He was lying on something that felt like a camp bed, except that it was
higher off the ground and that he was fixed down in some way so that he
could not move. Light that seemed stronger than usual was falling on his
face. O'Brien was standing at his side, looking down at him intently. At
the other side of him stood a man in a white coat, holding a hypodermic
Even after his eyes were open he took in his surroundings only gradually.
He had the impression of swimming up into this room from some quite
different world, a sort of underwater world far beneath it. How long he
had been down there he did not know. Since the moment when they arrested
him he had not seen darkness or daylight. Besides, his memories were not
continuous. There had been times when consciousness, even the sort of
consciousness that one has in sleep, had stopped dead and started again
after a blank interval. But whether the intervals were of days or weeks
or only seconds, there was no way of knowing.
With that first blow on the elbow the nightmare had started. Later he was
to realize that all that then happened was merely a preliminary, a routine
interrogation to which nearly all prisoners were subjected. There was a
long range of crimes – espionage, sabotage, and the like – to which everyone
had to confess as a matter of course. The confession was a formality,
though the torture was real. How many times he had been beaten, how long
the beatings had continued, he could not remember. Always there were five
or six men in black uniforms at him simultaneously. Sometimes it was
fists, sometimes it was truncheons, sometimes it was steel rods, sometimes
it was boots. There were times when he rolled about the floor, as shameless
as an animal, writhing his body this way and that in an endless, hopeless
effort to dodge the kicks, and simply inviting more and yet more kicks,
in his ribs, in his belly, on his elbows, on his shins, in his groin,
in his testicles, on the bone at the base of his spine. There were times
when it went on and on until the cruel, wicked, unforgivable thing seemed
to him not that the guards continued to beat him but that he could not
force himself into losing consciousness. There were times when his nerve
so forsook him that he began shouting for mercy even before the beating
began, when the mere sight of a fist drawn back for a blow was enough
to make him pour forth a confession of real and imaginary crimes. There
were other times when he started out with the resolve of confessing
nothing, when every word had to be forced out of him between gasps of
pain, and there were times when he feebly tried to compromise, when he
said to himself: 'I will confess, but not yet. I must hold out till the
pain becomes unbearable. Three more kicks, two more kicks, and then I will
tell them what they want.' Sometimes he was beaten till he could hardly
stand, then flung like a sack of potatoes on to the stone floor of a cell,
left to recuperate for a few hours, and then taken out and beaten again.
There were also longer periods of recovery. He remembered them dimly,
because they were spent chiefly in sleep or stupor. He remembered a cell
with a plank bed, a sort of shelf sticking out from the wall, and a tin
wash-basin, and meals of hot soup and bread and sometimes coffee. He
remembered a surly barber arriving to scrape his chin and crop his hair,
and businesslike, unsympathetic men in white coats feeling his pulse,
tapping his reflexes, turning up his eyelids, running harsh fingers over
him in search for broken bones, and shooting needles into his arm to make
The beatings grew less frequent, and became mainly a threat, a horror
to which he could be sent back at any moment when his answers were
unsatisfactory. His questioners now were not ruffians in black uniforms
but Party intellectuals, little rotund men with quick movements and
flashing spectacles, who worked on him in relays over periods which
lasted – he thought, he could not be sure – ten or twelve hours at a stretch.
