He did not know where he was. Presumably he was in the Ministry of Love,
but there was no way of making certain. He was in a high-ceilinged
windowless cell with walls of glittering white porcelain. Concealed lamps
flooded it with cold light, and there was a low, steady humming sound
which he supposed had something to do with the air supply. A bench, or
shelf, just wide enough to sit on ran round the wall, broken only by the
door and, at the end opposite the door, a lavatory pan with no wooden
seat. There were four telescreens, one in each wall.
There was a dull aching in his belly. It had been there ever since they
had bundled him into the closed van and driven him away. But he was also
hungry, with a gnawing, unwholesome kind of hunger. It might be twenty-four
hours since he had eaten, it might be thirty-six. He still did not know,
probably never would know, whether it had been morning or evening when
they arrested him. Since he was arrested he had not been fed.
He sat as still as he could on the narrow bench, with his hands crossed
on his knee. He had already learned to sit still. If you made unexpected
movements they yelled at you from the telescreen. But the craving for food
was growing upon him. What he longed for above all was a piece of bread.
He had an idea that there were a few breadcrumbs in the pocket of his
overalls. It was even possible – he thought this because from time to time
something seemed to tickle his leg – that there might be a sizeable bit of
crust there. In the end the temptation to find out overcame his fear; he
slipped a hand into his pocket.
'Smith!' yelled a voice from the telescreen. '6079 Smith W.! Hands out of
pockets in the cells!'
He sat still again, his hands crossed on his knee. Before being brought
here he had been taken to another place which must have been an ordinary
prison or a temporary lock-up used by the patrols. He did not know how
long he had been there; some hours at any rate; with no clocks and no
daylight it was hard to gauge the time. It was a noisy, evil-smelling
place. They had put him into a cell similar to the one he was now in,
but filthily dirty and at all times crowded by ten or fifteen people. The
majority of them were common criminals, but there were a few political
prisoners among them. He had sat silent against the wall, jostled by dirty
bodies, too preoccupied by fear and the pain in his belly to take much
interest in his surroundings, but still noticing the astonishing difference
in demeanour between the Party prisoners and the others. The Party
prisoners were always silent and terrified, but the ordinary criminals
seemed to care nothing for anybody. They yelled insults at the guards,
fought back fiercely when their belongings were impounded, wrote obscene
words on the floor, ate smuggled food which they produced from mysterious
hiding-places in their clothes, and even shouted down the telescreen when
it tried to restore order. On the other hand some of them seemed to be on
good terms with the guards, called them by nicknames, and tried to wheedle
cigarettes through the spyhole in the door. The guards, too, treated the
common criminals with a certain forbearance, even when they had to handle
them roughly. There was much talk about the forced-labour camps to which
most of the prisoners expected to be sent. It was 'all right' in the
camps, he gathered, so long as you had good contacts and knew the ropes.
There was bribery, favouritism, and racketeering of every kind, there was
homosexuality and prostitution, there was even illicit alcohol distilled
from potatoes. The positions of trust were given only to the common
criminals, especially the gangsters and the murderers, who formed a sort
of aristocracy. All the dirty jobs were done by the politicals.
There was a constant come-and-go of prisoners of every description:
drug-peddlers, thieves, bandits, black-marketeers, drunks, prostitutes.
Some of the drunks were so violent that the other prisoners had to combine
to suppress them. An enormous wreck of a woman, aged about sixty, with
great tumbling breasts and thick coils of white hair which had come down
in her struggles, was carried in, kicking and shouting, by four guards,
who had hold of her one at each corner. They wrenched off the boots with
which she had been trying to kick them, and dumped her down across
Winston's lap, almost breaking his thigh-bones. The woman hoisted herself
upright and followed them out with a yell of 'F – – bastards!' Then,
noticing that she was sitting on something uneven, she slid off Winston's
knees on to the bench.
'Beg pardon, dearie,' she said. 'I wouldn't 'a sat on you, only the buggers
put me there. They dono 'ow to treat a lady, do they?' She paused, patted
her breast, and belched. 'Pardon,' she said, 'I ain't meself, quite.'
She leant forward and vomited copiously on the floor.
'Thass better,' she said, leaning back with closed eyes. 'Never keep it
down, thass what I say. Get it up while it's fresh on your stomach, like.'
She revived, turned to have another look at Winston and seemed immediately
to take a fancy to him. She put a vast arm round his shoulder and drew him
towards her, breathing beer and vomit into his face.
'Wass your name, dearie?' she said.
'Smith,' said Winston.
