The first part of the story ends with a scene in a junk shop where the lead character buys an old journal. The year is 1984 and the government controls almost everything. The last realm is human thought. Knowing he could be executed for it, Winston writes in his journal, angling himself beyond the view of the tele-screens they’re required to keep in their homes. He isn’t sure why he’s taking such risks. Who will read the journal, what’s the point? But he does it as an act of rebellion to capture what’s unique and real about himself as if the mere act of writing it down will validate his own existence. He’ll be real in the future in a sense, if not in the present.
I am on the yoga mat in our garage with the bay doors open and a queer pink light in the morning sky. What is the nautical saying about red skies at dawn? I had to move my car out of the garage to make space and as I sit, trying to let go of my mind, the headlights and grill on my car look like a face. It’s like the face Winston imagines in the torture scene at the end of the book.
It is the last thing they have to hold on to, perhaps. Winston and his girlfriend have broken from the state and formed a tryst. When they are captured, they’re separated and taken into confinement for weeks, months, possibly years of interrogation and reconditioning. Winston is broken down physically, then mentally. The final straw is the scene with the mask and rats. He’s forced to put on a mask like they use in fencing and on the other end is a cage with a large carnivorous rat. His torturer describes what will happen when he opens the cage, what the rat will do to Winston’s face and eyes.
To save himself, Winston blurts out “Julia! Take Julia instead!”
Not only does he betray her, he later confides (and she has the same experience) that he wanted them to take her, he wished that upon her.
And so the state prevails by breaking apart their love, and the rest of the story (and Winston’s life) peters out into further levels of collapse. The best he can hope for is a bullet to the back of his head when he’s not expecting it and to die clean with pure, loving thoughts for Big Brother.
The headlamps on my car are like the eyes and the grill, the snout: the license plate could be the rat’s teeth. It’s a dark thought on an otherwise beautiful morning sitting on my yoga mat in the garage. And all this hate we have in our hearts, where does it come from? Where does it go? What does it leave us in the end?
It’s Election Day! Sadly, a lot of Orwell’s prediction is real in the disinformation we’ve come to accept, the proliferation of lies and perversion of truth. But we get to write the ending to this next part by how we react to the results, how we treat each other, and what comes next.