These other questioners saw to it that he was in constant slight pain, but
it was not chiefly pain that they relied on. They slapped his face, wrung
his ears, pulled his hair, made him stand on one leg, refused him leave to
urinate, shone glaring lights in his face until his eyes ran with water;
but the aim of this was simply to humiliate him and destroy his power of
arguing and reasoning. Their real weapon was the merciless questioning
that went on and on, hour after hour, tripping him up, laying traps for
him, twisting everything that he said, convicting him at every step of
lies and self-contradiction until he began weeping as much from shame as
from nervous fatigue. Sometimes he would weep half a dozen times in a
single session. Most of the time they screamed abuse at him and threatened
at every hesitation to deliver him over to the guards again; but sometimes
they would suddenly change their tune, call him comrade, appeal to him in
the name of Ingsoc and Big Brother, and ask him sorrowfully whether even
now he had not enough loyalty to the Party left to make him wish to
undo the evil he had done. When his nerves were in rags after hours of
questioning, even this appeal could reduce him to snivelling tears. In the
end the nagging voices broke him down more completely than the boots and
fists of the guards. He became simply a mouth that uttered, a hand that
signed, whatever was demanded of him. His sole concern was to find out
what they wanted him to confess, and then confess it quickly, before the
bullying started anew. He confessed to the assassination of eminent Party
members, the distribution of seditious pamphlets, embezzlement of public
funds, sale of military secrets, sabotage of every kind. He confessed that
he had been a spy in the pay of the Eastasian government as far back as
1968. He confessed that he was a religious believer, an admirer of
capitalism, and a sexual pervert. He confessed that he had murdered his
wife, although he knew, and his questioners must have known, that his wife
was still alive. He confessed that for years he had been in personal touch
with Goldstein and had been a member of an underground organization which
had included almost every human being he had ever known. It was easier to
confess everything and implicate everybody. Besides, in a sense it was all
true. It was true that he had been the enemy of the Party, and in the eyes
of the Party there was no distinction between the thought and the deed.
There were also memories of another kind. They stood out in his mind
disconnectedly, like pictures with blackness all round them.
He was in a cell which might have been either dark or light, because he
could see nothing except a pair of eyes. Near at hand some kind of
instrument was ticking slowly and regularly. The eyes grew larger and more
luminous. Suddenly he floated out of his seat, dived into the eyes, and
was swallowed up.
He was strapped into a chair surrounded by dials, under dazzling lights.
A man in a white coat was reading the dials. There was a tramp of heavy
boots outside. The door clanged open. The waxed-faced officer marched in,
followed by two guards.
'Room 101,' said the officer.
The man in the white coat did not turn round. He did not look at Winston
either; he was looking only at the dials.
He was rolling down a mighty corridor, a kilometre wide, full of glorious,
golden light, roaring with laughter and shouting out confessions at the
top of his voice. He was confessing everything, even the things he had
succeeded in holding back under the torture. He was relating the entire
history of his life to an audience who knew it already. With him were the
guards, the other questioners, the men in white coats, O'Brien, Julia,
Mr Charrington, all rolling down the corridor together and shouting with
laughter. Some dreadful thing which had lain embedded in the future had
somehow been skipped over and had not happened. Everything was all right,
there was no more pain, the last detail of his life was laid bare,
He was starting up from the plank bed in the half-certainty that he had
heard O'Brien's voice. All through his interrogation, although he had
never seen him, he had had the feeling that O'Brien was at his elbow, just
out of sight. It was O'Brien who was directing everything. It was he who
set the guards on to Winston and who prevented them from killing him. It
was he who decided when Winston should scream with pain, when he should
have a respite, when he should be fed, when he should sleep, when the
drugs should be pumped into his arm. It was he who asked the questions and
suggested the answers. He was the tormentor, he was the protector, he was
the inquisitor, he was the friend. And once – Winston could not remember
whether it was in drugged sleep, or in normal sleep, or even in a moment
of wakefulness – a voice murmured in his ear: 'Don't worry, Winston; you
are in my keeping. For seven years I have watched over you. Now the
turning-point has come. I shall save you, I shall make you perfect.' He
was not sure whether it was O'Brien's voice; but it was the same voice
that had said to him, 'We shall meet in the place where there is no
darkness,' in that other dream, seven years ago.
He did not remember any ending to his interrogation. There was a period of
blackness and then the cell, or room, in which he now was had gradually
materialized round him. He was almost flat on his back, and unable to move.
His body was held down at every essential point. Even the back of his head
was gripped in some manner. O'Brien was looking down at him gravely and
rather sadly. His face, seen from below, looked coarse and worn, with
pouches under the eyes and tired lines from nose to chin. He was older
than Winston had thought him; he was perhaps forty-eight or fifty. Under
his hand there was a dial with a lever on top and figures running round
'I told you,' said O'Brien, 'that if we met again it would be here.'
