had woken up with his eyes full of tears. Julia rolled sleepily
against him, murmuring something that might have been 'What's
'I dreamt -' he began, and stopped short. It was too complex to
be put into words. There was the dream itself, and there was a
memory connected with it that had swum into his mind in the few
seconds after waking.
He lay back with his eyes shut, still sodden in the atmosphere
of the dream. It was a vast, luminous dream in which his whole
life seemed to stretch out before him like a landscape on a summer
evening after rain. It had all occurred inside the glass paperweight,
but the surface of the glass was the dome of the sky, and inside
the dome everything was flooded with clear soft light in which
one could see into interminable distances. The dream had also
been comprehended by -- indeed, in some sense it had consisted
in -- a gesture of the arm made by his mother, and made again
thirty years later by the Jewish woman he had seen on the news
film, trying to shelter the small boy from the bullets, before
the helicopter blew them both to pieces.
'Do you know,' he said, 'that until this moment I believed I had
murdered my mother?'
'Why did you murder her?' said Julia, almost asleep.
'I didn't murder her. Not physically.'
In the dream he had remembered his last glimpse of his mother,
and within a few moments of waking the cluster of small events
surrounding it had all come back. It was a memory that he must
have deliberately pushed out of his consciousness over many years.
He was not certain of the date, but he could not have been less
than ten years old, possibly twelve, when it had happened.
His father had disappeared some time earlier, how much earlier
he could not remember. He remembered better the rackety, uneasy
circumstances of the time: the periodical panics about air-raids
and the sheltering in Tube stations, the piles of rubble everywhere,
the unintelligible proclamations posted at street corners, the
gangs of youths in shirts all the same colour, the enormous queues
outside the bakeries, the intermittent machine-gun fire in the
distance -- above all, the fact that there was never enough to
eat. He remembered long afternoons spent with other boys in scrounging
round dustbins and rubbish heaps, picking out the ribs of cabbage
leaves, potato peelings, sometimes even scraps of stale breadcrust
from which they carefully scraped away the cinders; and also in
waiting for the passing of trucks which travelled over a certain
route and were known to carry cattle feed, and which, when they
jolted over the bad patches in the road, sometimes spilt a few
fragments of oil-cake.
When his father disappeared, his mother did not show any surprise
or any violent grief, but a sudden change came over her. She seemed
to have become completely spiritless. It was evident even to Winston
that she was waiting for something that she knew must happen.
She did everything that was needed -- cooked, washed, mended,
made the bed, swept the floor, dusted the mantelpiece -- always
very slowly and with a curious lack of superfluous motion, like
an artist's lay-figure moving of its own accord. Her large shapely
body seemed to relapse naturally into stillness. For hours at
a time she would sit almost immobile on the bed, nursing his young
sister, a tiny, ailing, very silent child of two or three, with
a face made simian by thinness. Very occasionally she would take
Winston in her arms and press him against her for a long time
without saying anything. He was aware, in spite of his youthfulness
and selfishness, that this was somehow connected with the never-mentioned
thing that was about to happen.
He remembered the room where they lived, a dark, close-smelling
room that seemed half filled by a bed with a white counterpane.
There was a gas ring in the fender, and a shelf where food was
kept, and on the landing outside there was a brown earthenware
sink, common to several rooms. He remembered his mother's statuesque
body bending over the gas ring to stir at something in a saucepan.
Above all he remembered his continuous hunger, and the fierce
sordid battles at meal-times. He would ask his mother naggingly,
over and over again, why there was not more food, he would shout
and storm at her (he even remembered the tones of his voice, which
was beginning to break prematurely and sometimes boomed in a peculiar
way), or he would attempt a snivelling note of pathos in his efforts
to get more than his share. His mother was quite ready to give
him more than his share. She took it for granted that he, 'the
boy', should have the biggest portion; but however much she gave
him he invariably demanded more. At every meal she would beseech
him not to be selfish and to remember that his little sister was
sick and also needed food, but it was no use. He would cry out
with rage when she stopped ladling, he would try to wrench the
saucepan and spoon out of her hands, he would grab bits from his
sister's plate. He knew that he was starving the other two, but
he could not help it; he even felt that he had a right to do it.
