Orwell’s 1984 opens in London, now a part of the country Oceania. The whole globe is divided into three countries, Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia all perpetually at war with each other. The leading protagonist Winston Smith enters his flat in the dingy building ironically named Victory Mansions and is immediately conscious of the poster of “Big Brother” with the inscription “Big Brother is Watching You.” The “Party” has taken over all aspects of life and is intent on eradicating individuality. Winston is painfully aware of the telescreen, which is both a receiver and transmitter at the same time. It incessantly relays messages from the Party and simultaneously allows the dreaded “thought police” to tune into the activities of any individual at any given time. The administration is divided among four Ministries- the Ministry of Truth, which deals with news, entertainment, education and fine arts, the Ministry of Love which maintains law and order, the Ministry of Peace which wages war and the Ministry of Plenty which handles economic affairs. The very vocabulary of the people was under Party Control; a system called “newspeak” was encouraged. One of the most dreaded words in the arsenal of Newspeak was the most heinous offence according to the Party – that of “thoughtcrime” which was sure to be punished by the Thought police. The slogans of Newspeak are “War is Peace” Freedom is Slavery” and “Ignorance is Strength.”
Winston pretended to toe the official line so as to dodge the thought police but terrifyingly, the pretence often spilled over into reality, so that he did not always know if he actually hated or adored Big Brother. On this particular day, Winston was planning to indulge in a clandestine activity which would mean at least a concentration camp if discovered- he was going to keep a diary. He enters the date – April 4, 1984 and then realizes that he was completely stuck for words. He finally puts down a long monologue about the film he had watched the day before, a war propaganda film positively encouraging the audience to delight in sights of macabre, mindless slaughter.
From his memories of the film, Winston’s thoughts move on to a daily ritual, which was conducted in each office, the “two minute Hate.” During this process, the telescreens broadcast pictures of Emmanuel Goldstein, the Number One “Enemy of the People” according to the Party. Goldstein had originally been a founding member of the Party and was supposed to have later betrayed the Party’s ideals and joined up with Eurasia or Eastasia to overthrow Oceania. He was rumored to have written an inflammatory work, usually referred to just as “the book” and to be the Head of a dangerous subversive group called “The Brotherhood”. During the “Hate” people watched the speeches of Goldstein and reacted in violent anger. Winston himself often started out by dissembling his emotions, but the effect of the collective frenzy was such that after about thirty seconds, he found himself actually feeling the power of Hate.
However, sometimes Winston felt that he sympathized with Goldstein and hated Big Brother. During that morning’s Hate, he had been especially attracted to two individuals, one, a girl who worked in the Fiction Department, operating a “novel writing machine” about whom he had both sexual and violent fantasies. She was a member of the Ant-Sex league, sex also being something not much encouraged by the Party. The other person was O’Brien, a high official in the Party, but with whom Winston felt a shared complicity of anti-party sentiment. He had the feeling that he and O’Brien had the same dislike towards the party, which neither of them dared to express openly. As he recollected the ritual of Hate, Winston almost automatically writes “Down with Big Brother” repeatedly in his diary. He does this with the fatalistic conviction that even if he did not write it down, he had already committed thoughtcrime and the thought police would get him sooner or later. As if in confirmation of this, there is a knock at the door, which Winston is convinced heralds the arrival of the thought police.