1984 – Book Two – Chapter 5 – Summary and Analysis

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A brief summary and analysis of Chapter 5 (Book Two) -1984.

In this chapter, Winston notices that one of his acquaintances Syme, who was an expert in Newspeak has suddenly disappeared.

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After trying to find out from a few sources, he notes that his name has been wiped out from all lists he was included in.

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It all means that has been evaporated and now he is a nobody.

While summer heat was at its peak, people were busy preparing for the Hate week.

Julia and Winston were also very busy and so was parsons.

The party had released a theme song for the hate week that was competing with the previous hit song.

Meanwhile rocket bombs were falling on London more frequently and killing people in larger numbers.

The parsons was most happy of all feeling very important and enthusiastically encouraging the squad of volunteers he was working with.

The party had released a new formidable poster of an enemy soldier to ignite the hatred among people that would fuel more loyalty to the party. Meanwhile Julia and Winston kept meeting in the room above Mr. Charrington’s shop more frequently than before. They would lie naked next to each other even if they were not going to have sex. They had met around seven times during the month of June alone. Winston’s life had changed a lot. His health had also improved somewhat and his varicose ulcer had eased. Often Winston would talk to Mr. Charrington on his way upstairs. Listening to him felt like listening to the tinkling of an old musical box.

Both Julia and Winston felt that death was certain. Sometimes they talked of an open rebellion but did not know what must be their first step. They were not very certain of the brotherhood’s existence either. Winston sometimes felt like approaching O’Brien directly and that did not appear a rash idea to Julia. While Julia supported Winston mostly she was not still sure that any organized rebellion against the party had any chance of success. The two dreamt of escaping and living among the proles in disguise. Sometimes they also talked of committing suicide, but it did not appear practical to them. Julia was born after the revolution. She did not have any idea about the ideological battles of the fifties or sixties. So, she found it impossible to imagine a large scale opposition to the party. Julia did not have much problem with the party’s ideologies either. When she told She could easily most of the party’s lies. Winston that she always had difficulty controlling her laughter during the two minutes hate. Julia even believed that the party had invented aeroplanes. Winston was both surprised and frightened to learn that she did not even know that it was not Eurasia but Eastasia which used to be the enemy four years ago. When Winston tried telling her the case of the trio who held important positions in the party but were implicated in a fake case and executed, she was not interested. At last Winston remarked that she was rebellious only under her waist.

In this chapter, Winston finds himself emerging for the mess his life has been. It is now somewhat better compared to before and his impulses are gone. However, Julia does not think as deeply about the party, its ideologies or its lies as Winston does. This chapter also highlights that the party uses lies skillfully to churn hatred among the people for enemies and Goldstein. It controls the flow of information which allows it to manipulate people and popular will in its own favor. Most of the people in Oceania hardly understand the ideologies and that’s what also allows the party to manipulate them easily.

A detailed summary of 1984 – Book Two – Chapter 5.

 Syme had disappeared just as Winston suspected. When Winston tried to find out, he saw that Syme’s name was nowhere. It had been erased, which meant that Syme was now a nobody. His name was no more among the members of the chess committee. His extraordinary intelligence must have cost him his life. Winston had already suspected it was going to happen when he had seen Syme last time. Some mindless people talked of him but that was all that remained of Syme.

 Summer heat was at its peak. The ministry did not have windows but the air conditioners kept the rooms at normal temperature. However, people’s feet burned outside on the pavement and the tubes gave a horrible stench during the rush hours. The staff were working over time to fulfill the targets before the Hate Week. The preparations were in full swing. There was a lot to be done to make the Hate Week a success. 

“Processions, meetings, military parades, lectures, waxworks, displays, film shows, telescreen programmes all had to be organized; stands had to be erected, effigies built, slogans coined, songs written, rumours circulated, photographs faked.”

In the fiction department, Julia’s unit was no more working on producing novels, but on atrocity pamphlets. Winston was also working over time. Apart from the regular work he did, he was working on past publications in the Times that were to be quoted in Big Brother’s speech, making changes and improving them. The town environment grew curiously feverish when the rowdy proles roamed about in the streets. The rocket bombs now fell more often than before. Some explosions that happened in the far distance were quite enormous. Nobody could explain those explosions and wild rumors floated about them. The party had composed a new theme song for the Hate Week, which was being continuously played on the telescreens. The savage barking rhythm of the theme song appeared like the beating of drums. Thousands of voices sang the theme song together to the tramp of marching feet. The proles still seemed to like the song, which was competing with the existing hit ‘It was only a hopeless fancy’.

The Parsons children kept playing the song day and night using a comb and toilet paper. Winston’s evenings were busier than before. Parsons himself was busy organizing squads of volunteers. They were stitching banners, erecting  banners, erecting flagstaffs on rooftops, and slinging dangerous wires across the streets for the reception of steamers.  According to Parsons, Victory mansions alone were going to have around 400 meters of festive decorations. If anybody was happy, it was Parsons. He was happily singing like a lark. Now, he had a wonderful excuse for wearing shorts and an open shirt. There was too much heat and he had to do a lot of manual work. Parsons was very active doing all sorts of manual work and encouraging others while also sweating a lot. The pungent smell of sweat was coming from every part of his body. 

