1984 Quotes & Analysis
January 1, 2024
If you’re trying to analyze George Orwell’s seminal 1984, it’s not enough to summarize the plot – you’re going to need quotes. (But if you’re looking for a good, chapter-by-chapter summary, I’d look here.) This article will move through the text and give you textual evidence from every chapter that you can use to analyze the themes (e.g., control, surveillance, and sexuality) of Orwell’s classic novel. (I’m using the searchable text from Project Gutenberg of Australia.)
Part One: Chapter One
On each landing, opposite the lift-shaft, the poster with the enormous face gazed from the wall. It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran.
This is the reader’s first introduction to the main character, Winston, and to the motto of the Party – “Big Brother is Watching You.” These posters of Big Brother are everywhere. This image illustrates the fear and paranoia that defines Winston’s life. In Orwell’s 1984, the relationship between the government of Oceania and its citizens is one of constant surveillance and the threat of state violence.
In the far distance a helicopter skimmed down between the roofs, hovered for an instant like a bluebottle, and darted away again with a curving flight. It was the police patrol, snooping into people’s windows. The patrols did not matter, however. Only the Thought Police mattered.
Here we see the two kinds of surveillance that the Party deploys. On the one hand, the traditional police patrol watches what people are doing. According to Winston, what you do isn’t really important. Much more important is what you think. As we will see later in the text, the Party doesn’t just want you to do the correct things – it wants you to think the correct things. We will eventually learn that the aim of the Party is to eliminate the possibility of even thinking about resistance.
1984 Quotes (Continued)
From where Winston stood it was just possible to read, picked out on its white face in
elegant lettering, the three slogans of the Party:
WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH
At first glance, the three slogans of the Party seem nonsensical. After all, how can “war” be the same as “peace”? Near the end of the book, we learn that the Party’s primary purpose is to maintain societal inequality. In order to do this, the Party uses constant war to expend the excess resources that might otherwise be used to improve the living conditions of its citizens. The three slogans of the Party represent the beliefs that maintain the status quo.
The thing that he was about to do was to open a diary. This was not illegal (nothing was illegal, since there were no longer any laws), but if detected it was reasonably certain that it would be punished by death, or at least by twenty-five years in a forced-labour camp.
This is the act that starts Wisnton down the path to his eventual arrest. Two things are important about this quote. First, the supposed absence of laws shows how the Party maintains a constant state of paranoia. If nothing is technically illegal, then no one can ever know for sure if they are doing something wrong. The citizens of Oceania live in a constant state of anxious hyper-vigilance lest they do (or think) something that might run afoul of the Party. Second, the reason that starting a diary is so serious is because Winston is asserting his own observational authority. Instead of accepting the Party’s version of the world, he dares to trust his own voice.
Part One: Chapter Two
Years ago–how long was it? Seven years it must be–he had dreamed that he was walking through a pitch-dark room. And someone sitting to one side of him had said as he passed: ‘We shall meet in the place where there is no darkness.’
Winston believes that the figure of O’Brien said these words to him in his dream. This belief leads Winston to trust O’Brien more than he should. At this point in the novel, Winston thinks that “the place where there is no darkness” is some metaphorical location where the darkness of oppression has been eliminated. [Spoiler alert] Unfortunately for Winston, the “place where there is no darkness” turns out to be Winston’s cell in the Ministry of Love.
Down in the street the wind flapped the torn poster to and fro, and the word INGSOC fitfully appeared and vanished. Ingsoc. The sacred principles of Ingsoc. Newspeak, doublethink, the mutability of the past.
1984 Quotes (Continued)
Here the reader encounters the guiding ideologies of INGSOC (English Socialism). First, newspeak,” the constructed language of the Party that aims to shape the thinking of its citizens. Second, “doublethink,” the ability of someone to know that something is false while at the same time believing it is true. Finally, “the mutability of the past,” the belief that gives the Party absolute authority over external reality.
Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimetres inside your skull.
At this point in the novel, Winston believes that his thoughts are the only refuge from the Party’s authority. Unfortunately, by the end of the novel, he has lost even this freedom.
He was a lonely ghost uttering a truth that nobody would ever hear. But so long as he uttered it, in some obscure way the continuity was not broken. It was not by making yourself heard but by staying sane that you carried on the human heritage.
At the beginning of the novel, this is Winston’s very modest (but noble) aim. At this point, Winston is uninterested in any sort of revolutionary, structural change. Rather, he locates the power of the individual – his own humanity – in merely quietly resisting the insanity of authoritarianism.
1984 Quotes – Part One: Chapter Three
Tragedy, he perceived, belonged to the ancient time, to a time when there was still privacy, love, and friendship, and when the members of a family stood by one another without needing to know the reason.
Winston is thinking about his mother. He doesn’t remember much about her, but he believes that she died 30 years or so ago. What is important about this quote is the fact that it posits that individuality is necessary for tragedy. Against the ersatz familialism of “Big Brother,” Winston realizes that genuine emotion is only possible between individuals bound by love.
If the Party could thrust its hand into the past and say of this or that event, IT NEVER HAPPENED–that, surely, was more terrifying than mere torture and death?
