Orwell's 1984 chapter two summary
The first and second chapters of the book are set during the lunch break when Winston is back at his flat from the Ministry. The second chapter continues to provide a glimpse of the world in which Winston is living. In this chapter, Winston's journal writing is halted as his neighbor's wife asks for his help to fix her kitchen sink. Winston is startled to see how her children behave like savages when he is there. The author shows how the party teaches children to become informers and blind adherents of the party's propaganda in the second chapter. Winston returns to his flat and starts writing again. He is still unsure about O'Brien thinking whether he is an enemy or a friend. The lunch break was over, and Winston hid his diary inside the drawer, knowing that he had committed a thought crime which meant he was already dead. However, this chapter also highlights that Winston thinks too negatively. He believes that the party and Big Brother determine everything in his world. These forces will also determine the future. As a result, he thinks the chance of his being successful at what he has begun is very feeble. the chapter again highlights the oppression and control exercised by the party. People are not allowed to keep records of their pasts. The stink of cabbages signifies how life is decaying inside the Mansions. The author again highlights the omnipresence of Big Brother in Oceania. Apart from it, the party's control of families and children shows how it has turned its propaganda into a religion for the people of Oceania, including the children. Winston feels fed up and tries to break free but frequently feels helpless before the thought police and the party. At a point, he thinks he could stay human if he could just manage to stay sane.
As Winston rose to open the door, he realized that his diary was still open, and it had 'down with big brother' written all over it in block letters. Anyone could read it from the door. However, he also realized that the ink had not dried, and that’s why he had left it open.
He was relieved to see his neighbor’s wife, Mrs. Parson standing at the door. She requested Winston to come to look at her kitchen sink. She was a colorless crushed looking woman with wispy hair and a lined face. She spoke in a dreary, whining voice. She was just thirty but looked a lot older. The Victory Mansions were constructed around 1930, and now nearly every part of the building was falling to pieces. The pipes burst during winters, and the roof leaked. Repairs had to be sanctioned by remote committees, and it was not sure if the repair could be carried out even after months of reporting. These repair jobs irritated Winston.
While Parson’s lived in a larger flat, theirs flat wore a chaotic look as if a violent animal had just visited it. Things like hockey sticks, boxing gloves, a burst football, were lying on the floor. The tables had dirty dishes and dog-eared exercise books lying on them.
The flat looked like it belonged to a devout party supporter. There was a large full-sized poster of Big Brother on the wall and scarlet banners of the Youth league and Spies dotted the walls of the flat. There was the stink of boiled cabbages inside the flat apart from the stink of sweat which belonged to someone who was not there right now. Military music was still streaming from the telescreen.
Mrs. Parson tried to explain the house's condition, stating that the kids had remained indoors today. She used to speak only half sentences. Her kitchen sink was full of foul water up to the brim. It smelt worse than cabbages. Winston kneeled to examine its angle joint. He did not want to use his hands or bend down since it would cause him to cough heavily. Mrs. Parson said her husband would have fixed it easily since he was so good at it. Parsons was employed with Winston at the Ministry. He was such a stupid follower of the party. He was one of those whose devotion to the party was its main strength. Winston recalled the fat fellow and how he was unwillingly evicted from the youth league at thirty-five. Apart from that, he had also managed to be with the spies for a year beyond the statutory age. He was employed in some subordinate post in the Ministry that required no intelligence, but he was a leading figure in various committees, including the sports committee. Parsons would regularly boast of his appearances at the community center. Winston asked Mrs. Parsons for a spanner. He removed a tuft of hair blocking the drain pipe.
Following that, he went to the other room after cleaning his hands. Soon someone yelled at him to raise his hands. There was a handsome nine-year-old boy pointing a toy pistol at him. His two years younger sister held a piece of wood and imitated his gesture, pointing it at Winston. The boy spoke so viciously that Winston raised his hands. He shouted at Winston that he was a traitor, a thought criminal, and a Eurasian spy, threatening him to vaporize. They started prancing around Winston making him feel afraid. It appeared to him that these tiger cubs would soon grow into man-eaters. The ferociousness in the boy’s eyes was evident and Winston felt lucky it was not holding a real pistol. Unable to control them, Mrs. Parson tried to explain that they were disappointed to miss the hangings and her husband was not around to control them. Winston remembered that some Eurasian prisoners were to be hanged in the park that evening. It happened almost once every month and children particularly felt excited about watching the hangings.