A new captionless poster was suddenly visible throughout London. The poster had the monstrous figure of a Eurasian soldier marching formidably, with an expressionless Mongolian face and enormous boots and a submachine gun pointed from his hip. Through foreshortening the gun had been magnified in a manner, it appeared pointed at you from whatever angle one looked at it. They had plastered the walls throughout the town that the poster outnumbered even the posters of Big Brother. The proles were normally not interested in war but this time they were being encouraged to demonstrate their patriarchal frenzy. However, the rocker bombs seemed to be doing the job better. They were killing a larger number of people this time. One of them fell on a theatre in Stepney and several hundred were buried in the ruins. Another bomb that fell on a children’s playground killed several dozen children. The proles reacted furiously and burned the effigies of Goldstein. They burned hundreds of posters of the Eurasian soldiers, and looted dozens of shops in the turmoil. Rumors started floating that the enemy spies were directing bombs using wireless signals and that an old couple of foreign origin died of suffocation when their house was burnt.  

Winston and Julia met in the room over Mr. Charrington’s shop, whenever they could find time. They would lay side by side naked for the sake of coolness. The rat did not emerge in the room again but the number of bugs kept multiplying. However, it did not matter for the two, since dirty or clean, the room was a paradise for them. They would sprinkle everything with pepper to get rid of the bugs in the room. Then, they would make love and sleep peacefully. When they woke up the bugs were again preparing for attack. 

Julia and Winston had met around 7 times during the month of June. Winston had dropped the habit of drinking gin all the time. He did not need it any more. While he seemed to have grown fatter, his varicose ulcer had also eased. There was now only a  brown stain above his ankle. He did not have fits of coughing in the early morning any more. Life seemed more tolerable to Winston and  he did not feel the impulse to make faces at the telescreen or shout curses at the top of his voice. They now had a secure hiding place and despite that they could still meet infrequently, it was not a hardship for them any more. The important thing was that the room over the antique shop existed. The room was there and it was almost like being in the room for them.

Winston often talked to Mr. Charrington when on his way upstairs. It seemed he hardly went outdoors or had any customers. He lived like a ghost between the tiny dark shop and his small back kitchen where he would prepare his meals. Even his kitchen had various antique pieces including an ancient gramophone with a very large horn. He was always glad to have an opportunity to talk. He would wander among his worthless stock like a collector rather than a tradesman. He would keep showing Winston one or another piece of junk, never asking him to buy it but only wanting him to admire them. Talking to him appeared to Winston like listening to the tinkling of a worn out musical box. He also told Winston some more fragments of forgotten rhymes. One of them was about four and twenty blackbirds, another about a cow with a crumpled horn, and one more about the death of poor cock Robin. He never knew more than a few lines of the rhymes.

Both Winston and Julia knew that this situation was not permanent. There were times when impending death occurred certain to them. It appeared as real to them as the bed they were lying upon. They wanted to enjoy every last moment of life till they could. However, while on the one hand they lived in uncertainty and fear, on the other the room’s tranquility appeared permanent at times and they felt safer there. They had started daydreaming. Winston wanted to get into the glass paperweight and stop the time forever. Often they thought of escaping and if they were lucky forever, they could keep meeting like this throughout their remaining lives. If somehow Katherine died, by some clever twist, they could get married and then live together happily forever. They could commit suicide or live forver among the proles in disguise. Both of them knew they were thinking pure nonsense and that there was no escape possible in reality. The only practicable plan they had was of suicide. However, they did not have any intentions to carry out this plan. From day to day and week to week, they were living in a  present without a future. They kept doing it like lungs will continue to breathe till there was air available.

At several times, they talked of rebelling against the party but never knew what should be their first step. Even if that fabulous brotherhood was a reality, there was no way they could join it. Winston told Julia of the strange intimate connection that he felt with O’Brien and how he felt the impulse to simply walk into his office and let him know that he was an enemy of the party and demand his help. Julia did not think that was a rash thing to do. She too judged people by their faces and it appeared natural to her that Winston could believe O’Brien over a single flash of his eyes. Julia also believed that nearly everyone hated the party and if he could safely break the law, one would definitely. However, she could not believe that organized opposition existed or could be successful. The party circulated the rubbish about Goldstein and his secret army for its own benefit and which they wanted you to believe. At various rallies and demonstrations, Julia had shouted at the top of her voice demanding the execution of people whose names she had never heard and whom she did not really believe to have committed those crimes. She was also among the troops of the youth league that would surround the courts when public trials happened and shouted at the top of their voices ‘Death to the traitors’. Even during the two minutes hate, she was the best when it came to hurling insults at Goldstein and yet she had nearly no idea of who Goldstein was and what ideologies he represented. 

Julia has grown up since the revolution and was too young to remember the ideological battles of the fifties and sixties. She could not in any case imagine an independent political movement and the party was invincible for her. It was always going to be there and remain the same. One could rebel against it secretly and disobey it or just carry out a few isolated acts of violence against the party or blow something up.

