He was lying on something that felt like a camp bed, except that it was higher
off the ground and that he was fixed down in some way so that he could not move.
Light that seemed stronger than usual was falling on his face. O'Brien was
standing at his side, looking down at him intently. At the other side of him
stood a man in a white coat, holding a hypodermic syringe.
Even after his eyes were open he took in his surroundings only gradually. He had
the impression of swimming up into this room from some quite different world, a
sort of underwater world far beneath it. How long he had been down there he did
not know. Since the moment when they arrested him he had not seen darkness or
daylight. Besides, his memories were not continuous. There had been times when
consciousness, even the sort of consciousness that one has in sleep, had stopped
dead and started again after a blank interval. But whether the intervals were of
days or weeks or only seconds, there was no way of knowing.
With that first blow on the elbow the nightmare had started. Later he was to
realize that all that then happened was merely a preliminary, a routine
interrogation to which nearly all prisoners were subjected. There was a long
range of crimes – espionage, sabotage, and the like – to which everyone had to
confess as a matter of course. The confession was a formality, though the
torture was real. How many times he had been beaten, how long the beatings had
continued, he could not remember. Always there were five or six men in black
uniforms at him simultaneously. Sometimes it was fists, sometimes it was
truncheons, sometimes it was steel rods, sometimes it was boots. There were
times when he rolled about the floor, as shameless as an animal, writhing his
body this way and that in an endless, hopeless effort to dodge the kicks, and
simply inviting more and yet more kicks, in his ribs, in his belly, on his
elbows, on his shins, in his groin, in his testicles, on the bone at the base of
his spine. There were times when it went on and on until the cruel, wicked,
unforgivable thing seemed to him not that the guards continued to beat him but
that he could not force himself into losing consciousness. There were times when
his nerve so forsook him that he began shouting for mercy even before the
beating began, when the mere sight of a fist drawn back for a blow was enough to
make him pour forth a confession of real and imaginary crimes. There were other
times when he started out with the resolve of confessing nothing, when every
word had to be forced out of him between gasps of pain, and there were times
when he feebly tried to compromise, when he said to himself: 'I will confess,
but not yet. I must hold out till the pain becomes unbearable. Three more kicks,
two more kicks, and then I will tell them what they want.' Sometimes he was
beaten till he could hardly stand, then flung like a sack of potatoes on to the
stone floor of a cell, left to recuperate for a few hours, and then taken out
and beaten again. There were also longer periods of recovery. He remembered them
dimly, because they were spent chiefly in sleep or stupor. He remembered a cell
with a plank bed, a sort of shelf sticking out from the wall, and a tin
wash-basin, and meals of hot soup and bread and sometimes coffee. He remembered
a surly barber arriving to scrape his chin and crop his hair, and businesslike,
unsympathetic men in white coats feeling his pulse, tapping his reflexes,
turning up his eyelids, running harsh fingers over him in search for broken
bones, and shooting needles into his arm to make him sleep.
