The action takes place in 1984 in London, the capital of the Runway number one, the province of Oceania. Winston Smith, a short, frail man of thirty-nine, is going to start a diary in an old thick notebook recently bought in a junk shop. If the diary is found, Winston is waiting for death or twenty-five years of hard labor camp. In his room, as in any residential or office space, a television screen is mounted in the wall, working round-the-clock to receive and transfer. The police of thoughts overhears every word and watches every move. Posters are posted everywhere: the huge face of a man with a thick black mustache, with eyes looking straight at the beholder. The signature reads: “The elder brother looks at you.”
Winston wants to write down his doubts about the correctness of the teachings of the party. He does not see anything like the ideals towards which the party aspires in the wretched life around him. He hates the Elder Brother and does not recognize the slogans of the party “War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is power.” The party orders to believe only her, not her own eyes and ears. Winston wrote in his diary: “Freedom is an opportunity to say that twice two is four.” He realizes that he is committing a thought crime. The thought of the perpetrator inevitably awaits arrest, it is destroyed, or, as they say, sprayed. The family has become an appendage of the police of thoughts, even children are taught to follow their parents and report to them. Reported to each other by neighbors and coworkers.
Winston works in the documentation department of the Ministry of Truth, which manages information, education, leisure and arts. They search and collect printed publications, which are subject to destruction, replacement or alteration, if the figures contained in them, opinions or forecasts do not coincide with today’s. The story is scraped like an old parchment, and written anew – as many times as necessary. Then they forget about the cleanup, and the lie becomes true.
Winston recalls the two-minute hatred that took place today in the ministry. The object for hatred is unchanged: Goldstein, in the past one of the leaders of the party, who then took the path of counterrevolution, sentenced to death and mysteriously disappeared. Now he is the first traitor and apostate, the culprit of all crimes and sabotage. Everyone hates Goldstein, refutes and ridicules his teaching, but his influence does not weaken: daily catch spies and pests acting at his command. They say he commands the Brotherhood, the underground army of the enemies of the party, they speak of the terrible book, the vault of all heresies; it does not have a name, it is simply called a “book.”
At the two-minute moment there is O’Brien, an official holding a very high post. The contrast between his soft gestures and the appearance of the heavyweight boxer is surprising, Winston has long suspected that O’Brien is not completely politically faithful, and very much wants to talk to him. In his eyes, Winston reads understanding and support. One day he even hears in his dream O’Brien’s voice: “We will meet there, where there is no darkness.” At meetings, Winston often catches the eyes of a dark-haired girl from the literature department, who most loudly screams her hatred of Goldstein. Winston thinks that she is connected with the police of thoughts.
Wandering around the city’s slums, Winston accidentally finds himself near a familiar junk shop and walks into it. The landlord, Mr. Charrington, a gray-haired old-fashioned old man with spectacles, shows him a room upstairs: there is old furniture, a painting hangs on the wall, there is a fireplace and there is no television screen. On the way back, Winston meets the same girl. He does not doubt... that she is watching him. Suddenly, the girl passes him a note with a declaration of love. They furtively exchange a few words in the dining room and in the crowd. For the first time in his life, Winston is sure that he is a police officer of thoughts.
Winston is put in prison, then transported to the Ministry of Love, to a cell where the light is never turned off. This is the place where there is no darkness. O’Brien comes in. Winston is amazed, forgetting about caution, he yells: “And you have them!” “I’ve been with them for a long time,” O’Brien answers with a soft irony. Because of his back, a warden appears, he beats with all his might at the elbow of Winston. The nightmare begins. First, he is interrogated by supervisors, who beat him up all the time – with his fists, legs, clubs. He repents of all sins, perfect and imperfect. Then, investigators-party members work with him; their many hours of interrogation break it more than the kulaks of the guards. Winston says and signs everything that they demand, confesses to unthinkable crimes.
Now he lies on his back, the body is fixed so that it is impossible to stir. O’Brien turns the lever of the device, causing unbearable pain. As a teacher who fights with a naughty but capable apprentice, O’Brien explains that Winston is being held here to heal, that is, to remake. The party does not need obedience or obedience: the enemy must take the party’s side sincerely, with the mind and heart. He inspires Winston that reality exists only in the consciousness of the party: what the party believes is true, then it is true. Winston must learn to see the reality through the eyes of the party, he must stop being himself, and become one of “them.” The first stage O’Brien calls studies, the second – understanding. He claims that the party’s power is eternal. The purpose of power is power itself, power over people, and it consists in causing pain and humiliation. The party will create a world of fear, betrayal and torment, a world of trampling and trampling. In this world there will be no other feelings, except fear, anger, triumph and self-abasement, there will be no other fidelity than the party one, there will be no other love than love for the Elder Brother.
Winston objects. He believes that a civilization built on fear and hatred is in for a collapse. He believes in the power of the human spirit. He considers himself morally superior to O’Brien. That includes recording their conversation when Winston promises to steal, deceive, kill. Then O’Brien tells him to undress and look in the mirror: Winston sees a dirty, toothless, emaciated creature. “If you are human, that’s humanity,” O’Brien tells him. “I did not betray Julia,” Winston objected. Then Winston is led to the room at number one hundred and one, to his face they bring a cage with huge hungry rats. For Winston it is intolerable. He hears their squeals, senses their foul smell, but he is firmly attached to the chair. Winston realizes that there is only one person whose body he can shield from rats, and frantically yells: “Julia! Give them Julia! Not me!”
Winston comes to the cafe “Under the chestnut” every day, looks at the TV screen, drinks the gin. Life is gone from him, alcohol only supports him. They met with Julia, and everyone knows that the Other betrayed him. And now they feel nothing but mutual dislike. The victorious fanfares are heard: Oceania defeated Eurasia! Looking at the face of the Elder Brother, Winston sees that it is filled with calm strength, and a black mustache hides a smile. The healing that O’Brien spoke about happened. Winston loves the Elder Brother.