Study Guide

1984 Rebellion

By George Orwell

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Rebellion quotes found in 1984

Book 1, Chapter 1

Party members were supposed not to go into ordinary shops ("dealing on the free market," it was called), but the rule was not strictly kept, because there were various things, such as shoelaces and razor blades, which it was impossible to get hold of in any other way. He had given a quick glance up and down the street and then had slipped inside and bought the book for two dollars fifty. At the time he was not conscious of wanting it for any particular purpose. He had carried it guiltily home in his briefcase. Even with nothing written in it, it was a compromising possession. (1.1.13)

Winston enjoys small acts of rebellion to begin with, as he frequents ordinary shops in the prole district and purchases items from the past.

Momentarily he caught O'Brien's eye. O'Brien had stood up. He had taken off his spectacles and was in the act of resettling them on his nose with his characteristic gesture. But there was a fraction of a second when their eyes met, and for as long as it took to happen Winston knew- yes, he knew!- that O'Brien was thinking the same thing as himself. An unmistakable message had passed. It was as though their two minds had opened and the thoughts were flowing from one into the other through their eyes. 'I am with you,' O'Brien seemed to be saying to him. 'I know precisely what you are feeling. I know all about your contempt, your hatred, your disgust. But don't worry, I am on your side!' (1.1.33)

Paranoid but fanciful, Winston imagines an encounter with O'Brien that might deepen their rebellious tie.

Winston Smith

For some reason the telescreen in the living-room was in an unusual position. Instead of being placed, as was normal, in the end wall, where it could command the whole room, it was in the longer wall, opposite the window. To one side of it there was a shallow alcove in which Winston was now sitting, and which, when the flats were built, had probably been intended to hold bookshelves. By sitting in the alcove, and keeping well back, Winston was able to remain outside the range of the telescreen, so far as sight went. He could be heard, of course, but so long as he stayed in his present position he could not be seen. It was partly the unusual geography of the room that had suggested to him the thing that he was now about to do. (1.1.12)

Winston starts a journal of rebellious thoughts as a first step towards his eventual fate at the Ministry of Love.

His eyes re-focused on the page. He discovered that while he sat helplessly musing he had also been writing, as though by automatic action. And it was no longer the same cramped, awkward handwriting as before. His pen had slid voluptuously over the smooth paper, printing in large neat capitals


Unleashing all of his fury, Winston finally triumphs his over fear by setting pen to paper in the essential rebellion that contains all other crimes in itself: thoughtcrime.

Book 1, Chapter 2

To the future or to the past, to a time when thought is free, when men are different from one another and do not live alone - to a time when truth exists and what is done cannot be undone:

From the age of uniformity, from the age of solitude, from the age of Big Brother, from the age of doublethink - greetings! (1.2.40-41)

By dedicating the journal of rebellion to the future or to the past, Winston is interested in large or grand scale rebellion: the type that perpetuates itself and leads to the overthrow of the Party.

Book 1, Chapter 6

And what he wanted, more even than to be loved, was to break down that wall of virtue, even if it were only once in his whole life. The sexual act, successfully performed, was rebellion. Desire was thoughtcrime. (1.6.16)

Winston views sex as an essentially politically rebellious act.

Book 1, Chapter 7
The Proles

But the proles, if only they could somehow become conscious of their own strength, would have no need to conspire. (1.7.2)

Winston believes that any hope in overthrowing the Party lies in the proles - if only they were smart enough.

Winston Smith

Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious. (1.7.4)

Having reached a metaphysical paradox, Winston concludes that which he does not wish to believe: the Proles will never gain the consciousness required for them to effectively rebel.

Thought 2: For the proles, consciousness is as necessary for rebellion as the latter is for consciousness. Unfortunately, that paradox is the proles' futile plight.

Book 1, Chapter 8

In principle a Party member had no spare time, and was never alone except in bed. It was assumed that when he was not working, eating, or sleeping he would be taking part in some kind of communal recreation: to do anything that suggested a taste for solitude, even to go for a walk by yourself, was always slightly dangerous. There was a word for it in Newspeak: ownlife, it was called, meaning individualism and eccentricity. (1.8.2)

In concert with having no private time is the Party's view that individualism and eccentricity run contrary to the Party's purposes.

