Chapter 6 (Book One) of 1984: Summary & Analysis

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Brief summary and analysis of chapter 6:

The chapter 6 of the novel comes as a shock. The party’s approach to sex is medieval if not primitive. It is well known that the party is orthodox in its approach but when it comes to sex, it is worse.

Sex is abominable and only since it is not possible to completely suppress human desires or to avoid needing children to serve the party, it has not applied a complete ban on sex. Winston had been feeling deprived. He recounts an ordeal with a prostitute in this chapter and notes it down in his journal.

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His married life was a horror and Winston is reminded of his wife, who despite being physically attractive was never pleasant and desirable in the bed. The party has taken measures to strip sexual intercourse of all pleasure.

Even if it is carried out, the main purpose remains to bear children and not intimate pleasure. Winston unfortunately married a woman who was physically attractive but had no desires or wisdom. Like the other party women, the party had abused her brains and filled it with litter.

Winston felt like he was hugging furniture when lying down with her. Soon, he had lost any desire to have sex with her and at last they parted. Orwell paints a troublesome picture of life in Oceania in this chapter. The ending of the chapter is absolutely shocking.

Winston ends up having sex with an old prostitute who had her face painted with makeup and he could not recognize her age due to the dim light in the street. What’s worse is that he keeps having sex with her even when he sees her from close and her toothless mouth.

Orwell’s treatment of the party and its ideology in this chapter is shockingly brutal. He ridicules the party’s approach and policies regarding sexual relationships in this chapter. The party has declared sex as insignificant and filthy. It works on the party women from their childhood to adulthood and trains them to suppress their desires.

Physical relationship without any desire at once sounds painful. However, what is even more painful is that people like Winston can have the pleasure once every few years. While going to prostitutes is not punishable by death, one may still end up landing in a forced labor camp for five years.

The party’s ridiculous treatment of sexual intercourse makes one laugh and cry at the same time. Oceanians are deprived of many freedoms but the party’s control of sexual intercourse is ridiculous. It does not allow party members to get married to each other without the party’s approval. Orwell has ridiculed the party in this chapter in a style that is equally bold and shocking.

Detailed summary of the chapter 6 of 1984

In chapter 6 (Book One ) of 1984, Winston returns to writing his journal. He is again sitting in the corner and starts writing about his experience of an evening.

Three years ago, he had come across a young woman in one of the side streets close to one of the Big Railway Stations. She was standing under a dim street light. She was heavily made up and it was her heavy makeup and red lips that caught his attention.

The young woman was not a party worker because the party woman never wore heavy makeup. The street was empty and there were no telescreens there. She said two dollars.

Winston stopped writing and feeling stressed, closed his eyes and pressed on them with his fingers. He felt tempted to shout a string of filthy words at the top of his voice. The memory was tormenting him and he was struggling to calm it down.

He wanted to bang his head against the wall or to just kick the table or just throw the inkpot out of the window. His worst enemy was his nervous system, Winston thought. The tension inside could manifest itself in any form including a vision that does not go easily.

 He was suddenly reminded of a party member that he came across on the streets a few weeks back. As the two crossed each other, the other man’s face, who was around thirty five to forty and tall twitched convulsively.

It again did so for a second time as the two came closer. However, Winston noted that it could be dangerous. Talking in your sleep was even dangerous. Winston again sat back to writing. He kept writing about that young woman he had met on the streets.

She

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was standing at a doorway and took Winston through it into a backyard and then to a basement kitchen. Inside it, there was a bed against the wall and a lamp burning very low. Winston felt like spitting but decided to resist the temptation.

While with that young woman, Winston was reminded of Katherine, his wife. He had been married and as per his knowledge she was not dead yet and so he was still married. The kitchen smelled of bugs, dirty clothes and cheap scent.

Despite being cheap, it was alluring since party women never wore any perfume. Only the proles wore perfume. However, its scent got mixed with that of fornication (sexual relationship outside someone’s marriage) in his mind.

Winston was having sex for the first time in around 2 years. Going to prostitutes was prohibited in Oceania but people broke the rule occasionally. It was dangerous but you were not going to be hanged. If caught, one might end up in a forced labor camp for five years.

And if you could manage to not get caught, there was no difficulty in it. The poorer areas swarmed with women willing to have sex for money or even a bottle of gin. Covertly, the party was inclined to encourage prostitution as long as it was carried out secretly, joyless and involved only the prole women. However, the party did not encourage sexual relationships among party members. It was forbidden by law.

