1984 Book Two Chapter 6 Summary and Analysis

A brief summary and analysis of Chapter 6 -1984 Book Two

This chapter also marks a sudden turn in Winston's life. He is approached by O'Brien who is seeking him after having read a few of his articles. He is impressed by Winston's writing and believes Winston maintains scholarly interest in Newspeak. However, Winston denies it saying that he is only an amateur.

O'Brien also briefly refers to Syme who has been evaporated (refer to the previous chapter) but without naming him directly. Since Syme is now a nobody, Winston knows mentioning him is a thought crime. However, by committing this thought crime, he and O'Brien have become accomplices.

O'Brien gives Winston his address before the telescreen. Winston thinks it is an indication or a codeword that O'Brien wants him to remain close. However, he is still afraid since he cannot see any other end to all this apart from sure death. He feels like he has already stepped into his grave.

However, Winston's faith in the conspiracy against the party grows stronger after this brief meeting with O'Brien. He thinks he has penetrated the outer ring of the conspiracy. The fear of certain death however shakes him from the inside.

Chapter 6 marks the reappearance of O'Brien on the scene. While Winston has seen him several times, this is his first meeting with O'Brien which hardly lasts two minutes. O'Brien is able to gain Winston's trust by briefly referring to Syme, who has been evaporated and who was an expert in Newspeak.

He wants Winston to see the latest edition of the Newspeak dictionary which contains several significant changes to the language including a reduction in the number of verbs.

The chapter also shows how the party controls language to establish its control over communication and any form of exchange of information.

It does not just allow it to control the flow of information but also to limit people's thoughts and thought crimes. The party has drawn a tight line around what people can think and talk of.

Winston is intrigued by O'Brien's conversation. He believes this is a firm step towards rebellion but also towards certain death at the hands of the thought police.

The cellars of the Ministry of Love repeatedly come to his mind and he is unable to shake away the thought of certain death.

Winston has been successfully evading the telescreen and the prying eyes of the thought police and the spies that keep a close watch on the party members since he got in touch with Julia. In the office, he is standing close to a telescreen with O'Brien and his situation has suddenly changed.

The telescreen symbolizes the party's control and authority over the party members and the other citizens of Oceania. Until now O'Brien's manners and personality have confirmed with the picture that Winston has created in his mind.

He appears quite friendly in their first meeting and there is more reason for Winston to feel hopeful that O'Brien is trying to get in touch with him regarding the conspiracy against the party.

However, he has not shown any clear inclination to oppose the party until now and his conversation with Winston in the lobby was mainly limited to party matters in which nothing doubtful happened.

O'Brien's behavior before the telescreen showed that the senior party members are also subjected to high level of scrutiny like the lower party members.

Winston feels that the dictionary is just an excuse to get in contact with him and O'Brien wants to get him onboard with the others plotting against the party.

The way O'Brien talks to Winston shows that he is now an important party member; at least more important than he used to be until now.

However, whether O'Brien is going to favor Winston or not in his fight against the party's domination is not yet clear because O'Brien has not clarified his position and there talk has been largely formal.

A detailed summary and analysis of Chapter 6 -1984 Book Two

At last the expected had happened in Winston’s life. He had been waiting for it his entire life to happen and the message had finally arrived.

He was walking down the long corridor in the Ministry and was at the same spot where Julia had handed him the slip.

Suddenly, he realized that somebody larger than him was walking right behind him.

Whoever it was, coughed to indicate that he intended to speak. Winston stopped and turned around to see that it was O’Brien. 

At last, they were face to face but Winston felt a strong impulse to run away.

His heart was beating violently. He could not speak.

However, O’Brien laid a friendly hand on his shoulder and kept walking with him.

He spoke with a kind of courtesy that was not easily found among the inner party members.

O’Brien had read one of Winston’s articles in The Times and wanted to talk to him. He believed Winston had a scholarly interest in Newspeak.

By now, Winston had nearly recovered from the shock of seeing O’Brien.

He replied he was just an amateur and his interest in the subject was hardly scholarly. He told O’Brien that he was never really involved in the construction of any language. 

O’Brien told Winston his writing was very elegant. However, that was not just his opinion, but also of one of Winston’s friends who was an expert in the field.

His name had slipped O’Brien’s memory. Winston felt his heart stir painfully.

It was nothing but an indirect reference to Syme. However, Syme was not dead; at least not dead of natural causes. He had been evaporated and become an unperson. In that case if any reference to him was made, it could be mortally dangerous. (O'Brien does not refer to Syme directly. However, whatever brief reference to Syme is made with the intention to prove that O'Brien trusts Winston and wants him to think of him as an ally. Referring to Syme directly would be a thought crime since he is now an unperson.)

Winston felt intrigued by O’Brien’s remarks. He thought it was a signal or a codeword. They had become accomplices by sharing a small piece of thought crime. The two continued walking together, but then suddenly O’Brien halted. He resettled his spectacles on his nose like he always did with the same friendly gesture.

Then he continued speaking. He had seen two words in one of Winston’s articles that had recently become obsolete. He did not know if Winston had still seen the tenth edition of the Newspeak dictionary. Winston’s reply was that they were still using the ninth edition at the records department. 

The tenth edition was still not in use. However, a few advanced copies had been circulated. O’Brien had kept one and said that Winston too might be interested in taking a look at it. He was definitely interested. There had been some significant changes in this edition like a reduction in the number of verbs that O’Brien thought would definitely appeal to Winston.

First O’Brien proposed sending a messenger with a dictionary to visit Winston but then quickly rescinded his proposal since he was always forgetful in such matters. So, he decided to invite Winston to his own residence instead, so that Winston could pick the dictionary from there. Even if O’Brien was not at home, his servant could hand over the dictionary to Winston.

O’Brien searched his pockets and produced a leather covered notebook and a gold ink-pencil. They were standing close to a telescreen. O’Brien was writing in a position that anyone who could be watching from the other end could see what he was writing. Then he tore off the page and handed the address over to Winston.

He went away after telling Winston that he was usually at home in the evening and if not he could ask his servant. Winston remained there holding that scrap of paper and which he very well knew there was no need to conceal from the telescreen. He still memorized the address on it and then a few hours later destroyed it with another mass of paper, sending them down the memory hole. 

The two had hardly talked for a couple of minutes and for Winston there was just one meaning of this meeting which was that O’Brien wanted to let him know his address. It was an essential step since for Winston it would have been impossible to know anyone’s address except  by asking the concerned person directly.

There were no directories in London where you could find important addresses. O'Brien had given him his address so Winston could approach him without difficulty. Maybe he could send a hidden message in the dictionary. Winston felt about one thing with certainty and that was the conspiracy existed and he was standing on its verge. At least, he had penetrated its outer circle. 

Winston stood there thinking, He knew where it all would end. Sooner, or later, he will be obeying O’Brian’s summons. Might be tomorrow or might be after a long delay, he was not certain. The process had begun years ago. Its first step was that secret involuntary thought that had appeared in Winston’s mind. The next step was the opening of a diary.

Now from words, he had moved to action and the last step was invariably going to be carried out inside the Ministry of Love because there was no other end in sight to Winston. He had accepted it since the beginning. The end was written in the beginning itself. However, its thought was frightening and felt somewhat like a bitter foretaste of death.

It already felt like life was draining out of him. Even when he spoke to O’Brian and had understood what he meant, a chilly shudder had passed through his body. He felt like he had already stepped into a damp grave and that this grave had always been there waiting for him.

(Read notes on George Orwell's 1984)

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