Book 2, Chapter 2
Winston Smith

His heart leapt. Scores of times she had done it: he wished it had been hundreds - thousands. Anything that hinted at corruption always filled him with a wild hope. Who knew, perhaps the Party was rotten under the surface, its cult of strenuousness and selfdenial simply a sham concealing iniquity. If he could have infected the whole lot of them with leprosy or syphilis, how gladly he would have done so! Anything to rot, to weaken, to undermine! He pulled her down so that they were kneeling face to face. "Listen. The more men you've had, the more I love you. Do you understand that?" (2.2.54-55, Winston)

Winston probably would have had a great time with all the free love in the 1960's. Here he's fantasizing about how rebellious it would be if Julia had sex with thousands of other men. Thousands? Really, Winston? For him, it's all part of her rebellious allure: she's the bad girl, but that's what makes her oh-so-good.


"It was something in your face. I thought I'd take a chance. I'm good at spotting people who don't belong. As soon as I saw you I knew you were against them." (2.2.34, Julia)

Julia believes she is adept at identifying rebels.

"I hate purity, I hate goodness! I don't want any virtue to exist anywhere. I want everyone to be corrupt to the bones."

"Well then, I ought to suit you, dear. I'm corrupt to the bones."

"You like doing this? I don't mean simply me: I mean the thing in itself?"

"I adore it." (2.2.57-60, Winston and Julia)

Looks like someone's gonna be on Santa's naughty list. Winston is first and foremost interested in sex as an act of rebellion, and secondly in sex as a pleasurable act. We have Big Brother to thank for that. 

"Have you done this before?"

"Of course. Hundreds of times - well scores of times anyway."

"With Party members?"

"Yes, always with Party members." (2.2.48-51, Winston and Julia)

Julia must be awfully busy if she's been getting jiggy with hundreds of guys. For her, it's just another way to stick it to the Man. 

But you could not have pure love or pure lust nowadays. 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. (2.2.63)

The Party? More like the Party Poopers. These guys have managed to mess up society so much that something as intimate as sex becomes an act of rebellion. And it's not just sex, every human emotion gets turned into a possible act of rebellion-including feeling hangry

They were both breathing fast. But the smile had reappeared round the corners of her mouth. She stood looking at him for an instant, then felt at the zipper of her overalls. And, yes! It was almost as in his dream. Almost as swiftly as he had imagined it, she had torn her clothes off, and when she flung them aside it was with that same magnificent gesture by which a whole civilization seemed to be annihilated. (2.2.47)

Having dreamt of it for so long, Winston finally sees the ultimate act of rebellion in Julia-or rather, in having sex with Julia. Bow-chicka-bow-wow.  

Book 2, Chapter 3

She hated the Party, and said so in the crudest words, but she made no general criticism of it. Except where it touched upon her own life she had no interest in Party doctrine [...]. Any kind of organized revolt against the Party, which was bound to be a failure, struck her as stupid. The clever thing was to break the rules and stay alive all the same. He wondered vaguely how many others like her there might be in the younger generation people who had grown up in the world of the Revolution, knowing nothing else, accepting the Party as something unalterable, like the sky, not rebelling against its authority but simply evading it, as a rabbit dodges a dog. (2.3.15)

Julia wants to have the best of both worlds-to live under the Party's rule but still participate in little acts of rebellion as they suit her, like falling in love and having sex. Winston is critical of this mindset because he thinks it signifies a tacit acceptance of the Party's authority, since rebellion only happens on such a small scale. 

Book 2, Chapter 4

She knew the whole driveling song by heart, it seemed. Her voice floated upward with the sweet summer air, very tuneful, charged with a sort of happy melancholy [...]. It struck him as a curious fact that he had never heard a member of the Party singing alone and spontaneously. It would even have seemed slightly unorthodox, a dangerous eccentricity, like talking to oneself [...].

"You can turn round now," said Julia.

He turned round, and for a second almost failed to recognize her [...]. The transformation that had happened was much more surprising than that. She had painted her face. (2.4.29-31)

Makeover time. So apparently makeup is banned in the future, and Julia puts some on (gasp!). This is another example of one of her low-key acts of rebellion, but we've got to ask-what the heck did she do to her face to make her unrecognizable? This may be the future, but we're pretty sure Youtube beauty tutorials still don't exist. 

Book 2, Chapter 5

Yet she had only the dimmest idea of who Goldstein was and what doctrines he was supposed to represent. She had grown up since the Revolution and was too young to remember the ideological battles of the fifties and sixties. Such a thing as an independent political movement was outside her imagination: and in any case the Party was invincible. It would always exist, and it would always be the same. You could only rebel against it by secret disobedience or, at most, by isolated acts of violence such as killing somebody or blowing something up. (2.5.8)

Idealogical battles of the sixties? There's one thing Orwell accurately predicted. Winston's still pretty unimpressed by Julia's half-hearted efforts at rebellion, but he attributes that to the fact she was born after the Party took control-she can't fathom that true revolution even remotely possible. 