The clamorous hunger in his belly seemed to justify him. Between
meals, if his mother did not stand guard, he was constantly pilfering
at the wretched store of food on the shelf.
One day a chocolate-ration was issued. There had been no such
issue for weeks or months past. He remembered quite clearly that
precious little morsel of chocolate. It was a two-ounce slab (they
still talked about ounces in those days) between the three of
them. It was obvious that it ought to be divided into three equal
parts. Suddenly, as though he were listening to somebody else,
Winston heard himself demanding in a loud booming voice that he
should be given the whole piece. His mother told him not to be
greedy. There was a long, nagging argument that went round and
round, with shouts, whines, tears, remonstrances, bargainings.
His tiny sister, clinging to her mother with both hands, exactly
like a baby monkey, sat looking over her shoulder at him with
large, mournful eyes. In the end his mother broke off three-quarters
of the chocolate and gave it to Winston, giving the other quarter
to his sister. The little girl took hold of it and looked at it
dully, perhaps not knowing what it was. Winston stood watching
her for a moment. Then with a sudden swift spring he had snatched
the piece of chocolate out of his sister's hand and was fleeing
for the door.
'Winston, Winston!' his mother called after him. 'Come back! Give
your sister back her chocolate!'
He stopped, but did not come back. His mother's anxious eyes were
fixed on his face. Even now he was thinking about the thing, he
did not know what it was that was on the point of happening. His
sister, conscious of having been robbed of something, had set
up a feeble wail. His mother drew her arm round the child and
pressed its face against her breast. Something in the gesture
told him that his sister was dying. He turned and fled down the
stairs' with the chocolate growing sticky in his hand.
He never saw his mother again. After he had devoured the chocolate
he felt somewhat ashamed of himself and hung about in the streets
for several hours, until hunger drove him home. When he came back
his mother had disappeared. This was already becoming normal at
that time. Nothing was gone from the room except his mother and
his sister. They had not taken any clothes, not even his mother's
overcoat. To this day he did not know with any certainty that
his mother was dead. It was perfectly possible that she had merely
been sent to a forced-labour camp. As for his sister, she might
have been removed, like Winston himself, to one of the colonies
for homeless children (Reclamation Centres, they were called)
which had grown up as a result of the civil war, or she might
have been sent to the labour camp along with his mother, or simply
left somewhere or other to die.
The dream was still vivid in his mind, especially the enveloping
protecting gesture of the arm in which its whole meaning seemed
to be contained. His mind went back to another dream of two months
ago. Exactly as his mother had sat on the dingy white-quilted
bed, with the child clinging to her, so she had sat in the sunken
ship, far underneath him, and drowning deeper every minute, but
still looking up at him through the darkening water.
He told Julia the story of his mother's disappearance. Without
opening her eyes she rolled over and settled herself into a more
'I expect you were a beastly little swine in those days,' she
said indistinctly. 'All children are swine.'
'Yes. But the real point of the story -'
From her breathing it was evident that she was going off to sleep
again. He would have liked to continue talking about his mother.
