he put his hand to the door-knob Winston saw that he had left the
diary open on the table. DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER was
written all over it, in letters almost big enough to be legible
across the room. It was an inconceivably stupid thing to have done.
But, he realized, even in his panic he had not wanted to smudge
the creamy paper by shutting the book while the ink was wet.
He drew in his breath and opened the door. Instantly a warm wave
of relief flowed through him. A colourless, crushed-looking woman,
with wispy hair and a lined face, was standing outside.
'Oh, comrade,' she began in a dreary, whining sort of voice, 'I
thought I heard you come in. Do you think you could come across
and have a look at our kitchen sink? It's got blocked up and-'
It was Mrs Parsons, the wife of a neighbour on the same floor. ('Mrs'
was a word somewhat discountenanced by the Party -- you were supposed
to call everyone 'comrade' -- but with some women one used it instinctively.)
She was a woman of about thirty, but looking much older. One had
the impression that there was dust in the creases of her face. Winston
followed her down the passage. These amateur repair jobs were an
almost daily irritation. Victory Mansions were old flats, built
in 1930 or thereabouts, and were falling to pieces. The plaster
flaked constantly from ceilings and walls, the pipes burst in every
hard frost, the roof leaked whenever there was snow, the heating
system was usually running at half steam when it was not closed
down altogether from motives of economy. Repairs, except what you
could do for yourself, had to be sanctioned by remote committees
which were liable to hold up even the mending of a window-pane for
'Of course it's only because Tom isn't home,' said Mrs Parsons vaguely.
The Parsons' flat was bigger than Winston's, and dingy in a different
way. Everything had a battered, trampled-on look, as though the
place had just been visited by some large violent animal. Games
impedimenta -- hockey-sticks, boxing-gloves, a burst football, a
pair of sweaty shorts turned inside out -- lay all over the floor,
and on the table there was a litter of dirty dishes and dog-eared
exercise-books. On the walls were scarlet banners of the Youth League
and the Spies, and a full-sized poster of Big Brother. There was
the usual boiled-cabbage smell, common to the whole building, but
it was shot through by a sharper reek of sweat, which-one knew this
at the first sniff, though it was hard to say how was the sweat
of some person not present at the moment. In another room someone
with a comb and a piece of toilet paper was trying to keep tune
with the military music which was still issuing from the telescreen.
'It's the children,' said Mrs Parsons, casting a half-apprehensive
glance at the door. 'They haven't been out today. And of course-'
She had a habit of breaking off her sentences in the middle. The
kitchen sink was full nearly to the brim with filthy greenish water
which smelt worse than ever of cabbage. Winston knelt down and examined
the angle-joint of the pipe. He hated using his hands, and he hated
bending down, which was always liable to start him coughing. Mrs
Parsons looked on helplessly.
'Of course if Tom was home he'd put it right in a moment,' she said.
'He loves anything like that. He's ever so good with his hands,
Parsons was Winston's fellow-employee at the Ministry of Truth.
He was a fattish but active man of paralysing stupidity, a mass
of imbecile enthusiasms -- one of those completely unquestioning,
devoted drudges on whom, more even than on the Thought Police, the
stability of the Party depended. At thirty-five he had just been
unwillingly evicted from the Youth League, and before graduating
into the Youth League he had managed to stay on in the Spies for
a year beyond the statutory age. At the Ministry he was employed
in some subordinate post for which intelligence was not required,
but on the other hand he was a leading figure on the Sports Committee
and all the other committees engaged in organizing community hikes,
spontaneous demonstrations, savings campaigns, and voluntary activities
generally. He would inform you with quiet pride, between whiffs
of his pipe, that he had put in an appearance at the Community Centre
every evening for the past four years. An overpowering smell of
sweat, a sort of unconscious testimony to the strenuousness of his
life, followed him about wherever he went, and even remained behind
him after he had gone.
'Have you got a spanner? -said Winston, fiddling with the nut on
'A spanner,' said Mrs Parsons, immediately becoming invertebrate.
'I don't know, I'm sure. Perhaps the children -'
There was a trampling of boots and another blast on the comb as
the children charged into the living-room. Mrs Parsons brought the
spanner. Winston let out the water and disgustedly removed the clot
of human hair that had blocked up the pipe. He cleaned his fingers
as best he could in the cold water from the tap and went back into
the other room.
'Up with your hands!' yelled a savage voice.
