Summary Pt. 1 Chp. 8
Winston continues to indulge in what the Party would regard as suspicious behavior, returning home from work one day through an unusual way which led through the Prole quarters. The Newspeak term for such eccentric activities was “ownlife” something that was definitely frowned upon. But Winston experienced a kind of precarious pleasure in flirting with danger. He observes the activities of the proles who regard him initially with a wariness and then ignore him. At that point, a rocket bomber lands in the street strewing destruction around, but the Proles, to Winston’s astonishment go on discussing mundane issues quite calmly. They seem to be most interested in the lottery which they talk about like a life and death event.
Passing by a bar, Winston’s eye is caught by an old man who he thinks must surely remember life as it was before the Party took over. Winston offers to buy the old man a drink and tries to question him about his youth. What he basically wants to know is whether there is any truth in the History books’ claim that the proles were much worse off under the capitalists than they are now. But he finds it impossible to get any coherent information out of the old man. He remembers the old days well enough and talks of them without any resentment, indeed even with gusto, but he is quite unable to draw the parallel between the past and the present that Winston wants.
Wandering around later, Winston finds himself outside the little old shop where he had bought his diary. He goes in to browse and is attracted by the remnants of beauty that still cling to some small antiques scattered around. He buys a piece of coral for four dollars and hides it in his pocket so that he could smuggle it home without being seen by the thought police. He starts a conversation with the old man who owns the shop and unearths a lot of fascinating reminiscences. The man talks about old churches in London which are now either destroyed or turned into museums, about old games and nursery rhymes and shows Winston dusty old paintings he is very tempted to buy. He leaves the shop determined to come back some time and buy more things and also to listen to more scraps of chat about a mysterious past.
Winston’s feeling of elation however is damped suddenly when he sees the girl from the office watching him from across the street. He is now convinced that she is a spy who would turn him in. Panic stricken, he even thinks of assaulting and silencing her, but is forced to recognize he does not have the guts to do that. He goes home in a state of extreme terror, not so much of death but of the inevitable torture which he knew would precede execution. Despairingly he realizes that when confronted by the brute reality of physical pain, all noble and heroic causes diminish in significance, the body alone swells to immense proportions. He tries to reassure himself by thinking of O’Brien, but this time that does not work and his consciousness is completely taken over by the terrifying aspect of Big Brother.