Part 1: Chapter 5 to Chapter 8

Chapter 5

In this chapter, the reader for the first time sees Winston engaged in routine daily interaction with his fellow workers. He at first refers to one man, Syme, as a “friend,” but then quickly corrects himself—the reader senses that Winston is not truly close to anyone. A big reason for this lack of connection is that members of this society must always be conscious of how they appear: to others, to the telescreen, and of course ultimately to Big Brother, who they know is always watching. Winston is keenly aware of the fact that, unless he is alone and out of the telescreens’ view, he can never let his guard down. Every situation calls for an appropriate attitude and a corresponding facial expression, worn almost like a mask. In fact, to show an inappropriate facial expression is itself a crime, one called “facecrime” in Newspeak.

Though he knows that he must watch himself, and does not truly see Syme as a friend, Winston enjoys talking with him because he is intelligent and makes interesting observations. At lunch inside the Ministry of Truth, they discuss Syme’s work, which involved developing an updated and authoritative dictionary for Newspeak, an evolving new language the government is pushing as a replacement for traditional English, referred to as Oldspeak. Newspeak has been referred to previously, but this is the first detailed explanation of its nature and purpose. The goal is to eliminate vagueness, ambiguity, and “unnecessary” shades of meaning. A necessary part of Newspeak, therefore, is the elimination and destruction of words as language is pared down to the bare essentials. The ultimate objective is to narrow the range of thought. Imperfect thoughts (those that run counter to the teachings of the Party) are only possible with imperfect language. Thus, when the language is perfect, the Revolution will be complete.

Though Syme supports the Party and is genuinely enthused about his work, Winston suspects that he will eventually make a misstep and be vaporized....

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Essays About 1984