As Winston took his leave from Mrs. Parsons and moved towards the door, something hit him painfully in the back of his head, causing him to turn back. He saw that Mrs. Parsons was dragging her boy back, who tried to hide a catapult in his pocket. The boy exclaimed Goldstein at Winston. However, the helplessness and fright on his mother’s face particularly interested Winton.
Once back in his flat, Winston quickly moved past the telescreen and took his seat back at the table. The telescreen was broadcasting the description of the armaments of a navy ship anchored between Iceland and the Faroe Islands. Winston was still thinking about the kids and that the wretched woman must be leading a life of terror with such reckless kids. He thought that they would start keeping an eye on their mother for signs of unorthodoxy in a year or two. This was the condition with nearly all kids in Winston's society.
He knew that organizations like Spies were turning children into ungovernable savages. Worst of all, the children loved the party and its methods and showed no tendency of rebellion against the party’s discipline. Everything connected to the party appeared glorious to them including the songs, the drills with fake rifles, the processions, the banners, the slogans, and the worship of Big Brother. The party had turned their aggression outwards against the enemies of the State, against foreigners, traitors, saboteurs, thought-criminals. Even news reports of child heroes denouncing their parents and handing them over to the thought police appeared in the newspapers regularly.
As Winston tried to start writing again, he found himself thinking of O’Brien again. He recalled a dream he had seven years ago. He was walking through a dark room where somebody whispered to him that they would meet somewhere with no darkness. He had moved on silently. Then it did not affect him, but with time, the words had gained significance. Now, Winston believed that it was O’Brien who had spoken to him in the darkness in his dream.
Winston was still unsure if O’Brien was a friend or an enemy. However, the matter was insignificant. The voice on the telescreen had paused. Some important news was being announced. Party’s forces in South India had registered an important victory, and it might bring the war close to its end. Winston thought it was bad news. He was right. After a brief description of the annihilation of the Eurasian army, the announcement was made that the chocolate ration would be reduced to 20 grams from 30 starting next week.
Gin had started wearing off when sound from the telescreen announced, ‘Oceania, ‘tis for thee’. People were supposed to stand in attention to hear this. However, Winston was invisible from the telescreen and so it did not matter to him. After that followed light music and Winton walked over to the window. He heard a dull sound of a bomb dropping somewhere in the distance. About twenty to thirty rocket bombs fell every week in London. Down in the street, the torn poster with INGSOC written on it flapped fitfully. For once, Winston felt lost in INGSOC and its sacred principles, Newspeak, Doublethink, and the noisy past. He felt lost at the bottom of the ocean and living in a monstrous world where he himself was the monster.
Winston felt lonely, not knowing what the future held. He did not know if there was anybody who would dare to remain on his side. There was no way of knowing that the party would not stay in command forever. Again what came to his mind, were the three slogans,
“WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH”.
He pulled out a twenty-cent coin from his pocket. It had the head of Big Brother on the one side and the three slogans on the other. Big Brother’s eyes watched just as intensely from the coin as from the poster. His face was everywhere - on stamps, book covers, banners, posters, cigarette packets, everywhere. His eyes and voice were everywhere and there was no escaping them for a moment. The sun had stopped shining on the Ministry windows that looked like the loopholes of a fortress.
The giant pyramid-shaped structure looked too big to be brought down. He could not think anything of the future. He did not know if anything would remain of him in the future. Neither his diary nor its ashes would remain. Only the thought police would read the diary and then evaporate it like it would evaporate Winston after finding out he was a traitor. Nothing would remain for the future. Winston thought how he could appeal to the future if not a trace of him would survive; not even a letter he wrote.
The telescreen announced the time. It was fourteen and Winston needed to be back at the MInistry by Fourteen Thirty. It seemed that chiming of the hour had brought him alive again. He thought he just needed to stay sane to carry on human heritage which was otherwise coming to an end in Oceania. He went back to the table and started writing again.
He was writing to the future. He was writing to the people of a time when the truth would exist and people would be able to think freely. They would not be all the same and would still not be alone like now. He wrote his greetings to the society of the future. He sent his greetings from the era of Big Brother.
He had started thinking of the consequences again. Winston further wrote in his diary: thoughtcrime does not result in death; it itself is death in Oceania. He thought he was already dead now. He had committed a thoughtcrime and it meant death and nothing else. Two fingers on his right hand were stained with ink and he thought it would betray him. Perhaps a woman at the MInistry would be curious about what he was writing using an old pen and drop a hint to the appropriate people. He used brown soap to clean his skin and then put the diary away in the drawer. He did not think it was any use hiding the diary but he needed to make sure he knew if somebody read it. So, he picked a pinch of white dust and put it on the corner of the diary so he would know if it had been moved.