her own, and could not be altered
from outside. It would not have occurred to her that an action which is
ineffectual thereby becomes meaningless. If you loved someone, you loved
him, and when you had nothing else to give, you still gave him love. When
the last of the chocolate was gone, his mother had clasped the child in
her arms. It was no use, it changed nothing, it did not produce more
chocolate, it did not avert the child's death or her own; but it seemed
natural to her to do it. The refugee woman in the boat had also covered
the little boy with her arm, which was no more use against the bullets
than a sheet of paper. The terrible thing that the Party had done was to
persuade you that mere impulses, mere feelings, were of no account, while
at the same time robbing you of all power over the material world. When
once you were in the grip of the Party, what you felt or did not feel,
what you did or refrained from doing, made literally no difference.
Whatever happened you vanished, and neither you nor your actions were ever
heard of again. You were lifted clean out of the stream of history. And
yet to the people of only two generations ago this would not have seemed
all-important, because they were not attempting to alter history. They
were governed by private loyalties which they did not question. What
mattered were individual relationships, and a completely helpless gesture,
an embrace, a tear, a word spoken to a dying man, could have value in
itself. The proles, it suddenly occurred to him, had remained in this
condition. They were not loyal to a party or a country or an idea, they
were loyal to one another. For the first time in his life he did not
despise the proles or think of them merely as an inert force which would
one day spring to life and regenerate the world. The proles had stayed
human. They had not become hardened inside. They had held on to the
primitive emotions which he himself had to re-learn by conscious effort.
And in thinking this he remembered, without apparent relevance, how a few
weeks ago he had seen a severed hand lying on the pavement and had kicked
it into the gutter as though it had been a cabbage-stalk.
'The proles are human beings,' he said aloud. 'We are not human.'
'Why not?' said Julia, who had woken up again.
He thought for a little while. 'Has it ever occurred to you,' he said,
'that the best thing for us to do would be simply to walk out of here
before it's too late, and never see each other again?'
'Yes, dear, it has occurred to me, several times. But I'm not going to do
it, all the same.'
'We've been lucky,' he said 'but it can't last much longer. You're young.
You look normal and innocent. If you keep clear of people like me, you
might stay alive for another fifty years.'
'No. I've thought it all out. What you do, I'm going to do. And don't be
too downhearted. I'm rather good at staying alive.'
'We may be together for another six months – a year – there's no knowing.
At the end we're certain to be apart. Do you realize how utterly alone we
shall be? When once they get hold of us there will be nothing, literally
nothing, that either of us can do for the other. If I confess, they'll
shoot you, and if I refuse to confess, they'll shoot you just the same.
Nothing that I can do or say, or stop myself from saying, will put off
your death for as much as five minutes. Neither of us will even know
whether the other is alive or dead. We shall be utterly without power of
any kind. The one thing that matters is that we shouldn't betray one
another, although even that can't make the slightest difference.'
'If you mean confessing,' she said, 'we shall do that, right enough.
Everybody always confesses. You can't help it. They torture you.'
'I don't mean confessing. Confession is not betrayal. What you say or do
doesn't matter: only feelings matter. If they could make me stop loving
you – that would be the real betrayal.'
She thought it over. 'They can't do that,' she said finally. 'It's the one
thing they can't do. They can make you say anything – ANYTHING – but they
can't make you believe it. They can't get inside you.'
'No,' he said a little more hopefully, 'no; that's quite true. They can't
get inside you. If you can FEEL that staying human is worth while, even
when it can't have any result whatever, you've beaten them.'
He thought of the telescreen with its never-sleeping ear. They could spy
upon you night and day, but if you kept your head you could still outwit
them. With all their cleverness they had never mastered the secret of
finding out what another human being was thinking. Perhaps that was less
true when you were actually in their hands. One did not know what happened
inside the Ministry of Love, but it was possible to guess: tortures, drugs,
delicate instruments that registered your nervous reactions, gradual
wearing-down by sleeplessness and solitude and persistent questioning.
Facts, at any rate, could not be kept hidden. They could be tracked down
by enquiry, they could be squeezed out of you by torture. But if the object
was not to stay alive but to stay human, what difference did it ultimately
make? They could not alter your feelings: for that matter you could not
alter them yourself, even if you wanted to. They could lay bare in the
utmost detail everything that you had done or said or thought; but the
inner heart, whose workings were mysterious even to yourself, remained