The beatings grew less frequent, and became mainly a threat, a horror to which
he could be sent back at any moment when his answers were unsatisfactory. His
questioners now were not ruffians in black uniforms but Party intellectuals,
little rotund men with quick movements and flashing spectacles, who worked on
him in relays over periods which lasted – he thought, he could not be sure –
ten or twelve hours at a stretch. These other questioners saw to it that he was
in constant slight pain, but it was not chiefly pain that they relied on. They
slapped his face, wrung his ears, pulled his hair, made him stand on one leg,
refused him leave to urinate, shone glaring lights in his face until his eyes
ran with water; but the aim of this was simply to humiliate him and destroy his
power of arguing and reasoning. Their real weapon was the merciless questioning
that went on and on, hour after hour, tripping him up, laying traps for him,
twisting everything that he said, convicting him at every step of lies and
self-contradiction until he began weeping as much from shame as from nervous
fatigue. Sometimes he would weep half a dozen times in a single session. Most of
the time they screamed abuse at him and threatened at every hesitation to
deliver him over to the guards again; but sometimes they would suddenly change
their tune, call him comrade, appeal to him in the name of Ingsoc and Big
Brother, and ask him sorrowfully whether even now he had not enough loyalty to
the Party left to make him wish to undo the evil he had done. When his nerves
were in rags after hours of questioning, even this appeal could reduce him to
snivelling tears. In the end the nagging voices broke him down more completely
than the boots and fists of the guards. He became simply a mouth that uttered, a
hand that signed, whatever was demanded of him. His sole concern was to find out
what they wanted him to confess, and then confess it quickly, before the
bullying started anew. He confessed to the assassination of eminent Party
members, the distribution of seditious pamphlets, embezzlement of public funds,
sale of military secrets, sabotage of every kind. He confessed that he had been
a spy in the pay of the Eastasian government as far back as 1968. He confessed
that he was a religious believer, an admirer of capitalism, and a sexual
pervert. He confessed that he had murdered his wife, although he knew, and his
questioners must have known, that his wife was still alive. He confessed that
for years he had been in personal touch with Goldstein and had been a member of
an underground organization which had included almost every human being he had
ever known. It was easier to confess everything and implicate everybody.
Besides, in a sense it was all true. It was true that he had been the enemy of
the Party, and in the eyes of the Party there was no distinction between the
thought and the deed.
There were also memories of another kind. They stood out in his mind
disconnectedly, like pictures with blackness all round them.
He was in a cell which might have been either dark or light, because he could
see nothing except a pair of eyes. Near at hand some kind of instrument was
ticking slowly and regularly. The eyes grew larger and more luminous. Suddenly
he floated out of his seat, dived into the eyes, and was swallowed up.
He was strapped into a chair surrounded by dials, under dazzling lights. A man
in a white coat was reading the dials. There was a tramp of heavy boots outside.
The door clanged open. The waxed-faced officer marched in, followed by two
'Room 101,' said the officer.
The man in the white coat did not turn round. He did not look at Winston either;
he was looking only at the dials.
He was rolling down a mighty corridor, a kilometre wide, full of glorious,
golden light, roaring with laughter and shouting out confessions at the top of
his voice. He was confessing everything, even the things he had succeeded in
holding back under the torture. He was relating the entire history of his life
to an audience who knew it already. With him were the guards, the other
questioners, the men in white coats, O'Brien, Julia, Mr Charrington, all rolling
down the corridor together and shouting with laughter. Some dreadful thing which
had lain embedded in the future had somehow been skipped over and had not
happened. Everything was all right, there was no more pain, the last detail of
his life was laid bare, understood, forgiven.
He was starting up from the plank bed in the half-certainty that he had heard
O'Brien's voice. All through his interrogation, although he had never seen him,
he had had the feeling that O'Brien was at his elbow, just out of sight. It was
O'Brien who was directing everything. It was he who set the guards on to Winston
and who prevented them from killing him. It was he who decided when Winston
should scream with pain, when he should have a respite, when he should be fed,
when he should sleep, when the drugs should be pumped into his arm. It was he
who asked the questions and suggested the answers. He was the tormentor, he was
the protector, he was the inquisitor, he was the friend. And once – Winston
could not remember whether it was in drugged sleep, or in normal sleep, or even
in a moment of wakefulness – a voice murmured in his ear: 'Don't worry,
Winston; you are in my keeping. For seven years I have watched over you. Now the
turning-point has come. I shall save you, I shall make you perfect.' He was not
sure whether it was O'Brien's voice; but it was the same voice that had said to
him, 'We shall meet in the place where there is no darkness,' in that other
dream, seven years ago.
He did not remember any ending to his interrogation. There was a period of
blackness and then the cell, or room, in which he now was had gradually
materialized round him. He was almost flat on his back, and unable to move. His
body was held down at every essential point. Even the back of his head was
gripped in some manner. O'Brien was looking down at him gravely and rather
sadly. His face, seen from below, looked coarse and worn, with pouches under the
eyes and tired lines from nose to chin. He was older than Winston had thought
him; he was perhaps forty-eight or fifty. Under his hand there was a dial with a
lever on top and figures running round the face.