Book 2, Chapter 7
Winston Smith

"They can't get inside you. If you can feel that staying human is worth while, even when it can't have any result whatever, you've beaten them."

He thought of the telescreen with its never-sleeping ear. They could spy upon you night and day, but if you kept your head you could still outwit them. (2.7.30-31)

Winston believes that as long as his rebellious spirit is intact, the Party can not triumph.

The conspiracy that he had dreamed of did exist, and he had reached the outer edges of it [...].

What was happening was only the working-out of a process that had started years ago. The first step had been a secret, involuntary thought, the second had been the opening of the diary. He had moved from thoughts to words, and now from words to actions. The last step was something that would happen in the Ministry of Love. (2.7.16-17)

The rebellion trajectory is now complete for Winston: from starting a journal, to having an affair, to the imminent induction into the Brotherhood by O'Brien, Winston has finally attained the status of the true rebel.

Book 2, Chapter 8

"We believe that there is some kind of conspiracy, some kind of secret organization working against the Party, and that you are involved in it. We want to join it and work for it. We are enemies of the Party. We disbelieve in the principles of Ingsoc. We are thought-criminals. We are also adulterers. I tell you this because we want to put ourselves at your mercy. If you want us to incriminate ourselves in any other way, we are ready." (2.8.16)

Winston and Julia profess their devotion and loyalty to the ultimate force of rebellion - the Brotherhood.

Book 2, Chapter 9

The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labor [...]. The social atmosphere is that of a besieged city, where the possession of a lump of horseflesh makes the difference between wealth and poverty. And at the same time the consciousness of being at war, and therefore in danger, makes the handing-over of all power to a small caste seem the natural, unavoidable condition of survival. (2.9.28, Goldstein's Manifesto)

War is a necessary tool for the Party because it keeps the people peaceful, such that rebellion is far from their minds.

Book 3, Chapter 3

"If you are a man, Winston, you are the last man. Your kind is extinct; we are the inheritors. Do you understand that you are alone? You are outside history, you are non-existent." His manner changed and he said more harshly: "And you consider yourself morally superior to us, with our lies and our cruelty?" "Yes, I consider myself superior." (3.3.58-59, O'Brien and Winston)

Winston's belief in his moral superiority to the Party's lies and cruelty is indispensable to his rebellious spirit.

"A description, yes. The program it sets forth is nonsense. The secret accumulation of knowledge - a gradual spread of enlightenment - ultimately a proletarian rebellion: the overthrow of the Party. You foresaw yourself that that was what it would say. It is all nonsense. The proletarians will never revolt, not in a thousand years or a million. They cannot. I do not have to tell you the reason: you know it already. If you have even cherished any dreams of violent insurrection, you must abandon them. There is no way in which the Party can be overthrown. The rule of the Party is for ever. Make that the starting-point of your thoughts." (3.3.7)

O'Brien's belief in the Party's power is so strong that he believes any act of rebellion will prove futile.

"Can you think of a single degradation that has not happened to you?"

Winston had stopped weeping, though the tears were still oozing out of his eyes. He looked up at O'Brien.

"I have not betrayed Julia," he said [...].

He had not stopped loving her; his feeling toward her had remained the same (3.3.77-81, O'Brien to Winston)

Despite prolonged torture, Winston's final act of rebellion is to hold onto his private loyalty to Julia; he refuses to betray her.

Book 3, Chapter 4

He obeyed the Party, but he still hated the Party. In the old days he had hidden a heretical mind beneath an appearance of conformity. Now he had retreated a step further: in the mind he had surrendered, but he had hoped to keep the inner heart inviolate. He knew that he was in the wrong, but he preferred to be in the wrong. (3.4.24)

After months of torture, Winston outwardly obeys the Party, but inwardly does not resign his rebellious spirit.

Book 3, Chapter 5

The cage was nearer; it was closing in. Winston heard a succession of shrill cries which appeared to be occurring in the air above his head. But he fought furiously against his panic. To think, to think, even with a split second left - to think was the only hope. Suddenly the foul musty odor of the brutes struck his nostrils. There was a violent convulsion of nausea inside him, and he almost lost consciousness. Everything had gone black. For an instant he was insane, a screaming animal. Yet he came out of the blackness clutching an idea. There was one and only one way to save himself. He must interpose another human being, the body of another human being, between himself and the rats. (3.5.21)

The Party does not merely employ physical torture on the captured rebels and criminals, but psychological torture as well. The Party capitalizes on fear very proficiently, and Winston finally breaks under the weight of psychological fear. Rebellion is not a match for psychological torture and fear.

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