While many accused had confessed such crimes during the great purges, Winston did not know if any such crime was really committed. The party’s main aim was not to stop people from forming alliances it could not control but to strip sexual activity of all joy.

Party members need to get approval before marrying another party member. There was a committee to look into it. However, if the committee got the slightest impression that the two were physically attracted to each other, it would not grant approval for marriage.

There was only one purpose behind marriage in Oceania which was to bear children who will serve the party. Sexual intercourse was a minor, insignificant and disgusting act looked upon as an enema. It was never put into words but it was something that they fed the party members since their childhood.

The Junior Anti Sex league advocated sexual abstinence for both the sexes. Children could be born through artificial insemination (ARTSEM in Newspeak) and then brought up in public institutions. While it was not meant to be taken very seriously, but it still fitted well in the party’s ideology.

If the party could not kill sex, it would downgrade and malign it. Winston was unaware why it was so, but it seemed perfectly natural to him. The party was experiencing higher success in this regard among the women whom it had successfully persuaded to forsake their desire.

Winston was again reminded of his wife Katherine. The two had been separated some eleven years ago. While the party did not allow divorces, it allowed for separation in cases where there was no child. He thought of Katherine sometimes. The two had been together for almost fifteen months.

However, Winston had largely managed to forget that he was married during most of his life since separation. Katherine was physically attractive – tall with aquiline features, fair hair and splendid movements. Her face looked noble even if there was nothing noble behind that face Winston knew well. It had not taken him too long since their marriage to recognize that she was among the most stupid people he knew.

Her mind was vulgarly empty except for being full of party slogans. Unlike him, every imbecile notion that the party wanted to insert in her mind was captured in its full essence. He had privately nicknamed her the human soundtrack. The only reason he was ready to live with her was sex.

Otherwise, she had no traits worth making her a partner. She would grow stiff when Winston tried to hug her and to embrace her felt like embracing wood. Even when she held his body tightly against hers, Winston felt like she was also trying to push him away.

There was a counterforce inside her that tried to repel Winston when the two hugged each other tightly. This impression was conveyed by the rigidity of her muscles. She would submit silently and close her eyes without any resistance.

At first, it was horribly embarrassing and later felt horribly repulsive. He could have lived with her without producing a child because having sex with her somehow created enormous emotional tension inside Winston.

The problem was that she wanted to produce a child with Winston. They had sex once a week unless it was impossible for some reason. She would remind him in the morning of the designated day that they were to do it in the evening.

She called sexual intercourse by two names – to make a baby and our duty towards the party. Winston started dreading the appointed day. However, since they were unable to make a child after trying a lot, they decided to give up and parted.

Winston returned to the prostitute. He started writing in his journal. She just threw herself on the bed and without any preliminary interaction just pulled her skirt up. It all appeared quite cheap and vulgar to Winston. A feeling of defeat and resentment filled Winston’s heart. However, he was still thinking of Katherine and her white body which had somehow become frozen by the party’s hypnotic power. Winston was again thinking very hard.

Instead of having sex every few years, why could not he have his own woman. However, it was really impossible to have a real love affair with a party woman. They were all alike in this regard. Both chastity and loyalty to the party were somehow in their DNA.

The party had stuffed them with all that rubbish since early childhood through careful conditioning. Using slogans, lectures, parades and other forms of training from early childhood to adulthood, the party had somehow managed to drive desires out of their beautiful bodies. Winston tried to reason with his own heart to seek exceptions but he knew none existed. You could not penetrate under the party women’s skin as the party had turned them impregnable.

Winston did not want love. More than love he wanted to break that chastity lock that made him too feel like one of those sexless party women. Successful performance of sex was a form of rebellion and letting your desires overwhelm you was thoughtcrime. One could not seduce even his own wife. Winston had tried to awaken Katherine’s desires but somehow the flame had been extinguished or hidden so deep that Winston could not reach there to reignite it. 

He got back to his story. As his eyes grew used to the dark, the lamp’s feeble light seemed very bright. He awoke to another horror. As he observed the woman closely, he found she was quite old with heavy layers of makeup on her face to hide her age. She had a few white strands on her head and there were no teeth in her mouth.

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The woman was at least fifty years old but Winston did not stop. He carried out his act despite being full of terror. At last, he had written it down even if it was useless. Winston closed his eyes and again pressed them with his fingers, but failed to suppress the urge in him to shout filthy words at the top of his voice.