A handsome, tough-looking boy of nine had popped up from behind
the table and was menacing him with a toy automatic pistol, while
his small sister, about two years younger, made the same gesture
with a fragment of wood. Both of them were dressed in the blue shorts,
grey shirts, and red neckerchiefs which were the uniform of the
Spies. Winston raised his hands above his head, but with an uneasy
feeling, so vicious was the boy's demeanour, that it was not altogether
'You're a traitor!' yelled the boy. 'You're a thought-criminal!
You're a Eurasian spy! I'll shoot you, I'll vaporize you, I'll send
you to the salt mines!'
Suddenly they were both leaping round him, shouting 'Traitor!' and
'Thought-criminal!' the little girl imitating her brother in every
movement. It was somehow slightly frightening, like the gambolling
of tiger cubs which will soon grow up into man-eaters. There was
a sort of calculating ferocity in the boy's eye, a quite evident
desire to hit or kick Winston and a consciousness of being very
nearly big enough to do so. It was a good job it was not a real
pistol he was holding, Winston thought.
Mrs Parsons' eyes flitted nervously from Winston to the children,
and back again. In the better light of the living-room he noticed
with interest that there actually was dust in the creases of her
'They do get so noisy,' she said. 'They're disappointed because
they couldn't go to see the hanging, that's what it is. I'm too
busy to take them. and Tom won't be back from work in time.'
'Why can't we go and see the hanging?' roared the boy in his huge
'Want to see the hanging! Want to see the hanging!' chanted the
little girl, still capering round.
Some Eurasian prisoners, guilty of war crimes, were to be hanged
in the Park that evening, Winston remembered. This happened about
once a month, and was a popular spectacle. Children always clamoured
to be taken to see it. He took his leave of Mrs Parsons and made
for the door. But he had not gone six steps down the passage when
something hit the back of his neck an agonizingly painful blow.
It was as though a red-hot wire had been jabbed into him. He spun
round just in time to see Mrs Parsons dragging her son back into
the doorway while the boy pocketed a catapult.
'Goldstein!' bellowed the boy as the door closed on him. But what
most struck Winston was the look of helpless fright on the woman's
Back in the flat he stepped quickly past the telescreen and sat
down at the table again, still rubbing his neck. The music from
the telescreen had stopped. Instead, a clipped military voice was
reading out, with a sort of brutal relish, a description of the
armaments of the new Floating Fortress which had just been anchored
between lceland and the Faroe lslands.
With those children, he thought, that wretched woman must lead a
life of terror. Another year, two years, and they would be watching
her night and day for symptoms of unorthodoxy. Nearly all children
nowadays were horrible. What was worst of all was that by means
of such organizations as the Spies they were systematically turned
into ungovernable little savages, and yet this produced in them
no tendency whatever to rebel against the discipline of the Party.
On the contrary, they adored the Party and everything connected
with it. The songs, the processions, the banners, the hiking, the
drilling with dummy rifles, the yelling of slogans, the worship
of Big Brother -- it was all a sort of glorious game to them. All
their ferocity was turned outwards, against the enemies of the State,
against foreigners, traitors, saboteurs, thought-criminals. It was
almost normal for people over thirty to be frightened of their own
children. And with good reason, for hardly a week passed in which
The Times did not carry a paragraph describing how some eavesdropping
little sneak -- 'child hero' was the phrase generally used -- had
overheard some compromising remark and denounced its parents to
the Thought Police.
The sting of the catapult bullet had worn off. He picked up his
pen half-heartedly, wondering whether he could find something more
to write in the diary. Suddenly he began thinking of O'Brien again.
Years ago -- how long was it? Seven years it must be -- he had dreamed
that he was walking through a pitch-dark room. And someone sitting
to one side of him had said as he passed: 'We shall meet in the
place where there is no darkness.' It was said very quietly, almost
casually -- a statement, not a command. He had walked on without
pausing. What was curious was that at the time, in the dream, the
words had not made much impression on him. It was only later and
by degrees that they had seemed to take on significance. He could
not now remember whether it was before or after having the dream
that he had seen O'Brien for the first time, nor could he remember
when he had first identified the voice as O'Brien's. But at any
rate the identification existed. It was O'Brien who had spoken to
him out of the dark.
Winston had never been able to feel sure -- even after this morning's
flash of the eyes it was still impossible to be sure whether O'Brien
was a friend or an enemy. Nor did it even seem to matter greatly.
There was a link of understanding between them, more important than
affection or partisanship. 'We shall meet in the place where there
is no darkness,' he had said. Winston did not know what it meant,
only that in some way or another it would come true.