'Yes,' said Winston.
Without any warning except a slight movement of O'Brien's hand, a wave of
pain flooded his body. It was a frightening pain, because he could not see
what was happening, and he had the feeling that some mortal injury was
being done to him. He did not know whether the thing was really happening,
or whether the effect was electrically produced; but his body was being
wrenched out of shape, the joints were being slowly torn apart. Although
the pain had brought the sweat out on his forehead, the worst of all was
the fear that his backbone was about to snap. He set his teeth and
breathed hard through his nose, trying to keep silent as long as possible.
'You are afraid,' said O'Brien, watching his face, 'that in another moment
something is going to break. Your especial fear is that it will be your
backbone. You have a vivid mental picture of the vertebrae snapping apart
and the spinal fluid dripping out of them. That is what you are thinking,
is it not, Winston?'
Winston did not answer. O'Brien drew back the lever on the dial. The wave
of pain receded almost as quickly as it had come.
'That was forty,' said O'Brien. 'You can see that the numbers on this dial
run up to a hundred. Will you please remember, throughout our conversation,
that I have it in my power to inflict pain on you at any moment and to
whatever degree I choose? If you tell me any lies, or attempt to
prevaricate in any way, or even fall below your usual level of
intelligence, you will cry out with pain, instantly. Do you understand
'Yes,' said Winston.
O'Brien's manner became less severe. He resettled his spectacles
thoughtfully, and took a pace or two up and down. When he spoke his voice
was gentle and patient. He had the air of a doctor, a teacher, even a
priest, anxious to explain and persuade rather than to punish.
'I am taking trouble with you, Winston,' he said, 'because you are worth
trouble. You know perfectly well what is the matter with you. You have
known it for years, though you have fought against the knowledge. You are
mentally deranged. You suffer from a defective memory. You are unable to
remember real events and you persuade yourself that you remember other
events which never happened. Fortunately it is curable. You have never
cured yourself of it, because you did not choose to. There was a small
effort of the will that you were not ready to make. Even now, I am well
aware, you are clinging to your disease under the impression that it is
a virtue. Now we will take an example. At this moment, which power is
Oceania at war with?'
'When I was arrested, Oceania was at war with Eastasia.'
'With Eastasia. Good. And Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia,
has it not?'
Winston drew in his breath. He opened his mouth to speak and then did not
speak. He could not take his eyes away from the dial.
'The truth, please, Winston. YOUR truth. Tell me what you think you
'I remember that until only a week before I was arrested, we were not at
war with Eastasia at all. We were in alliance with them. The war was
against Eurasia. That had lasted for four years. Before that – – '
O'Brien stopped him with a movement of the hand.
'Another example,' he said. 'Some years ago you had a very serious delusion
indeed. You believed that three men, three one-time Party members named
Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford – men who were executed for treachery and
sabotage after making the fullest possible confession – were not guilty of
the crimes they were charged with. You believed that you had seen
unmistakable documentary evidence proving that their confessions were
false. There was a certain photograph about which you had a hallucination.
You believed that you had actually held it in your hands. It was a
photograph something like this.'
An oblong slip of newspaper had appeared between O'Brien's fingers. For
perhaps five seconds it was within the angle of Winston's vision. It was
a photograph, and there was no question of its identity. It was THE
photograph. It was another copy of the photograph of Jones, Aaronson, and
Rutherford at the party function in New York, which he had chanced upon
eleven years ago and promptly destroyed. For only an instant it was before
his eyes, then it was out of sight again. But he had seen it,
unquestionably he had seen it! He made a desperate, agonizing effort to
wrench the top half of his body free. It was impossible to move so much as
a centimetre in any direction. For the moment he had even forgotten the
dial. All he wanted was to hold the photograph in his fingers again, or at
least to see it.
'It exists!' he cried.
'No,' said O'Brien.