'I told you,' said O'Brien, 'that if we met again it would be here.'
'Yes,' said Winston.
Without any warning except a slight movement of O'Brien's hand, a wave of pain
flooded his body. It was a frightening pain, because he could not see what was
happening, and he had the feeling that some mortal injury was being done to him.
He did not know whether the thing was really happening, or whether the effect
was electrically produced; but his body was being wrenched out of shape, the
joints were being slowly torn apart. Although the pain had brought the sweat out
on his forehead, the worst of all was the fear that his backbone was about to
snap. He set his teeth and breathed hard through his nose, trying to keep silent
as long as possible.
'You are afraid,' said O'Brien, watching his face, 'that in another moment
something is going to break. Your especial fear is that it will be your
backbone. You have a vivid mental picture of the vertebrae snapping apart and
the spinal fluid dripping out of them. That is what you are thinking, is it not,
Winston did not answer. O'Brien drew back the lever on the dial. The wave of
pain receded almost as quickly as it had come.
'That was forty,' said O'Brien. 'You can see that the numbers on this dial run
up to a hundred. Will you please remember, throughout our conversation, that I
have it in my power to inflict pain on you at any moment and to whatever degree
I choose? If you tell me any lies, or attempt to prevaricate in any way, or even
fall below your usual level of intelligence, you will cry out with pain,
instantly. Do you understand that?'
'Yes,' said Winston.
O'Brien's manner became less severe. He resettled his spectacles thoughtfully,
and took a pace or two up and down. When he spoke his voice was gentle and
patient. He had the air of a doctor, a teacher, even a priest, anxious to
explain and persuade rather than to punish.
'I am taking trouble with you, Winston,' he said, 'because you are worth
trouble. You know perfectly well what is the matter with you. You have known it
for years, though you have fought against the knowledge. You are mentally
deranged. You suffer from a defective memory. You are unable to remember real
events and you persuade yourself that you remember other events which never
happened. Fortunately it is curable. You have never cured yourself of it,
because you did not choose to. There was a small effort of the will that you
were not ready to make. Even now, I am well aware, you are clinging to your
disease under the impression that it is a virtue. Now we will take an example.
At this moment, which power is Oceania at war with?'
'When I was arrested, Oceania was at war with Eastasia.'
'With Eastasia. Good. And Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia, has it
Winston drew in his breath. He opened his mouth to speak and then did not speak.
He could not take his eyes away from the dial.
'The truth, please, Winston. Your truth. Tell me what you think you remember.'
'I remember that until only a week before I was arrested, we were not at war
with Eastasia at all. We were in alliance with them. The war was against
Eurasia. That had lasted for four years. Before that – '
O'Brien stopped him with a movement of the hand.
'Another example,' he said. 'Some years ago you had a very serious delusion
indeed. You believed that three men, three onetime Party members named Jones,
Aaronson, and Rutherford men who were executed for treachery and sabotage after
making the fullest possible confession – were not guilty of the crimes they
were charged with. You believed that you had seen unmistakable documentary
evidence proving that their confessions were false. There was a certain
photograph about which you had a hallucination. You believed that you had
actually held it in your hands. It was a photograph something like this.'
An oblong slip of newspaper had appeared between O'Brien's fingers. For perhaps
five seconds it was within the angle of Winston's vision. It was a photograph,
and there was no question of its identity. It was the photograph. It was another
copy of the photograph of Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford at the party function
in New York, which he had chanced upon eleven years ago and promptly destroyed.
For only an instant it was before his eyes, then it was out of sight again. But
he had seen it, unquestionably he had seen it! He made a desperate, agonizing
effort to wrench the top half of his body free. It was impossible to move so
much as a centimetre in any direction. For the moment he had even forgotten the
dial. All he wanted was to hold the photograph in his fingers again, or at least
to see it.
'It exists!' he cried.