The voice from the telescreen paused. A trumpet call, clear and
beautiful, floated into the stagnant air. The voice continued raspingly:
'Attention! Your attention, please! A newsflash has this moment
arrived from the Malabar front. Our forces in South India have won
a glorious victory. I am authorized to say that the action we are
now reporting may well bring the war within measurable distance
of its end. Here is the newsflash -'
Bad news coming, thought Winston. And sure enough, following on
a gory description of the annihilation of a Eurasian army, with
stupendous figures of killed and prisoners, came the announcement
that, as from next week, the chocolate ration would be reduced from
thirty grammes to twenty.
Winston belched again. The gin was wearing off, leaving a deflated
feeling. The telescreen -- perhaps to celebrate the victory, perhaps
to drown the memory of the lost chocolate -- crashed into 'Oceania,
'tis for thee'. You were supposed to stand to attention. However,
in his present position he was invisible.
'Oceania, 'tis for thee' gave way to lighter music. Winston walked
over to the window, keeping his back to the telescreen. The day
was still cold and clear. Somewhere far away a rocket bomb exploded
with a dull, reverberating roar. About twenty or thirty of them
a week were falling on London at present.
Down in the street the wind flapped the torn poster to and fro,
and the word INGSOC fitfully appeared and vanished. Ingsoc.
The sacred principles of Ingsoc. Newspeak, doublethink, the mutability
of the past. He felt as though he were wandering in the forests
of the sea bottom, lost in a monstrous world where he himself was
the monster. He was alone. The past was dead, the future was unimaginable.
What certainty had he that a single human creature now living was
on his side? And what way of knowing that the dominion of the Party
would not endure for ever? Like an answer, the three slogans
on the white face of the Ministry of Truth came back to him:
took a twenty-five cent piece out of his pocket. There, too, in
tiny clear lettering, the same slogans were inscribed, and on the
other face of the coin the head of Big Brother. Even from the coin
the eyes pursued you. On coins, on stamps, on the covers of books,
on banners, on posters, and on the wrappings of a cigarette Packet
-- everywhere. Always the eyes watching you and the voice enveloping
you. Asleep or awake, working or eating, indoors or out of doors,
in the bath or in bed -- no escape. Nothing was your own except
the few cubic centimetres inside your skull.
The sun had shifted round, and the myriad windows of the Ministry
of Truth, with the light no longer shining on them, looked grim
as the loopholes of a fortress. His heart quailed before the enormous
pyramidal shape. It was too strong, it could not be stormed. A thousand
rocket bombs would not batter it down. He wondered again for whom
he was writing the diary. For the future, for the past -- for an
age that might be imaginary. And in front of him there lay not death
but annihilation. The diary would be reduced to ashes and himself
to vapour. Only the Thought Police would read what he had written,
before they wiped it out of existence and out of memory. How could
you make appeal to the future when not a trace of you, not even
an anonymous word scribbled on a piece of paper, could physically
The telescreen struck fourteen. He must leave in ten minutes. He
had to be back at work by fourteen-thirty.
Curiously, the chiming of the hour seemed to have put new heart
into him. He was a lonely ghost uttering a truth that nobody would
ever hear. But so long as he uttered it, in some obscure way the
continuity was not broken. It was not by making yourself heard but
by staying sane that you carried on the human heritage. He went
back to the table, dipped his pen, and wrote:
the future or to the past, to a time when thought is free, when
men are different from one another and do not live alone -- to
a time when truth exists and what is done cannot be undone:
.....From the age of uniformity, from the age of solitude, from
the age of Big Brother, from the age of doublethink -- greetings!
was already dead, he reflected. It seemed to him that it was only
now, when he had begun to be able to formulate his thoughts, that
he had taken the decisive step. The consequences of every act are
included in the act itself. He wrote:
does not entail death: thoughtcrime IS death.
he had recognized himself as a dead man it became important to
stay alive as long as possible. Two fingers of his right hand
were inkstained. It was exactly the kind of detail that might
betray you. Some nosing zealot in the Ministry (a woman, probably:
someone like the little sandy-haired woman or the dark-haired
girl from the Fiction Department) might start wondering why he
had been writing during the lunch interval, why he had used an
oldfashioned pen, what he had been writing -- and then
drop a hint in the appropriate quarter. He went to the bathroom
and carefully scrubbed the ink away with the gritty dark-brown
soap which rasped your skin like sandpaper and was therefore well
adapted for this purpose.
He put the diary away in the drawer. It was quite useless to think
of hiding it, but he could at least make sure whether or not its
existence had been discovered. A hair laid across the page-ends
was too obvious. With the tip of his finger he picked up an identifiable
grain of whitish dust and deposited it on the corner of the cover,
where it was bound to be shaken off if the book was moved.