He stepped across the room. There was a memory hole in the opposite wall.
O'Brien lifted the grating. Unseen, the frail slip of paper was whirling
away on the current of warm air; it was vanishing in a flash of flame.
O'Brien turned away from the wall.
'Ashes,' he said. 'Not even identifiable ashes. Dust. It does not exist.
It never existed.'
'But it did exist! It does exist! It exists in memory. I remember it.
You remember it.'
'I do not remember it,' said O'Brien.
Winston's heart sank. That was doublethink. He had a feeling of deadly
helplessness. If he could have been certain that O'Brien was lying, it
would not have seemed to matter. But it was perfectly possible that O'Brien
had really forgotten the photograph. And if so, then already he would have
forgotten his denial of remembering it, and forgotten the act of
forgetting. How could one be sure that it was simple trickery? Perhaps
that lunatic dislocation in the mind could really happen: that was the
thought that defeated him.
O'Brien was looking down at him speculatively. More than ever he had the
air of a teacher taking pains with a wayward but promising child.
'There is a Party slogan dealing with the control of the past,' he said.
'Repeat it, if you please.'
'"Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present
controls the past,"' repeated Winston obediently.
'"Who controls the present controls the past,"' said O'Brien, nodding his
head with slow approval. 'Is it your opinion, Winston, that the past has
Again the feeling of helplessness descended upon Winston. His eyes flitted
towards the dial. He not only did not know whether 'yes' or 'no' was the
answer that would save him from pain; he did not even know which answer he
believed to be the true one.
O'Brien smiled faintly. 'You are no metaphysician, Winston,' he said.
'Until this moment you had never considered what is meant by existence. I
will put it more precisely. Does the past exist concretely, in space? Is
there somewhere or other a place, a world of solid objects, where the past
is still happening?'
'Then where does the past exist, if at all?'
'In records. It is written down.'
'In records. And – – ?'
'In the mind. In human memories.'
'In memory. Very well, then. We, the Party, control all records, and we
control all memories. Then we control the past, do we not?'
'But how can you stop people remembering things?' cried Winston again
momentarily forgetting the dial. 'It is involuntary. It is outside oneself.
How can you control memory? You have not controlled mine!'
O'Brien's manner grew stern again. He laid his hand on the dial.
'On the contrary,' he said, 'YOU have not controlled it. That is what has
brought you here. You are here because you have failed in humility, in
self-discipline. You would not make the act of submission which is the
price of sanity. You preferred to be a lunatic, a minority of one. Only the
disciplined mind can see reality, Winston. You believe that reality is
something objective, external, existing in its own right. You also believe
that the nature of reality is self-evident. When you delude yourself into
thinking that you see something, you assume that everyone else sees the
same thing as you. But I tell you, Winston, that reality is not external.
Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else. Not in the individual
mind, which can make mistakes, and in any case soon perishes: only in the
mind of the Party, which is collective and immortal. Whatever the Party
holds to be the truth, is truth. It is impossible to see reality except by
looking through the eyes of the Party. That is the fact that you have got
to relearn, Winston. It needs an act of self-destruction, an effort of the
will. You must humble yourself before you can become sane.'
He paused for a few moments, as though to allow what he had been saying to
'Do you remember,' he went on, 'writing in your diary, "Freedom is the
freedom to say that two plus two make four"?'
'Yes,' said Winston.
O'Brien held up his left hand, its back towards Winston, with the thumb
hidden and the four fingers extended.
'How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?'
'And if the party says that it is not four but five – then how many?'
The word ended in a gasp of pain. The needle of the dial had shot up to
fifty-five. The sweat had sprung out all over Winston's body. The air tore
into his lungs and issued again in deep groans which even by clenching his
teeth he could not stop. O'Brien watched him, the four fingers still
extended. He drew back the lever. This time the pain was only slightly
'How many fingers, Winston?'
The needle went up to sixty.
'How many fingers, Winston?'
'Four! Four! What else can I say? Four!'