'No,' said O'Brien.
He stepped across the room. There was a memory hole in the opposite wall.
O'Brien lifted the grating. Unseen, the frail slip of paper was whirling away on
the current of warm air; it was vanishing in a flash of flame. O'Brien turned
away from the wall.
'Ashes,' he said. 'Not even identifiable ashes. Dust. It does not exist. It
'But it did exist! It does exist! It exists in memory. I remember it. You
'I do not remember it,' said O'Brien.
Winston's heart sank. That was doublethink. He had a feeling of deadly
helplessness. If he could have been certain that O'Brien was lying, it would not
have seemed to matter. But it was perfectly possible that O'Brien had really
forgotten the photograph. And if so, then already he would have forgotten his
denial of remembering it, and forgotten the act of forgetting. How could one be
sure that it was simple trickery? Perhaps that lunatic dislocation in the mind
could really happen: that was the thought that defeated him.
O'Brien was looking down at him speculatively. More than ever he had the air of
a teacher taking pains with a wayward but promising child.
'There is a Party slogan dealing with the control of the past,' he said. 'Repeat
it, if you please.'
'"Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls
the past,"' repeated Winston obediently.
'"Who controls the present controls the past,"' said O'Brien, nodding his head
with slow approval. 'Is it your opinion, Winston, that the past has real
Again the feeling of helplessness descended upon Winston. His eyes flitted
towards the dial. He not only did not know whether 'yes' or 'no' was the answer
that would save him from pain; he did not even know which answer he believed to
be the true one.
O'Brien smiled faintly. 'You are no metaphysician, Winston,' he said. 'Until
this moment you had never considered what is meant by existence. I will put it
more precisely. Does the past exist concretely, in space? Is there somewhere or
other a place, a world of solid objects, where the past is still happening?'
'Then where does the past exist, if at all?'
'In records. It is written down.'
'In records. And – ?'
'In the mind. In human memories.'
'In memory. Very well, then. We, the Party, control all records, and we control
all memories. Then we control the past, do we not?'
'But how can you stop people remembering things?' cried Winston again
momentarily forgetting the dial. 'It is involuntary. It is outside oneself. How
can you control memory? You have not controlled mine!'
O'Brien's manner grew stern again. He laid his hand on the dial.
'On the contrary,' he said, 'you have not controlled it. That is what has
brought you here. You are here because you have failed in humility, in
self-discipline. You would not make the act of submission which is the price of
sanity. You preferred to be a lunatic, a minority of one. Only the disciplined
mind can see reality, Winston. You believe that reality is something objective,
external, existing in its own right. You also believe that the nature of reality
is self-evident. When you delude yourself into thinking that you see something,
you assume that everyone else sees the same thing as you. But I tell you,
Winston, that reality is not external. Reality exists in the human mind, and
nowhere else. Not in the individual mind, which can make mistakes, and in any
case soon perishes: only in the mind of the Party, which is collective and
immortal. Whatever the Party holds to be the truth, is truth. It is impossible
to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the Party. That is the fact
that you have got to relearn, Winston. It needs an act of self-destruction, an
effort of the will. You must humble yourself before you can become sane.'
He paused for a few moments, as though to allow what he had been saying to sink
'Do you remember,' he went on, 'writing in your diary, "Freedom is the freedom
to say that two plus two make four"?'
'Yes,' said Winston.
O'Brien held up his left hand, its back towards Winston, with the thumb hidden
and the four fingers extended.
'How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?'
'And if the party says that it is not four but five – then how many?'
The word ended in a gasp of pain. The needle of the dial had shot up to
fifty-five. The sweat had sprung out all over Winston's body. The air tore into
his lungs and issued again in deep groans which even by clenching his teeth he
could not stop. O'Brien watched him, the four fingers still extended. He drew
back the lever. This time the pain was only slightly eased.
'How many fingers, Winston?'
The needle went up to sixty.
'How many fingers, Winston?'
'Four! Four! What else can I say? Four!'