Winston is thinking about the Party’s ability to alter the past. While he understands that the past can never really be altered, he knows that collective memory can be shaped by those in power. His questions are existential – What does it mean to exist? Does/did an individual exist only if the Party allows it? How might an individual exist outside of Party control? By the end of the novel (when he has been tortured and brainwashed), Winston comes to realize that there is nothing worse than the pain of torture.
Part One: Chapter Four
All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as was necessary.
Winston’s job at the department of records puts him in a unique position to see the nuts and bolts of the Party’s manipulation of the past. It is Winston himself who destroys evidence, rewrites news stories, and creates facts out of whole-cloth. Of all the jobs in the Party, it is Winston’s that requires the most subtle use of doublethink.
Part One: Chapter Five
Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it…In fact there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking–not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.’
In this scene, Winston is talking to one of his colleagues, Syme, an expert on Newspeak. The Party believes that they can control its citizens if it controls their language. In the eyes of the Party, THOUGHTCRIME occurs because language (in its current form) allows for the expression of concepts like “freedom” and “self.” The Party believes that if these concepts are erased from language, then they cannot be thought.
1984 Quotes (Continued)
Always in your stomach and in your skin there was a sort of protest, a feeling that you had been cheated of something that you had a right to…Why should one feel it to be intolerable unless one had some kind of ancestral memory that things had once been different?
While Winston has very little memory of anything different, he feels that there must be a better life. What is important to note is that this intimation is decidedly bodily. Winston doesn’t merely think that there must be something different–he feels it in his body.
1984 Quotes – Part One: Chapter Six
Your worst enemy, he reflected, was your own nervous system. At any moment the tension inside you was liable to translate itself into some visible symptom.
Throughout the novel, Winston is trying to figure out the relationship between the mind and the body. After all, one’s survival depends on keeping one’s face absolutely neutral, regardless of the feelings behind it. At the same time, the Party is trying to figure out how to get at what its citizens are actually thinking.
The aim of the Party was not merely to prevent men and women from forming loyalties which it might not be able to control. Its real, undeclared purpose was to remove all pleasure from the sexual act. Not love so much as eroticism was the enemy, inside marriage as well as outside it…The sexual act, successfully performed, was rebellion. Desire was thoughtcrime.
Part One: Chapter Seven
‘If there is hope,’ wrote Winston, ‘it lies in the proles.’…Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.
While Orwell’s 1984 is undoubtedly grim, there is some small measure of hope. We need to remember that 1984 is Orwell’s critique of Stalinism, not communism. In this quote, we can see that Winston still believes in the possibility of revolution. Furthermore, like Marx, he still believes that the revolution must come from the proletariat.
1984 Quotes – Part One: Chapter Eight
The place where there is no darkness was the imagined future, which one would never see, but which, by foreknowledge, one could mystically share in.
Here we see Winston’s ironic (and ultimately tragic) belief that “the place where there is no darkness” is some utopian future. As mentioned above, this place turns out to be his prison cell.
Part Two: Chapter One
A curious emotion stirred in Winston’s heart. In front of him was an enemy who was trying to kill him: in front of him, also, was a human creature, in pain…
This is Winston’s first face-to-face interaction with Julia. Though Winston suspects her (erroneously) of being in the Thought Police, he still has empathy for her.
Part Two: Chapter Two
For whom, for what, was that bird singing? No mate, no rival was watching it. What made it sit at the edge of the lonely wood and pour its music into nothingness?
This quote appears just before Winston and Julia have sex for the first time. Winston wonders at the purpose of the bird’s song, just as he wondered at the purpose of keeping a diary. The bird seems to present a model of creativity – of beauty – simply for its own sake.
No emotion was pure, because everything was mixed up with fear and hatred. Their embrace had been a battle, the climax a victory. It was a blow struck against the Party. It was a political act.
After Winston and Julia have sex, he understands their union as a moment where two individuals can resist the authority of the Party in some small way.
1984 Quotes – Part Two: Chapter Three
She would not accept it as a law of nature that the individual is always defeated. In a way she realized that she herself was doomed, that sooner or later the Thought Police would catch her and kill her, but with another part of her mind she believed that it was somehow possible to construct a secret world in which you could live as you chose. All you needed was luck and cunning and boldness.
In contrast to Winston’s desire for an organized political resistance to the Party, Julia’s strategy is more modest. She is content to carve out a small space in her own life in which she can create some measure of happiness.
For how could the fear, the hatred, and the lunatic credulity which the Party needed in its members be kept at the right pitch, except by bottling down some powerful instinct and using it as a driving force? The sex impulse was dangerous to the Party, and the Party had turned it to account.
This quote shows the Party’s attitude toward sex and how they have taken one of the most basic human needs and turned it to their own needs.
Part Two: Chapter Four
He was standing in front of a wall of darkness, and on the other side of it there was something unendurable, something too dreadful to be faced. In the dream his deepest feeling was always one of self-deception, because he did in fact know what was behind the wall of darkness.