The needle must have risen again, but he did not look at it. The heavy,
stern face and the four fingers filled his vision. The fingers stood up
before his eyes like pillars, enormous, blurry, and seeming to vibrate,
but unmistakably four.
'How many fingers, Winston?'
'Four! Stop it, stop it! How can you go on? Four! Four!'
'How many fingers, Winston?'
'Five! Five! Five!'
'No, Winston, that is no use. You are lying. You still think there are
four. How many fingers, please?'
'Four! five! Four! Anything you like. Only stop it, stop the pain!'
Abruptly he was sitting up with O'Brien's arm round his shoulders. He had
perhaps lost consciousness for a few seconds. The bonds that had held his
body down were loosened. He felt very cold, he was shaking uncontrollably,
his teeth were chattering, the tears were rolling down his cheeks. For a
moment he clung to O'Brien like a baby, curiously comforted by the heavy
arm round his shoulders. He had the feeling that O'Brien was his protector,
that the pain was something that came from outside, from some other source,
and that it was O'Brien who would save him from it.
'You are a slow learner, Winston,' said O'Brien gently.
'How can I help it?' he blubbered. 'How can I help seeing what is in front
of my eyes? Two and two are four.'
'Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three.
Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not
easy to become sane.'
He laid Winston down on the bed. The grip of his limbs tightened again,
but the pain had ebbed away and the trembling had stopped, leaving him
merely weak and cold. O'Brien motioned with his head to the man in the
white coat, who had stood immobile throughout the proceedings. The man in
the white coat bent down and looked closely into Winston's eyes, felt his
pulse, laid an ear against his chest, tapped here and there, then he
nodded to O'Brien.
'Again,' said O'Brien.
The pain flowed into Winston's body. The needle must be at seventy,
seventy-five. He had shut his eyes this time. He knew that the fingers
were still there, and still four. All that mattered was somehow to stay
alive until the spasm was over. He had ceased to notice whether he was
crying out or not. The pain lessened again. He opened his eyes. O'Brien
had drawn back the lever.
'How many fingers, Winston?'
'Four. I suppose there are four. I would see five if I could. I am trying
to see five.'
'Which do you wish: to persuade me that you see five, or really to see
'Really to see them.'
'Again,' said O'Brien.
Perhaps the needle was eighty – ninety. Winston could not intermittently
remember why the pain was happening. Behind his screwed-up eyelids a
forest of fingers seemed to be moving in a sort of dance, weaving in and
out, disappearing behind one another and reappearing again. He was trying
to count them, he could not remember why. He knew only that it was
impossible to count them, and that this was somehow due to the mysterious
identity between five and four. The pain died down again. When he opened
his eyes it was to find that he was still seeing the same thing.
Innumerable fingers, like moving trees, were still streaming past in
either direction, crossing and recrossing. He shut his eyes again.
'How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?'
'I don't know. I don't know. You will kill me if you do that again. Four,
five, six – in all honesty I don't know.'
'Better,' said O'Brien.
A needle slid into Winston's arm. Almost in the same instant a blissful,
healing warmth spread all through his body. The pain was already
half-forgotten. He opened his eyes and looked up gratefully at O'Brien.
At sight of the heavy, lined face, so ugly and so intelligent, his heart
seemed to turn over. If he could have moved he would have stretched out
a hand and laid it on O'Brien's arm. He had never loved him so deeply as
at this moment, and not merely because he had stopped the pain. The old
feeling, that at bottom it did not matter whether O'Brien was a friend
or an enemy, had come back. O'Brien was a person who could be talked to.
Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood. O'Brien
had tortured him to the edge of lunacy, and in a little while, it was
certain, he would send him to his death. It made no difference. In some
sense that went deeper than friendship, they were intimates: somewhere or
other, although the actual words might never be spoken, there was a place
where they could meet and talk. O'Brien was looking down at him with an
expression which suggested that the same thought might be in his own mind.
When he spoke it was in an easy, conversational tone.
'Do you know where you are, Winston?' he said.
'I don't know. I can guess. In the Ministry of Love.'
'Do you know how long you have been here?'
'I don't know. Days, weeks, months – I think it is months.'
'And why do you imagine that we bring people to this place?'
'To make them confess.'
'No, that is not the reason. Try again.'
'To punish them.'
'No!' exclaimed O'Brien. His voice had changed extraordinarily, and his
face had suddenly become both stern and animated. 'No! Not merely to
extract your confession, not to punish you. Shall I tell you why we have
brought you here? To cure you! To make you sane! Will you understand,
Winston, that no one whom we bring to this place ever leaves our hands
uncured? We are not interested in those stupid crimes that you have
committed. The Party is not interested in the overt act: the thought is
all we care about. We do not merely destroy our enemies, we change them.
Do you understand what I mean by that?'
He was bending over Winston. His face looked enormous because of its
nearness, and hideously ugly because it was seen from below. Moreover it
was filled with a sort of exaltation, a lunatic intensity. Again Winston's
heart shrank. If it had been possible he would have cowered deeper into
the bed. He felt certain that O'Brien was about to twist the dial out of
sheer wantonness. At this moment, however, O'Brien turned away. He took a
pace or two up and down. Then he continued less vehemently:
'The first thing for you to understand is that in this place there are no
martyrdoms. You have read of the religious persecutions of the past. In
the Middle Ages there was the Inquisition. It was a failure. It set out
to eradicate heresy, and ended by perpetuating it. For every heretic it
burned at the stake, thousands of others rose up. Why was that? Because
the Inquisition killed its enemies in the open, and killed them while
they were still unrepentant: in fact, it killed them because they were
unrepentant. Men were dying because they would not abandon their true
beliefs. Naturally all the glory belonged to the victim and all the shame
to the Inquisitor who burned him. Later, in the twentieth century, there
were the totalitarians, as they were called. There were the German Nazis
and the Russian Communists. The Russians persecuted heresy more cruelly
than the Inquisition had done. And they imagined that they had learned
from the mistakes of the past; they knew, at any rate, that one must not
make martyrs. Before they exposed their victims to public trial, they
deliberately set themselves to destroy their dignity. They wore them down
by torture and solitude until they were despicable, cringing wretches,
confessing whatever was put into their mouths, covering themselves with
abuse, accusing and sheltering behind one another, whimpering for mercy.
And yet after only a few years the same thing had happened over again.
The dead men had become martyrs and their degradation was forgotten. Once
again, why was it? In the first place, because the confessions that they
had made were obviously extorted and untrue. We do not make mistakes of
that kind. All the confessions that are uttered here are true. We make
them true. And above all we do not allow the dead to rise up against us.
You must stop imagining that posterity will vindicate you, Winston.
Posterity will never hear of you. You will be lifted clean out from the
stream of history. We shall turn you into gas and pour you into the
stratosphere. Nothing will remain of you, not a name in a register, not
a memory in a living brain. You will be annihilated in the past as well
as in the future. You will never have existed.'
Then why bother to torture me? thought Winston, with a momentary
bitterness. O'Brien checked his step as though Winston had uttered the
thought aloud. His large ugly face came nearer, with the eyes a little
'You are thinking,' he said, 'that since we intend to destroy you utterly,
so that nothing that you say or do can make the smallest difference – in
that case, why do we go to the trouble of interrogating you first? That is
what you were thinking, was it not?'
'Yes,' said Winston.
O'Brien smiled slightly. 'You are a flaw in the pattern, Winston. You are
a stain that must be wiped out. Did I not tell you just now that we are
different from the persecutors of the past? We are not content with
negative obedience, nor even with the most abject submission. When finally
you surrender to us, it must be of your own free will. We do not destroy
the heretic because he resists us: so long as he resists us we never
destroy him. We convert him, we capture his inner mind, we reshape him.
We burn all evil and all illusion out of him; we bring him over to our
side, not in appearance, but genuinely, heart and soul. We make him one of
ourselves before we kill him. It is intolerable to us that an erroneous
thought should exist anywhere in the world, however secret and powerless
it may be. Even in the instant of death we cannot permit any deviation. In
the old days the heretic walked to the stake still a heretic, proclaiming
his heresy, exulting in it. Even the victim of the Russian purges could
carry rebellion locked up in his skull as he walked down the passage
waiting for the bullet. But we make the brain perfect before we blow it
out. The command of the old despotisms was "Thou shalt not". The command
of the totalitarians was "Thou shalt". Our command is "THOU ART". No one
whom we bring to this place ever stands out against us. Everyone is washed
clean. Even those three miserable traitors in whose innocence you once
believed – Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford – in the end we broke them down.
I took part in their interrogation myself. I saw them gradually worn down,
whimpering, grovelling, weeping – and in the end it was not with pain or
fear, only with penitence. By the time we had finished with them they were
only the shells of men. There was nothing left in them except sorrow for
what they had done, and love of Big Brother. It was touching to see
how they loved him. They begged to be shot quickly, so that they could die
while their minds were still clean.'
His voice had grown almost dreamy. The exaltation, the lunatic enthusiasm,
was still in his face. He is not pretending, thought Winston, he is not a
hypocrite, he believes every word he says. What most oppressed him was the
consciousness of his own intellectual inferiority. He watched the heavy
yet graceful form strolling to and fro, in and out of the range of his
vision. O'Brien was a being in all ways larger than himself. There was no
idea that he had ever had, or could have, that O'Brien had not long ago
known, examined, and rejected. His mind CONTAINED Winston's mind. But
in that case how could it be true that O'Brien was mad? It must be he,
Winston, who was mad. O'Brien halted and looked down at him. His voice had
grown stern again.
'Do not imagine that you will save yourself, Winston, however completely
you surrender to us. No one who has once gone astray is ever spared. And
even if we chose to let you live out the natural term of your life, still
you would never escape from us. What happens to you here is for ever.
Understand that in advance. We shall crush you down to the point from
which there is no coming back. Things will happen to you from which you
could not recover, if you lived a thousand years. Never again will you be
capable of ordinary human feeling. Everything will be dead inside you.
Never again will you be capable of love, or friendship, or joy of living,
or laughter, or curiosity, or courage, or integrity. You will be hollow.
We shall squeeze you empty, and then we shall fill you with ourselves.'
He paused and signed to the man in the white coat. Winston was aware of
some heavy piece of apparatus being pushed into place behind his head.
O'Brien had sat down beside the bed, so that his face was almost on a
level with Winston's.
'Three thousand,' he said, speaking over Winston's head to the man in the
Two soft pads, which felt slightly moist, clamped themselves against
Winston's temples. He quailed. There was pain coming, a new kind of pain.
O'Brien laid a hand reassuringly, almost kindly, on his.
'This time it will not hurt,' he said. 'Keep your eyes fixed on mine.'
At this moment there was a devastating explosion, or what seemed like an
explosion, though it was not certain whether there was any noise. There
was undoubtedly a blinding flash of light. Winston was not hurt, only
prostrated. Although he had already been lying on his back when the thing
happened, he had a curious feeling that he had been knocked into that
position. A terrific painless blow had flattened him out. Also something
had happened inside his head. As his eyes regained their focus he
remembered who he was, and where he was, and recognized the face that was
gazing into his own; but somewhere or other there was a large patch of
emptiness, as though a piece had been taken out of his brain.
'It will not last,' said O'Brien. 'Look me in the eyes. What country is
Oceania at war with?'
Winston thought. He knew what was meant by Oceania and that he himself was
a citizen of Oceania. He also remembered Eurasia and Eastasia; but who was
at war with whom he did not know. In fact he had not been aware that there
was any war.
'I don't remember.'
'Oceania is at war with Eastasia. Do you remember that now?'
'Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia. Since the beginning of your
life, since the beginning of the Party, since the beginning of history,
the war has continued without a break, always the same war. Do you
'Eleven years ago you created a legend about three men who had been
condemned to death for treachery. You pretended that you had seen a piece
of paper which proved them innocent. No such piece of paper ever existed.