He did not suppose, from what he could remember of her, that she
had been an unusual woman, still less an intelligent one; and
yet she had possessed a kind of nobility, a kind of purity, simply
because the standards that she obeyed were private ones. Her feelings
were her own, and could not be altered from outside. It would
not have occurred to her that an action which is ineffectual thereby
becomes meaningless. If you loved someone, you loved him, and
when you had nothing else to give, you still gave him love. When
the last of the chocolate was gone, his mother had clasped the
child in her arms. It was no use, it changed nothing, it did not
produce more chocolate, it did not avert the child's death or
her own; but it seemed natural to her to do it. The refugee woman
in the boat had also covered the little boy with her arm, which
was no more use against the bullets than a sheet of paper. The
terrible thing that the Party had done was to persuade you that
mere impulses, mere feelings, were of no account, while at the
same time robbing you of all power over the material world. When
once you were in the grip of the Party, what you felt or did not
feel, what you did or refrained from doing, made literally no
difference. Whatever happened you vanished, and neither you nor
your actions were ever heard of again. You were lifted clean out
of the stream of history. And yet to the people of only two generations
ago this would not have seemed all-important, because they were
not attempting to alter history. They were governed by private
loyalties which they did not question. What mattered were individual
relationships, and a completely helpless gesture, an embrace,
a tear, a word spoken to a dying man, could have value in itself.
The proles, it suddenly occurred to him, had remained in this
condition. They were not loyal to a party or a country or an idea,
they were loyal to one another. For the first time in his life
he did not despise the proles or think of them merely as an inert
force which would one day spring to life and regenerate the world.
The proles had stayed human. They had not become hardened inside.
They had held on to the primitive emotions which he himself had
to re-learn by conscious effort. And in thinking this he remembered,
without apparent relevance, how a few weeks ago he had seen a
severed hand lying on the pavement and had kicked it into the
gutter as though it had been a cabbage-stalk.
'The proles are human beings,' he said aloud. 'We are not human.'
'Why not?' said Julia, who had woken up again.
He thought for a little while. 'Has it ever occurred to you,'
he said, 'that the best thing for us to do would be simply to
walk out of here before it's too late, and never see each other
'Yes, dear, it has occurred to me, several times. But I'm not
going to do it, all the same.'
'We've been lucky,' he said 'but it can't last much longer. You're
young. You look normal and innocent. If you keep clear of people
like me, you might stay alive for another fifty years.'
'No. I've thought it all out. What you do, I'm going to do. And
don't be too downhearted. I'm rather good at staying alive.'
'We may be together for another six months -- a year -- there's
no knowing. At the end we're certain to be apart. Do you realize
how utterly alone we shall be? When once they get hold of us there
will be nothing, literally nothing, that either of us can do for
the other. If I confess, they'll shoot you, and if I refuse to
confess, they'll shoot you just the same. Nothing that I can do
or say, or stop myself from saying, will put off your death for
as much as five minutes. Neither of us will even know whether
the other is alive or dead. We shall be utterly without power
of any kind. The one thing that matters is that we shouldn't betray
one another, although even that can't make the slightest difference.'
'If you mean confessing,' she said, 'we shall do that, right enough.
Everybody always confesses. You can't help it. They torture you.'
'I don't mean confessing. Confession is not betrayal. What you
say or do doesn't matter: only feelings matter. If they could
make me stop loving you -- that would be the real betrayal.'
She thought it over. 'They can't do that,' she said finally. 'It's
the one thing they can't do. They can make you say anything --
anything -- but they can't make you believe it. They can't
get inside you.'
'No,' he said a little more hopefully, 'no; that's quite true.
They can't get inside you. If you can feel that staying
human is worth while, even when it can't have any result whatever,
you've beaten them.'
He thought of the telescreen with its never-sleeping ear. They
could spy upon you night and day, but if you kept your head you
could still outwit them. With all their cleverness they had never
mastered the secret of finding out what another human being was
thinking. Perhaps that was less true when you were actually in
their hands. One did not know what happened inside the Ministry
of Love, but it was possible to guess: tortures, drugs, delicate
instruments that registered your nervous reactions, gradual wearing-down
by sleeplessness and solitude and persistent questioning. Facts,
at any rate, could not be kept hidden. They could be tracked down
by enquiry, they could be squeezed out of you by torture. But
if the object was not to stay alive but to stay human, what difference
did it ultimately make? They could not alter your feelings: for
that matter you could not alter them yourself, even if you wanted
to. They could lay bare in the utmost detail everything that you
had done or said or thought; but the inner heart, whose workings
were mysterious even to yourself, remained impregnable.
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