'Smith?' said the woman. 'Thass funny. My name's Smith too. Why,' she
added sentimentally, 'I might be your mother!'
She might, thought Winston, be his mother. She was about the right age and
physique, and it was probable that people changed somewhat after twenty
years in a forced-labour camp.
No one else had spoken to him. To a surprising extent the ordinary
criminals ignored the Party prisoners. 'The polITS,' they called them,
with a sort of uninterested contempt. The Party prisoners seemed terrified
of speaking to anybody, and above all of speaking to one another. Only
once, when two Party members, both women, were pressed close together on
the bench, he overheard amid the din of voices a few hurriedly-whispered
words; and in particular a reference to something called 'room one-oh-one',
which he did not understand.
It might be two or three hours ago that they had brought him here. The
dull pain in his belly never went away, but sometimes it grew better and
sometimes worse, and his thoughts expanded or contracted accordingly. When
it grew worse he thought only of the pain itself, and of his desire for
food. When it grew better, panic took hold of him. There were moments
when he foresaw the things that would happen to him with such actuality
that his heart galloped and his breath stopped. He felt the smash of
truncheons on his elbows and iron-shod boots on his shins; he saw himself
grovelling on the floor, screaming for mercy through broken teeth. He
hardly thought of Julia. He could not fix his mind on her. He loved her
and would not betray her; but that was only a fact, known as he knew the
rules of arithmetic. He felt no love for her, and he hardly even wondered
what was happening to her. He thought oftener of O'Brien, with a flickering
hope. O'Brien might know that he had been arrested. The Brotherhood, he
had said, never tried to save its members. But there was the razor blade;
they would send the razor blade if they could. There would be perhaps five
seconds before the guard could rush into the cell. The blade would bite
into him with a sort of burning coldness, and even the fingers that held
it would be cut to the bone. Everything came back to his sick body, which
shrank trembling from the smallest pain. He was not certain that he would
use the razor blade even if he got the chance. It was more natural to exist
from moment to moment, accepting another ten minutes' life even with the
certainty that there was torture at the end of it.
Sometimes he tried to calculate the number of porcelain bricks in the
walls of the cell. It should have been easy, but he always lost count at
some point or another. More often he wondered where he was, and what time
of day it was. At one moment he felt certain that it was broad daylight
outside, and at the next equally certain that it was pitch darkness. In
this place, he knew instinctively, the lights would never be turned out.
It was the place with no darkness: he saw now why O'Brien had seemed to
recognize the allusion. In the Ministry of Love there were no windows. His
cell might be at the heart of the building or against its outer wall; it
might be ten floors below ground, or thirty above it. He moved himself
mentally from place to place, and tried to determine by the feeling of his
body whether he was perched high in the air or buried deep underground.
There was a sound of marching boots outside. The steel door opened with
a clang. A young officer, a trim black-uniformed figure who seemed to
glitter all over with polished leather, and whose pale, straight-featured
face was like a wax mask, stepped smartly through the doorway. He motioned
to the guards outside to bring in the prisoner they were leading. The
poet Ampleforth shambled into the cell. The door clanged shut again.
Ampleforth made one or two uncertain movements from side to side, as
though having some idea that there was another door to go out of, and then
began to wander up and down the cell. He had not yet noticed Winston's
presence. His troubled eyes were gazing at the wall about a metre above
the level of Winston's head. He was shoeless; large, dirty toes were
sticking out of the holes in his socks. He was also several days away
from a shave. A scrubby beard covered his face to the cheekbones, giving
him an air of ruffianism that went oddly with his large weak frame and
Winston roused himself a little from his lethargy. He must speak
to Ampleforth, and risk the yell from the telescreen. It was even
conceivable that Ampleforth was the bearer of the razor blade.
'Ampleforth,' he said.
There was no yell from the telescreen. Ampleforth paused, mildly startled.
His eyes focused themselves slowly on Winston.
'Ah, Smith!' he said. 'You too!'
'What are you in for?'
'To tell you the truth – ' He sat down awkwardly on the bench opposite
Winston. 'There is only one offence, is there not?' he said.
'And have you committed it?'
'Apparently I have.'
He put a hand to his forehead and pressed his temples for a moment, as
though trying to remember something.
'These things happen,' he began vaguely. 'I have been able to recall one
instance – a possible instance. It was an indiscretion, undoubtedly. We
were producing a definitive edition of the poems of Kipling. I allowed the
word "God" to remain at the end of a line. I could not help it!' he added
almost indignantly, raising his face to look at Winston. 'It was impossible
to change the line. The rhyme was "rod". Do you realize that there are only
twelve rhymes to "rod" in the entire language? For days I had racked my
brains. There WAS no other rhyme.'
