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Barron's Booknotes-1984 by George Orwell-Free Book Notes
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SECTION VIII

If only there were some way we could warn Winston! But he is too full of hope and confidence. "They had done it," he says, "they had done it at last!"

They've gone to O'Brien's house. We've seen enough spy movies to know that you go to such meetings separately, and in disguise. Not these two. With almost nothing to go on, except an equivocal glance, Winston has brought the woman he loves to the command post of the Brotherhood.

First, let's look around O'Brien's apartment, another place where Orwell uses detail to put us in the picture and to tell us about the characters.

Winston is impressed. A servant has shown them into a softly lit room with a velvety carpet. It's a far cry from the squalor of Victory Mansions and the shabby room above Charrington's shop. They smell good food and real tobacco; they are intimidated by the Asian servant in the white coat. Everything is exquisitely clean. Although he is a self-styled writer of the people, Orwell seems to love to dwell on these upper-class luxuries.

O'Brien is at his desk. He delivers a final message to the speakwrite and turns off his telescreen. Winston is astonished. "You can turn it off!"

This is a privilege.

At the glimmer of a smile from O'Brien, Winston declares himself. In fact, he declares both of them. He and Julia are enemies of the Party, he says, thought-criminals and adulterers who want to join the Brotherhood. He is saying this so they will be at O'Brien's mercy; he wants to make it clear that they are trustworthy.


As he finishes speaking, the servant enters. O'Brien tells Winston not to worry, the servant is "one of us." O'Brien pours them glasses of wine, a rarity in the days of Victory gin. They drink to Emmanuel Goldstein, who, O'Brien tells them, is a real person, not a Party fabrication. According to O'Brien, Goldstein is still alive and the Brotherhood is a reality.

O'Brien tells Winston something he should have been smart enough to know (unless, as some readers suspect, Winston has a death wish): that it was dangerous for the couple to come together. They have to leave separately, Julia first.

Ignoring Julia, taking it for granted that Winston speaks for both of them, O'Brien leads Winston through a strange litany that almost echoes Christian baptismal ceremonies. They agree to give their lives, commit murder, commit numerous alien acts on behalf of the Brotherhood, to commit suicide, to part forever.... "No!" the lovers cry, and O'Brien praises them for telling him how they truly feel.

Dismissing the servant, O'Brien offers quality cigarettes and tells the couple they will be working in the dark, obeying orders without knowing why. They'll never know who the others in the Brotherhood are.

Winston is transfixed by O'Brien's authority, his natural grace: "When you looked at O'Brien's powerful shoulders and his blunt-featured face, so ugly and yet so civilized, it was impossible to believe that he could be defeated." Even Julia is impressed.

The success of the organization, O'Brien says, depends on secrecy. After they drink to the past (Winston's choice), O'Brien dismisses Julia.

In exchange for Winston's disclosure of his secret hiding place, O'Brien offers to send him a copy of the bible of the Brotherhood, rebel leader Emmanuel Goldstein's book. Winston will regret this the day he finds his briefcase exchanged for an identical one carrying the book.

Perhaps we will meet again, says O'Brien; and Winston answers at once, "In the place where there is no darkness?" Without surprise, O'Brien echoes the phrase. This has been so carefully prepared by the author that it hits with a satisfying thump.

At Winston's instigation O'Brien supplies the missing line to the "Oranges and lemons" rhyme. The second line is, "When will you pay me? say the bells of Old Bailey," to which O'Brien adds, "When I grow rich, say the bells of Shoreditch." This calls to mind the telling last line: "Here comes the chopper to chop off your head." Winston remembers this line but he has chosen to suppress it.

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