The needle must have risen again, but he did not look at it. The heavy, stern
face and the four fingers filled his vision. The fingers stood up before his
eyes like pillars, enormous, blurry, and seeming to vibrate, but unmistakably
'How many fingers, Winston?'
'Four! Stop it, stop it! How can you go on? Four! Four!'
'How many fingers, Winston?'
'Five! Five! Five!'
'No, Winston, that is no use. You are lying. You still think there are four. How
many fingers, please?'
'Four! five! Four! Anything you like. Only stop it, stop the pain!'
Abruptly he was sitting up with O'Brien's arm round his shoulders. He had
perhaps lost consciousness for a few seconds. The bonds that had held his body
down were loosened. He felt very cold, he was shaking uncontrollably, his teeth
were chattering, the tears were rolling down his cheeks. For a moment he clung
to O'Brien like a baby, curiously comforted by the heavy arm round his
shoulders. He had the feeling that O'Brien was his protector, that the pain was
something that came from outside, from some other source, and that it was
O'Brien who would save him from it.
'You are a slow learner, Winston,' said O'Brien gently.
'How can I help it?' he blubbered. 'How can I help seeing what is in front of my
eyes? Two and two are four.'
'Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three.
Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to
He laid Winston down on the bed. The grip of his limbs tightened again, but the
pain had ebbed away and the trembling had stopped, leaving him merely weak and
cold. O'Brien motioned with his head to the man in the white coat, who had stood
immobile throughout the proceedings. The man in the white coat bent down and
looked closely into Winston's eyes, felt his pulse, laid an ear against his
chest, tapped here and there, then he nodded to O'Brien.
'Again,' said O'Brien.
The pain flowed into Winston's body. The needle must be at seventy,
seventy-five. He had shut his eyes this time. He knew that the fingers were
still there, and still four. All that mattered was somehow to stay alive until
the spasm was over. He had ceased to notice whether he was crying out or not.
The pain lessened again. He opened his eyes. O'Brien had drawn back the lever.
'How many fingers, Winston?'
'Four. I suppose there are four. I would see five if I could. I am trying to see
'Which do you wish: to persuade me that you see five, or really to see them?'
'Really to see them.'
'Again,' said O'Brien.
Perhaps the needle was eighty – ninety. Winston could not intermittently
remember why the pain was happening. Behind his screwed-up eyelids a forest of
fingers seemed to be moving in a sort of dance, weaving in and out, disappearing
behind one another and reappearing again. He was trying to count them, he could
not remember why. He knew only that it was impossible to count them, and that
this was somehow due to the mysterious identity between five and four. The pain
died down again. When he opened his eyes it was to find that he was still seeing
the same thing. Innumerable fingers, like moving trees, were still streaming
past in either direction, crossing and recrossing. He shut his eyes again.
'How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?'
'I don't know. I don't know. You will kill me if you do that again. Four, five,
six – in all honesty I don't know.'
'Better,' said O'Brien.
A needle slid into Winston's arm. Almost in the same instant a blissful, healing
warmth spread all through his body. The pain was already half-forgotten. He
opened his eyes and looked up gratefully at O'Brien. At sight of the heavy,
lined face, so ugly and so intelligent, his heart seemed to turn over. If he
could have moved he would have stretched out a hand and laid it on O'Brien arm.
He had never loved him so deeply as at this moment, and not merely because he
had stopped the pain. The old feeling, that it bottom it did not matter whether
O'Brien was a friend or an enemy, had come back. O'Brien was a person who could
be talked to. Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood.
O'Brien had tortured him to the edge of lunacy, and in a little while, it was
certain, he would send him to his death. It made no difference. In some sense
that went deeper than friendship, they were intimates: somewhere or other,
although the actual words might never be spoken, there was a place where they
could meet and talk. O'Brien was looking down at him with an expression which
suggested that the same thought might be in his own mind. When he spoke it was
in an easy, conversational tone.
'Do you know where you are, Winston?' he said.
'I don't know. I can guess. In the Ministry of Love.'
'Do you know how long you have been here?'
'I don't know. Days, weeks, months – I think it is months.'
'And why do you imagine that we bring people to this place?'
'To make them confess.'
'No, that is not the reason. Try again.'
'To punish them.'
'No!' exclaimed O'Brien. His voice had changed extraordinarily, and his face had
suddenly become both stern and animated. 'No! Not merely to extract your
confession, not to punish you. Shall I tell you why we have brought you here? To
cure you! To make you sane! Will you understand, Winston, that no one whom we
bring to this place ever leaves our hands uncured? We are not interested in
those stupid crimes that you have committed. The Party is not interested in the
overt act: the thought is all we care about. We do not merely destroy our
enemies, we change them. Do you understand what I mean by that?'
He was bending over Winston. His face looked enormous because of its nearness,
and hideously ugly because it was seen from below. Moreover it was filled with a
sort of exaltation, a lunatic intensity. Again Winston's heart shrank. If it had
been possible he would have cowered deeper into the bed. He felt certain that
O'Brien was about to twist the dial out of sheer wantonness. At this moment,
however, O'Brien turned away. He took a pace or two up and down. Then he
continued less vehemently:
'The first thing for you to understand is that in this place there are no
martyrdoms. You have read of the religious persecutions of the past. In the
Middle Ages there was the Inquisition. It was a failure. It set out to eradicate
heresy, and ended by perpetuating it. For every heretic it burned at the stake,
thousands of others rose up. Why was that? Because the Inquisition killed its
enemies in the open, and killed them while they were still unrepentant: in fact,
it killed them because they were unrepentant. Men were dying because they would
not abandon their true beliefs. Naturally all the glory belonged to the victim
and all the shame to the Inquisitor who burned him. Later, in the twentieth
century, there were the totalitarians, as they were called. There were the
German Nazis and the Russian Communists. The Russians persecuted heresy more
cruelly than the Inquisition had done. And they imagined that they had learned
from the mistakes of the past; they knew, at any rate, that one must not make
martyrs. Before they exposed their victims to public trial, they deliberately
set themselves to destroy their dignity. They wore them down by torture and
solitude until they were despicable, cringing wretches, confessing whatever was
put into their mouths, covering themselves with abuse, accusing and sheltering
behind one another, whimpering for mercy. And yet after only a few years the
same thing had happened over again. The dead men had become martyrs and their
degradation was forgotten. Once again, why was it? In the first place, because
the confessions that they had made were obviously extorted and untrue. We do not
make mistakes of that kind. All the confessions that are uttered here are true.
We make them true. And above all we do not allow the dead to rise up against us.
You must stop imagining that posterity will vindicate you, Winston. Posterity
will never hear of you. You will be lifted clean out from the stream of history.
We shall turn you into gas and pour you into the stratosphere. Nothing will
remain of you, not a name in a register, not a memory in a living brain. You
will be annihilated in the past as well as in the future. You will never have
Then why bother to torture me? thought Winston, with a momentary bitterness.
O'Brien checked his step as though Winston had uttered the thought aloud. His
large ugly face came nearer, with the eyes a little narrowed.
'You are thinking,' he said, 'that since we intend to destroy you utterly, so
that nothing that you say or do can make the smallest difference – in that
case, why do we go to the trouble of interrogating you first? That is what you
were thinking, was it not?'
'Yes,' said Winston.
O'Brien smiled slightly. 'You are a flaw in the pattern, Winston. You are a
stain that must be wiped out. Did I not tell you just now that we are different
from the persecutors of the past? We are not content with negative obedience,
nor even with the most abject submission. When finally you surrender to us, it
must be of your own free will. We do not destroy the heretic because he resists
us: so long as he resists us we never destroy him. We convert him, we capture
his inner mind, we reshape him. We burn all evil and all illusion out of him; we
bring him over to our side, not in appearance, but genuinely, heart and soul. We
make him one of ourselves before we kill him. It is intolerable to us that an
erroneous thought should exist anywhere in the world, however secret and
powerless it may be. Even in the instant of death we cannot permit any
deviation. In the old days the heretic walked to the stake still a heretic,
proclaiming his heresy, exulting in it. Even the victim of the Russian purges
could carry rebellion locked up in his skull as he walked down the passage
waiting for the bullet. But we make the brain perfect before we blow it out. The
command of the old despotisms was "Thou shalt not". The command of the
totalitarians was "Thou shalt". Our command is "Thou art". No one whom we bring
to this place ever stands out against us. Everyone is washed clean. Even those
three miserable traitors in whose innocence you once believed – Jones,
Aaronson, and Rutherford – in the end we broke them down. I took part in their
interrogation myself. I saw them gradually worn down, whimpering, grovelling,
weeping – and in the end it was not with pain or fear, only with penitence. By
the time we had finished with them they were only the shells of men. There was
nothing left in them except sorrow for what they had done, and love of Big
Brother. It was touching to see how they loved him. They begged to be shot
quickly, so that they could die while their minds were still clean.'
His voice had grown almost dreamy. The exaltation, the lunatic enthusiasm, was
still in his face. He is not pretending, thought Winston, he is not a hypocrite,
he believes every word he says. What most oppressed him was the consciousness of
his own intellectual inferiority. He watched the heavy yet graceful form
strolling to and fro, in and out of the range of his vision. O'Brien was a being
in all ways larger than himself. There was no idea that he had ever had, or
could have, that O'Brien had not long ago known, examined, and rejected. His
mind contained Winston's mind. But in that case how could it be true that
O'Brien was mad? It must be he, Winston, who was mad. O'Brien halted and looked
down at him. His voice had grown stern again.
'Do not imagine that you will save yourself, Winston, however completely you
surrender to us. No one who has once gone astray is ever spared. And even if we
chose to let you live out the natural term of your life, still you would never
escape from us. What happens to you here is for ever. Understand that in
advance. We shall crush you down to the point from which there is no coming
back. Things will happen to you from which you could not recover, if you lived a
thousand years. Never again will you be capable of ordinary human feeling.
Everything will be dead inside you. Never again will you be capable of love, or
friendship, or joy of living, or laughter, or curiosity, or courage, or
integrity. You will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty, and then we shall
fill you with ourselves.'
He paused and signed to the man in the white coat. Winston was aware of some
heavy piece of apparatus being pushed into place behind his head. O'Brien had
sat down beside the bed, so that his face was almost on a level with Winston's.
'Three thousand,' he said, speaking over Winston's head to the man in the white
Two soft pads, which felt slightly moist, clamped themselves against Winston's
temples. He quailed. There was pain coming, a new kind of pain. O'Brien laid a
hand reassuringly, almost kindly, on his.
'This time it will not hurt,' he said. 'Keep your eyes fixed on mine.'
At this moment there was a devastating explosion, or what seemed like an
explosion, though it was not certain whether there was any noise. There was
undoubtedly a blinding flash of light. Winston was not hurt, only prostrated.
Although he had already been lying on his back when the thing happened, he had a
curious feeling that he had been knocked into that position. A terrific painless
blow had flattened him out. Also something had happened inside his head. As his
eyes regained their focus he remembered who he was, and where he was, and
recognized the face that was gazing into his own; but somewhere or other there
was a large patch of emptiness, as though a piece had been taken out of his
'It will not last,' said O'Brien. 'Look me in the eyes. What country is Oceania
at war with?'
Winston thought. He knew what was meant by Oceania and that he himself was a
citizen of Oceania. He also remembered Eurasia and Eastasia; but who was at war
with whom he did not know. In fact he had not been aware that there was any war.
'I don't remember.'
'Oceania is at war with Eastasia. Do you remember that now?'
'Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia. Since the beginning of your life,
since the beginning of the Party, since the beginning of history, the war has
continued without a break, always the same war. Do you remember that?'