The expression on his face changed. The annoyance passed out of it and for
a moment he looked almost pleased. A sort of intellectual warmth, the joy
of the pedant who has found out some useless fact, shone through the dirt
and scrubby hair.
'Has it ever occurred to you,' he said, 'that the whole history of English
poetry has been determined by the fact that the English language lacks
No, that particular thought had never occurred to Winston. Nor, in the
circumstances, did it strike him as very important or interesting.
'Do you know what time of day it is?' he said.
Ampleforth looked startled again. 'I had hardly thought about it. They
arrested me – it could be two days ago – perhaps three.' His eyes flitted
round the walls, as though he half expected to find a window somewhere.
'There is no difference between night and day in this place. I do not see
how one can calculate the time.'
They talked desultorily for some minutes, then, without apparent reason,
a yell from the telescreen bade them be silent. Winston sat quietly, his
hands crossed. Ampleforth, too large to sit in comfort on the narrow
bench, fidgeted from side to side, clasping his lank hands first round one
knee, then round the other. The telescreen barked at him to keep still.
Time passed. Twenty minutes, an hour – it was difficult to judge. Once more
there was a sound of boots outside. Winston's entrails contracted. Soon,
very soon, perhaps in five minutes, perhaps now, the tramp of boots would
mean that his own turn had come.
The door opened. The cold-faced young officer stepped into the cell. With
a brief movement of the hand he indicated Ampleforth.
'Room 101,' he said.
Ampleforth marched clumsily out between the guards, his face vaguely
perturbed, but uncomprehending.
What seemed like a long time passed. The pain in Winston's belly had
revived. His mind sagged round and round on the same trick, like a ball
falling again and again into the same series of slots. He had only six
thoughts. The pain in his belly; a piece of bread; the blood and the
screaming; O'Brien; Julia; the razor blade. There was another spasm in his
entrails, the heavy boots were approaching. As the door opened, the wave
of air that it created brought in a powerful smell of cold sweat. Parsons
walked into the cell. He was wearing khaki shorts and a sports-shirt.
This time Winston was startled into self-forgetfulness.
'YOU here!' he said.
Parsons gave Winston a glance in which there was neither interest nor
surprise, but only misery. He began walking jerkily up and down, evidently
unable to keep still. Each time he straightened his pudgy knees it was
apparent that they were trembling. His eyes had a wide-open, staring look,
as though he could not prevent himself from gazing at something in the
'What are you in for?' said Winston.
'Thoughtcrime!' said Parsons, almost blubbering. The tone of his voice
implied at once a complete admission of his guilt and a sort of incredulous
horror that such a word could be applied to himself. He paused opposite
Winston and began eagerly appealing to him: 'You don't think they'll shoot
me, do you, old chap? They don't shoot you if you haven't actually done
anything – only thoughts, which you can't help? I know they give you a fair
hearing. Oh, I trust them for that! They'll know my record, won't they?
YOU know what kind of chap I was. Not a bad chap in my way. Not brainy, of
course, but keen. I tried to do my best for the Party, didn't I? I'll get
off with five years, don't you think? Or even ten years? A chap like me
could make himself pretty useful in a labour-camp. They wouldn't shoot me
for going off the rails just once?'
'Are you guilty?' said Winston.
'Of course I'm guilty!' cried Parsons with a servile glance at the
telescreen. 'You don't think the Party would arrest an innocent man,
do you?' His frog-like face grew calmer, and even took on a slightly
sanctimonious expression. 'Thoughtcrime is a dreadful thing, old man,'
he said sententiously. 'It's insidious. It can get hold of you without
your even knowing it. Do you know how it got hold of me? In my sleep! Yes,
that's a fact. There I was, working away, trying to do my bit – never knew
I had any bad stuff in my mind at all. And then I started talking in my
sleep. Do you know what they heard me saying?'
He sank his voice, like someone who is obliged for medical reasons to
utter an obscenity.
'"Down with Big Brother!" Yes, I said that! Said it over and over again,
it seems. Between you and me, old man, I'm glad they got me before it went
any further. Do you know what I'm going to say to them when I go up before
the tribunal? "Thank you," I'm going to say, "thank you for saving me
before it was too late."'
'Who denounced you?' said Winston.
'It was my little daughter,' said Parsons with a sort of doleful pride.
'She listened at the keyhole. Heard what I was saying, and nipped off to
the patrols the very next day. Pretty smart for a nipper of seven, eh?
I don't bear her any grudge for it. In fact I'm proud of her. It shows I
brought her up in the right spirit, anyway.'
He made a few more jerky movements up and down, several times, casting a
longing glance at the lavatory pan. Then he suddenly ripped down his
'Excuse me, old man,' he said. 'I can't help it. It's the waiting.'
He plumped his large posterior into the lavatory pan. Winston covered his
face with his hands.
'Smith!' yelled the voice from the telescreen. '6079 Smith W.! Uncover your
face. No faces covered in the cells.'
Winston uncovered his face. Parsons used the lavatory, loudly and
abundantly. It then turned out that the plug was defective and the cell
stank abominably for hours afterwards.
Parsons was removed. More prisoners came and went, mysteriously. One, a
woman, was consigned to 'Room 101', and, Winston noticed, seemed to shrivel
and turn a different colour when she heard the words. A time came when, if
it had been morning when he was brought here, it would be afternoon; or if
it had been afternoon, then it would be midnight. There were six prisoners
in the cell, men and women. All sat very still. Opposite Winston there sat
a man with a chinless, toothy face exactly like that of some large,
harmless rodent. His fat, mottled cheeks were so pouched at the bottom
that it was difficult not to believe that he had little stores of food
tucked away there. His pale-grey eyes flitted timorously from face to face
and turned quickly away again when he caught anyone's eye.
The door opened, and another prisoner was brought in whose appearance sent
a momentary chill through Winston. He was a commonplace, mean-looking man
who might have been an engineer or technician of some kind. But what was
startling was the emaciation of his face. It was like a skull. Because of
its thinness the mouth and eyes looked disproportionately large, and the
eyes seemed filled with a murderous, unappeasable hatred of somebody or
The man sat down on the bench at a little distance from Winston. Winston
did not look at him again, but the tormented, skull-like face was as
vivid in his mind as though it had been straight in front of his eyes.
Suddenly he realized what was the matter. The man was dying of starvation.
The same thought seemed to occur almost simultaneously to everyone in the
cell. There was a very faint stirring all the way round the bench. The
eyes of the chinless man kept flitting towards the skull-faced man, then
turning guiltily away, then being dragged back by an irresistible
attraction. Presently he began to fidget on his seat. At last he stood up,
waddled clumsily across the cell, dug down into the pocket of his overalls,
and, with an abashed air, held out a grimy piece of bread to the
There was a furious, deafening roar from the telescreen. The chinless man
jumped in his tracks. The skull-faced man had quickly thrust his hands
behind his back, as though demonstrating to all the world that he refused
'Bumstead!' roared the voice. '2713 Bumstead J.! Let fall that piece of
The chinless man dropped the piece of bread on the floor.
'Remain standing where you are,' said the voice. 'Face the door. Make no
The chinless man obeyed. His large pouchy cheeks were quivering
uncontrollably. The door clanged open. As the young officer entered and
stepped aside, there emerged from behind him a short stumpy guard with
enormous arms and shoulders. He took his stand opposite the chinless man,
and then, at a signal from the officer, let free a frightful blow, with
all the weight of his body behind it, full in the chinless man's mouth.
The force of it seemed almost to knock him clear of the floor. His body
was flung across the cell and fetched up against the base of the lavatory
seat. For a moment he lay as though stunned, with dark blood oozing from
his mouth and nose. A very faint whimpering or squeaking, which seemed
unconscious, came out of him. Then he rolled over and raised himself
unsteadily on hands and knees. Amid a stream of blood and saliva, the two
halves of a dental plate fell out of his mouth.
The prisoners sat very still, their hands crossed on their knees. The
chinless man climbed back into his place. Down one side of his face the
flesh was darkening. His mouth had swollen into a shapeless cherry-coloured
mass with a black hole in the middle of it.
From time to time a little blood dripped on to the breast of his overalls.
His grey eyes still flitted from face to face, more guiltily than ever,
as though he were trying to discover how much the others despised him for
The door opened. With a small gesture the officer indicated the
'Room 101,' he said.
There was a gasp and a flurry at Winston's side. The man had actually
flung himself on his knees on the floor, with his hand clasped together.
'Comrade! Officer!' he cried. 'You don't have to take me to that place!
Haven't I told you everything already? What else is it you want to know?
There's nothing I wouldn't confess, nothing! Just tell me what it is and
I'll confess straight off. Write it down and I'll sign it – anything!
Not room 101!'
'Room 101,' said the officer.
The man's face, already very pale, turned a colour Winston would not have
believed possible. It was definitely, unmistakably, a shade of green.
'Do anything to me!' he yelled. 'You've been starving me for weeks. Finish
it off and let me die. Shoot me. Hang me. Sentence me to twenty-five
years. Is there somebody else you want me to give away? Just say who it is
and I'll tell you anything you want. I don't care who it is or what you do
to them. I've got a wife and three children. The biggest of them isn't six
years old. You can take the whole lot of them and cut their throats in
front of my eyes, and I'll stand by and watch it. But not Room 101!'
'Room 101,' said the officer.
The man looked frantically round at the other prisoners, as though with
some idea that he could put another victim in his own place. His eyes
settled on the smashed face of the chinless man. He flung out a lean arm.
'That's the one you ought to be taking, not me!' he shouted. 'You didn't
hear what he was saying after they bashed his face. Give me a chance and
I'll tell you every word of it. HE'S the one that's against the Party, not
me.' The guards stepped forward. The man's voice rose to a shriek. 'You
didn't hear him!' he repeated. 'Something went wrong with the telescreen.
HE'S the one you want. Take him, not me!'
The two sturdy guards had stooped to take him by the arms. But just at
this moment he flung himself across the floor of the cell and grabbed one
of the iron legs that supported the bench. He had set up a wordless
howling, like an animal. The guards took hold of him to wrench him loose,
but he clung on with astonishing strength. For perhaps twenty seconds
they were hauling at him. The prisoners sat quiet, their hands crossed on
their knees, looking straight in front of them. The howling stopped; the
man had no breath left for anything except hanging on. Then there was a
different kind of cry. A kick from a guard's boot had broken the fingers
of one of his hands. They dragged him to his feet.
'Room 101,' said the officer.
The man was led out, walking unsteadily, with head sunken, nursing his
crushed hand, all the fight had gone out of him.
A long time passed. If it had been midnight when the skull-faced man was
taken away, it was morning: if morning, it was afternoon. Winston was
alone, and had been alone for hours. The pain of sitting on the narrow
bench was such that often he got up and walked about, unreproved by the
telescreen. The piece of bread still lay where the chinless man had
dropped it. At the beginning it needed a hard effort not to look at it,
but presently hunger gave way to thirst. His mouth was sticky and
evil-tasting. The humming sound and the unvarying white light induced a
sort of faintness, an empty feeling inside his head. He would get up
because the ache in his bones was no longer bearable, and then would sit
down again almost at once because he was too dizzy to make sure of
staying on his feet. Whenever his physical sensations were a little under
control the terror returned. Sometimes with a fading hope he thought of
O'Brien and the razor blade. It was thinkable that the razor blade might
arrive concealed in his food, if he were ever fed. More dimly he thought
of Julia. Somewhere or other she was suffering perhaps far worse than he.
She might be screaming with pain at this moment. He thought: 'If I could
save Julia by doubling my own pain, would I do it? Yes, I would.' But that
was merely an intellectual decision, taken because he knew that he ought
to take it. He did not feel it. In this place you could not feel anything,
except pain and foreknowledge of pain. Besides, was it possible, when you
were actually suffering it, to wish for any reason that your own pain
should increase? But that question was not answerable yet.
The boots were approaching again. The door opened. O'Brien came in.
Winston started to his feet. The shock of the sight had driven all
caution out of him. For the first time in many years he forgot the
presence of the telescreen.
'They've got you too!' he cried.
'They got me a long time ago,' said O'Brien with a mild, almost regretful
irony. He stepped aside. From behind him there emerged a broad-chested
guard with a long black truncheon in his hand.
'You know this, Winston,' said O'Brien. 'Don't deceive yourself. You did
know it – you have always known it.'
Yes, he saw now, he had always known it. But there was no time to think of
that. All he had eyes for was the truncheon in the guard's hand. It might
fall anywhere; on the crown, on the tip of the ear, on the upper arm, on
the elbow – –
The elbow! He had slumped to his knees, almost paralysed, clasping the
stricken elbow with his other hand. Everything had exploded into yellow
light. Inconceivable, inconceivable that one blow could cause such pain!
The light cleared and he could see the other two looking down at him. The
guard was laughing at his contortions. One question at any rate was
answered. Never, for any reason on earth, could you wish for an increase
of pain. Of pain you could wish only one thing: that it should stop.
Nothing in the world was so bad as physical pain. In the face of pain
there are no heroes, no heroes, he thought over and over as he writhed
on the floor, clutching uselessly at his disabled left arm.