You invented it, and later you grew to believe in it. You remember now the
very moment at which you first invented it. Do you remember that?'
'Just now I held up the fingers of my hand to you. You saw five fingers.
Do you remember that?'
O'Brien held up the fingers of his left hand, with the thumb concealed.
'There are five fingers there. Do you see five fingers?'
And he did see them, for a fleeting instant, before the scenery of his
mind changed. He saw five fingers, and there was no deformity. Then
everything was normal again, and the old fear, the hatred, and the
bewilderment came crowding back again. But there had been a moment – he did
not know how long, thirty seconds, perhaps – of luminous certainty, when
each new suggestion of O'Brien's had filled up a patch of emptiness and
become absolute truth, and when two and two could have been three as
easily as five, if that were what was needed. It had faded but before
O'Brien had dropped his hand; but though he could not recapture it, he
could remember it, as one remembers a vivid experience at some period of
one's life when one was in effect a different person.
'You see now,' said O'Brien, 'that it is at any rate possible.'
'Yes,' said Winston.
O'Brien stood up with a satisfied air. Over to his left Winston saw the
man in the white coat break an ampoule and draw back the plunger of a
syringe. O'Brien turned to Winston with a smile. In almost the old manner
he resettled his spectacles on his nose.
'Do you remember writing in your diary,' he said, 'that it did not matter
whether I was a friend or an enemy, since I was at least a person who
understood you and could be talked to? You were right. I enjoy talking to
you. Your mind appeals to me. It resembles my own mind except that you
happen to be insane. Before we bring the session to an end you can ask me
a few questions, if you choose.'
'Any question I like?'
'Anything.' He saw that Winston's eyes were upon the dial. 'It is switched
off. What is your first question?'
'What have you done with Julia?' said Winston.
O'Brien smiled again. 'She betrayed you, Winston. Immediately – unreservedly.
I have seldom seen anyone come over to us so promptly. You would hardly
recognize her if you saw her. All her rebelliousness, her deceit, her
folly, her dirty-mindedness – everything has been burned out of her. It was
a perfect conversion, a textbook case.'
'You tortured her?'
O'Brien left this unanswered. 'Next question,' he said.
'Does Big Brother exist?'
'Of course he exists. The Party exists. Big Brother is the embodiment of
'Does he exist in the same way as I exist?'
'You do not exist,' said O'Brien.
Once again the sense of helplessness assailed him. He knew, or he could
imagine, the arguments which proved his own nonexistence; but they were
nonsense, they were only a play on words. Did not the statement, 'You do
not exist', contain a logical absurdity? But what use was it to say so?
His mind shrivelled as he thought of the unanswerable, mad arguments with
which O'Brien would demolish him.
'I think I exist,' he said wearily. 'I am conscious of my own identity.
I was born and I shall die. I have arms and legs. I occupy a particular
point in space. No other solid object can occupy the same point
simultaneously. In that sense, does Big Brother exist?'
'It is of no importance. He exists.'
'Will Big Brother ever die?'
'Of course not. How could he die? Next question.'
'Does the Brotherhood exist?'
'That, Winston, you will never know. If we choose to set you free when we
have finished with you, and if you live to be ninety years old, still you
will never learn whether the answer to that question is Yes or No. As long
as you live it will be an unsolved riddle in your mind.'
Winston lay silent. His breast rose and fell a little faster. He still had
not asked the question that had come into his mind the first. He had got
to ask it, and yet it was as though his tongue would not utter it. There
was a trace of amusement in O'Brien's face. Even his spectacles seemed to
wear an ironical gleam. He knows, thought Winston suddenly, he knows what
I am going to ask! At the thought the words burst out of him:
'What is in Room 101?'
The expression on O'Brien's face did not change. He answered drily:
'You know what is in Room 101, Winston. Everyone knows what is in
He raised a finger to the man in the white coat. Evidently the session was
at an end. A needle jerked into Winston's arm. He sank almost instantly
into deep sleep.