This quote appears right after Julia talks about seeing a rat in their small room above Mr. Charrington’s shop. As we will see when Winston is tortured in the Ministry of Love, what is “unendurable” is precisely what O’Brien will use to break Winston’s spirit.
Part Two: Chapter Five
History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.
This is the state of affairs that terrifies Winston. Unlike Julia, Winston is appalled at the possibility that the Party will be eternal because of its ability to manipulate history.
1984 Quotes – Part Two: Chapter Six
The end was contained in the beginning. But it was frightening: or, more exactly, it was like a foretaste of death, like being a little less alive.
This quote appears when O’Brien invites Winston to come to his house under the auspices of giving him an advanced copy of the latest edition of the Newspeak dictionary. Winston knows that this event brings him one step closer to eventual torture and death.
Part Two: Chapter Seven
Her feelings were her own, and could not be altered from outside. It would not have occurred to her that an action which is ineffectual thereby becomes meaningless. If you loved someone, you loved him, and when you had nothing else to give, you still gave him love.
Winston is talking about his mother. What is interesting about this quote is that while Winston realizes the significance and beauty of her individual love, he remains committed to collective revolt.
‘If you can FEEL that staying human is worth while, even when it can’t have any result whatever, you’ve beaten them.’
In this chapter, Winston and Julia talk about how their love makes them human. In other words, in the face of the Party’s violent authoritarianism, they believe that they will be able to hang on to this feeling. The tragedy of this belief is that both of them betray the other when they are tortured.
Part Two: Chapter Eight
You will never have anything to sustain you, except the idea. You will get no comradeship and no encouragement.
O’Brien tells Julia and Winston this when they are at his house, supposedly entering into “The Brotherhood.” The willingness of Julia and Winston to remain true to an idea (with no encouragement or comradeship) shows how dangerous they are to the Party.
1984 Quotes – Part Two: Chapter Nine
The primary aim of modern warfare…is to use up the products of the machine without raising the general standard of living.
In this chapter, Winston finally gets his hands on “the book” – THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF OLIGARCHICAL COLLECTIVISM by Emmanuel Goldstein. While we eventually find out that the book is a ruse created by O’Brien, it lays bare the truth of the Party’s aims and strategies. The most important aim for the Party is to maintain a constant state of war in order to keep its citizens in poverty and ignorance.
Part Three: Chapter One
Never, for any reason on earth, could you wish for an increase of pain. Of pain you could wish only one thing: that it should stop. Nothing in the world was so bad as physical pain. In the face of pain there are no heroes, no heroes, he thought over and over as he writhed on the floor, clutching uselessly at his disabled left arm.
When Winston is first arrested, he wonders if he’ll be able to stay true to his ideals. However, when the guard
Part Three: Chapter Two
‘We are not interested in those stupid crimes that you have committed. The Party is not interested in the overt act: the thought is all we care about. We do not merely destroy our enemies, we change them.’
O’Brien says this as he tortures Winston. Contrary to the authoritarian regime of the past, the Party remakes its enemies. It is not enough that the enemies of the Party be killed – they must be changed into genuine believers.
1984 Quotes – Part Three: Chapter Three
We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means, it is an end.
Spoken by O’Brien, this quote shows the real motivations of the Party. There is no claim to be acting in the best interests of any group of citizens – there is merely power and violence.
Part Three: Chapter Four
To die hating them, that was freedom.
The torture has stopped. Winston is allowed to recover in another prison cell. He does his best to accept the Party’s lies, but there is still a small bit of him that imagines a freedom from their power. After all the pain, to hate the Party is the only freedom left to Winston.
1984 Quotes – Part Three: Chapter Five
But he had suddenly understood that in the whole world there was just ONE person to whom he could transfer his punishment–ONE body that he could thrust between himself and the rats. And he was shouting frantically, over and over.
‘Do it to Julia! Do it to Julia! Not me! Julia! I don’t care what you do to her. Tear her face off, strip her to the bones. Not me! Julia! Not me!’
They have taken Winston to Room 101. There, O’Brien threatens to put hungry rats onto Winston’s face, where they will surely begin by eating his eyes or tongue. In this moment of unendurable torture, Winston finally betrays his love for Julia, telling O’Brien to put the rats on her face. Up to this point, Winston believed that he could keep some part of himself safe from the violence of the Party.
Part Three: Chapter Six
He was not running or cheering any longer. He was back in the Ministry of Love, with everything forgiven, his soul white as snow.
1984 Quotes (Continued)
He was in the public dock, confessing everything, implicating everybody. He was walking down the white-tiled corridor, with the feeling of walking in sunlight, and an armed guard at his back. The long-hoped-for bullet was entering his brain.
It’s easy to think that Winston has been killed at the end of the novel – quite the contrary. The “long-hoped-for-bullet” is his death as an individual capable of resisting the violence and propaganda of the Party. Winston has ceased to exist as a thinking person. The Party has emptied him out and filled him with lies and doublethink.
1984 Quotes – Additional Resources
In conclusion, we hope you enjoyed our 1984 quotes analysis. You may also find the following blogs to be of interest: