Summary Pt. 1 Chp. 4
In this chapter we meet Winston engaged in his routine job at the Ministry of Truth. The instructions he receives for the day’s business are in newspeak, which appear to be senseless gibberish, but are soon revealed to carry very sinister meanings indeed. What Winston and his colleagues in the Records office, a section of the Ministry of Truth are involved in is no less than a stupendous, perpetual project of recreating the past. For example, an earlier edition of The Times Newspaper had reported that the army would be active on the Indian front while there would be peace on the African border. What had actually happened was the reverse. Now, Winston had to create a fresh copy of the Times, bearing the earlier date, but with the facts “updated”. All copies of the earlier edition would be destroyed and anyone who went looking for records would find the Party’s claims fully substantiated by the documents. This process applied to all written documents, there was an employee named Ampleforth whose sole occupation was to produce ideologically correct, “updated” versions of earlier poems. Another colleague dealt with erasing all records of persons who had been “vaporized” (that is, executed) by the Party, so that according to records, they had never existed at all, so of course they could not have been killed. All branches of writing, from poetry to biography, from alphabet books to dictionaries were constantly remade in this manner. There was even a special section dealing with the production of updated pornography, to which only the producers and the members of the Party’s inner circle had access.
One of Winston’s jobs for this particular day was of extra significance as it dealt directly with one of Big Brother’s speeches. In newspeak, the instructions said that Big Brother’s speech had been misreported and referred to “unpersons” and had to be rewritten and submitted to higher authorities for editing. The job was so delicate that Winston knew he would not be the only one working on it. He thought that Tillotson, a man who sat next to him as well as a few others would all be producing different versions, which would finally be edited, and the best piece selected. In the speech under review, Big Brother had referred to an organization called the FFCC, praised it and singled out an official, Withers, for special commendation. Now the organization no longer existed and Withers was an “unperson.” No one usually knew what happened to those declared as “unpersons,” public executions or trials of political offenders were spectacles which happened only once every two years or so. Usually such people just disappeared.
Now Winston had to rewrite Big Brother’s speech without any reference to FFCC or Withers. He decides to invent a totally new person as the subject of the speech and names this imaginary character Comrade Oglivy. Of course, Comrade Oglivy did not exist, but once Big Brother’s speech about him was placed in the newspapers with a couple of faked photographs his existence would become indisputable fact. Winston writes the speech in which Big Brother pays glowing tribute to the heroic life and glorious death of Comrade Oglivy who is held up as an example for all citizens to follow. He is presented as a devoted Party adherent, with no vices, a brave soldier and a noble martyr. Winston regards his draft of the speech with an artist’s satisfaction. Though he is almost sure that Tillotson was working on the same piece he feels sure his idea would be the acceptable one. He reflects on the ease with which real people can be made “unpersons” and non-existent ones be made real. Comrade Oglivy was a figment of Winston’s imagination, but once the speech was placed on the records he would be as solid a historical figure “as Charlemagne or Julius Caesar.”