'Eleven years ago you created a legend about three men who had been condemned to
death for treachery. You pretended that you had seen a piece of paper which
proved them innocent. No such piece of paper ever existed. You invented it, and
later you grew to believe in it. You remember now the very moment at which you
first invented it. Do you remember that?'
'Just now I held up the fingers of my hand to you. You saw five fingers. Do you
O'Brien held up the fingers of his left hand, with the thumb concealed.
'There are five fingers there. Do you see five fingers?'
And he did see them, for a fleeting instant, before the scenery of his mind
changed. He saw five fingers, and there was no deformity. Then everything was
normal again, and the old fear, the hatred, and the bewilderment came crowding
back again. But there had been a moment – he did not know how long, thirty
seconds, perhaps – of luminous certainty, when each new suggestion of O'Brien's
had filled up a patch of emptiness and become absolute truth, and when two and
two could have been three as easily as five, if that were what was needed. It
had faded but before O'Brien had dropped his hand; but though he could not
recapture it, he could remember it, as one remembers a vivid experience at some
period of one's life when one was in effect a different person.
'You see now,' said O'Brien, 'that it is at any rate possible.'
'Yes,' said Winston.
O'Brien stood up with a satisfied air. Over to his left Winston saw the man in
the white coat break an ampoule and draw back the plunger of a syringe. O'Brien
turned to Winston with a smile. In almost the old manner he resettled his
spectacles on his nose.
'Do you remember writing in your diary,' he said, 'that it did not matter
whether I was a friend or an enemy, since I was at least a person who understood
you and could be talked to? You were right. I enjoy talking to you. Your mind
appeals to me. It resembles my own mind except that you happen to be insane.
Before we bring the session to an end you can ask me a few questions, if you
'Any question I like?'
'Anything.' He saw that Winston's eyes were upon the dial. 'It is switched off.
What is your first question?'
'What have you done with Julia?' said Winston.
O'Brien smiled again. 'She betrayed you, Winston. Immediately – unreservedly. I
have seldom seen anyone come over to us so promptly. You would hardly recognize
her if you saw her. All her rebelliousness, her deceit, her folly, her
dirty-mindedness – everything has been burned out of her. It was a perfect
conversion, a textbook case.'
'You tortured her?'
O'Brien left this unanswered. 'Next question,' he said.
'Does Big Brother exist?'
'Of course he exists. The Party exists. Big Brother is the embodiment of the
'Does he exist in the same way as I exist?'
'You do not exist,' said O'Brien.
Once again the sense of helplessness assailed him. He knew, or he could imagine,
the arguments which proved his own nonexistence; but they were nonsense, they
were only a play on words. Did not the statement, 'You do not exist', contain a
logical absurdity? But what use was it to say so? His mind shrivelled as he
thought of the unanswerable, mad arguments with which O'Brien would demolish
'I think I exist,' he said wearily. 'I am conscious of my own identity. I was
born and I shall die. I have arms and legs. I occupy a particular point in
space. No other solid object can occupy the same point simultaneously. In that
sense, does Big Brother exist?'
'It is of no importance. He exists.'
'Will Big Brother ever die?'
'Of course not. How could he die? Next question.'
'Does the Brotherhood exist?'
'That, Winston, you will never know. If we choose to set you free when we have
finished with you, and if you live to be ninety years old, still you will never
learn whether the answer to that question is Yes or No. As long as you live it
will be an unsolved riddle in your mind.'
Winston lay silent. His breast rose and fell a little faster. He still had not
asked the question that had come into his mind the first. He had got to ask it,
and yet it was as though his tongue would not utter it. There was a trace of
amusement in O'Brien's face. Even his spectacles seemed to wear an ironical
gleam. He knows, thought Winston suddenly, he knows what I am going to ask! At
the thought the words burst out of him:
'What is in Room 101?'
The expression on O'Brien's face did not change. He answered drily:
'You know what is in Room 101, Winston. Everyone knows what is in Room 101.'
He raised a finger to the man in the white coat. Evidently the session was at an
end. A needle jerked into Winston's arm. He sank almost instantly into deep