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Winston Smith endures a squalid existence in the totalitarian superstate of Oceania under the constant surveillance of the Thought Police. The story takes place in London, the capital of the territory of Airstrip One ( Britain).
Winston works in a cubicle at the Ministry of Truth, rewriting history in accordance with the agenda of the Party which rules Oceania under its supreme figurehead, Big Brother. A man haunted by painful memories and restless desires, Winston is an anti-hero and everyman who keeps a secret diary of his private thoughts, thus committing thoughtcrime — the crime of independent thought contrary to the aims of the Party.
His life takes a fatal turn when he is accosted by a fellow Outer Party worker — a mysterious, bold-looking girl named Julia — and they begin an illicit affair. Their first meeting takes place in the remote countryside where they exchange subversive ideas and have a sexual encounter. Shortly after, Winston rents a room above a pawn shop (in the supposedly safe proletarian area) where they continue their liaison. Julia, a sensual, free-spirited woman, procures contraband food and clothing for them, and for a brief few months they secretly meet and enjoy an idyllic life of relative freedom and contentment together.
It all comes to an end when they are discovered and arrested, and it is revealed that the elderly proprietor of the pawn shop, Charrington, was in fact a member of the Thought Police all along. Without warning, the Thought Police raid the flat and arrest the two of them.
Winston and Julia are then separated and taken away to be detained, questioned and rehabilitated. Winston is taken to the Ministry of Love, where he is systematically tortured and brainwashed by O'Brien, a high-ranking member of the Inner Party whom Winston had previously believed to be a fellow thoughtcriminal and agent of the resistance movement led by the (probably mythical) archenemy of the Party, Emmanuel Goldstein.
O'Brien gives Winston didactic instruction about the state's true purpose as well a kind of epistemological catechism involving the theory and praxis of doublethink — i.e., the holding of two contradictory thoughts at the same time. Doublethink entails the subtle, willful denial or suppression of all self-evident truths, memories, and/or physical proofs which run contrary to the absolute political (and personal) reality dictated by the Party. Through the agency of the Ministry of Truth and the Thought Police — which enforces, and operates in tandem with, the private orthodox application of doublethink — the Party may endorse, redact or eradicate all public and private knowledge of history as it sees fit.
For his final rehabilitation, Winston is brought to Room 101, where O'Brien tells him he will be subjected to the "worst thing in the world". When confronted with this unbearable horror (which turns out to be a cage filled with vicious, carnivorous rodents), Winston's psychological resistance finally and irretrievably breaks down, and he repudiates his allegiance to Julia. Now completely subjugated and purged of any rebellious thoughts, impulses, or personal attachments, Winston is restored to physical health and released.
Winston returns to the Chestnut Tree Café, where he had previously seen the rehabilitated thought criminals Jones, Aaronson and Rutherford (themselves once prominent but later disgraced members of the Inner Party) who have since been "vaporised" and rendered unpersons. While sitting at the chess table, Winston is approached by Julia, who has also been brainwashed and rehabilitated. They share a bottle of Victory Gin and unemotionally exchange a few words about how they have betrayed each other.
After Julia leaves, Winston watches a broadcast of himself on the telescreen, effusively confessing his "crimes" against the state and imploring forgiveness of the populace in the humbled and remorseful manner of a prodigal son come back to the fold.
Upon hearing a news report declaring the Oceanian army's utter rout of the enemy Eurasian forces in North Africa, Winston silently and tearfully professes his gratitude and love for Big Brother as he anticipates the date of his execution. Having been deprived of his freedom to think and feel for himself, and reduced to a mere shell of a man, Winston is soon to be deprived of his very physical existence as well; and he now welcomes his final subjugation to the absolute power and supremacy of the state as he then says "I love you" to the visage of Big Brother on the telescreen, in a disturbing twist on his first interaction with Julia.
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