In several ways, she seemed more acute than Winston and less influenced by the party propaganda. Once Winston happened to mention the war against Eurasia, she quickly replied that there was no real war taking place. The government itself was firing the rocket bombs to keep the people frightened. This was something that Winston could never have thought of. He felt envious of Julia when she told him that she found it really difficult to hold her laughter during the two minutes hate. However, she would not question the party ideologies except for where they touched upon her life. Many times she simply accepted the official myths because the difference between the true and false had no meaning for her. She even believed that the party had invented aeroplanes. Winston remembered that it was taught during his school days in the fifties that the party had invented the helicopter. A dozen years later when Julia must have been in school, they had started teaching that the party had invented the aeroplane. In a dozen  years from now, it will be the steam engine which the party would claim to have invented. When Winston tried telling Julia that the aeroplanes had been in existence long before the revolution or even before his birth, she was not interested. It really did not matter who invented the aeroplane until it was a question of life and death for her. Winston was even shocked when he learnt that Julia did not remember that four years ago, Oceania was at war with Eastasia and at peace with Eurasia.  She considered war a sham but had not noticed that the name of their enemy had changed over these four years. Julia thought it had always been Eurasia. Winston was slightly afraid. They invented the aeroplanes long before Julia’s birth but the switch in the names of the enemies happened only four years ago and she must have remembered it. They had a fifteen minutes long argument over it. With some more efforts he was able to remind her that it was Eastasia and not Eurasia that was the enemy. However, the issue still seemed unimportant to her and she said who cared. She had grown impatient and after all it was one after another war. The news was also full of lies anyway. 

Sometimes Winston talked to her of the frogeries he made for the records department. These things did not make her afraid. The ground beneath her did not shake at the thought of lies becoming truth as happened with Winston. He also told her the story of the trio – Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford – and the slip of paper that had betrayed the truth behind their case to him. The story did not have any influence on her and at first she also failed to make the point of the entire story. SHe asked him if the three were his friends. Winstn replied that they were much older than him and belonged to the period before the revolution. He hardly knew them. Then why worried about them was her reply. People are still being killed often nowadays without any excuse.

He tried to make things clear to her and that the trio’s case was exceptional. It was not just a  question of somebody being killed but that the past starting yesterday had actually been abolished. If the past had survived it was inside those objects that could never speak like a rock or a lump of grass. Already they knew nothing about the revolution or the period before the revolution.  Everything that could tell the truth of the period before the revolution had been altered including books, pictures, statues, streets, buildings and dates. Every record had been altered or falsified. There was actually no history but only an endless present in which the party was always right without any exceptions. Winston tells Julia that he knew the post had been falsified, but even if he did the falsification himself he did not have any proof to show that it had actually been falsified. His memories were the only proof and nobody else shared his memories. In his entire life, it was just once that he held the concrete proof of falsification in his hands in the form of that newsitem which showed that the trio were at a different place than the one mentioned during their trial. It was for once when he really knew that the trials were fake. It was years after those trials had happened. 

What good was that piece of evidence Julia asked Winston. He replied it was no good since he had destroyed it moments later. However, if it happened again, now he would keep the proof. Julia replied she would not. She would be willing to take risks but for something worthwhile, and not for a news item that Winston could not really use for anything. Winston knew it would not have been of much use, but it could still ignite a few doubts here and there if he managed to show it to some people. He was not hoping to bring  any major change during his lifetime. However, it was not impossible for him to think of little pieces of resistance cropping up here and there that could someday grow into something bigger. The next generation could pick up from where people like Winston had left. People from the next generation could find it easier to connect the dots given whatever little evidence people like Winston left behind. Julia was not interested in the next generation. She was only interested in herself and Winston. Winston gave a strange remark. She was only a rebel from waist downwards. Sex was the only form  of rebellion she was engaged in. Her heart and mind were not occupied with thoughts of rebellion. Julia was delighted as she thought it was a witty remark and threw her arms around him to show her delight. 

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She did not have the slightest interest in the ramifications of the party doctrine. She became bored and confused whenever Winston talked of things like the principles of Ingsoc, doublethink, the mutability of the past, and the denial of objective reality, and to use Newspeak words. Her reply was that she never attended to these things. She knew it was all rubbish and therefore no need to feel interested. She just knew when to cheer and when to boo and that saved her all the trouble.  If Winston kept talking about those things, she would habitually fall asleep. She was one of the people who could sleep anywhere, anytime in any position. While talking to her Winston realized how easy it was to present an appearance of orthodoxy without knowing what it meant. So, in a way, the party successfully imposed its world view on people who were incapable of understanding it. The people could be made to accept the weirdest lies because they never really grasped the enormity of what was demanded of them and were not even interested enough in the public events to know what was really happening. Despite their lack of understanding they remained sane because not knowing was not insanity in Oceania. They swallowed everything that they were expected to swallow. Apart from that all they swallowed did them no harm as it left no signs behind just like a grain that passed undigested through a bird’s body.