1984 Book 3 Chapter 3 Summary

Instructor: Wendy A. Garland

Wendy has a Ph.D. in Adult Education and a Master's Degree in Business Management. She has 10 years experience working in higher education.

This lesson will begin with a brief recap of Chapter 2, Book 3, of 1984. It will then go on to a summary of Chapter 3. In this chapter, O'Brien tells Winston about the Party's motives. O'Brien shows Winston in a mirror how he has completely fallen apart, and the human spirit is useless.


In 1984, Book 3, Chapter 2, Winston is taken from his cell to another room, where he is beaten by guards in black uniforms. He is then subjected to humiliation and mental abuse by intellectuals from the Party. O'Brien then interrogates Winston and electrically shocks him when his answers are not acceptable. He uses a machine to wipe parts of Winston's memory and replace them with answers acceptable to the Party.

Winston Learns the Party's Motives

As Chapter 3 of Book 3 of 1984 begins, O'Brien still has Winston tied to a bed, but his restraints are a little looser. He is not shocking him with electricity as much as before. He tells Winston that the process of curing his defective memory includes three steps: learning, understanding, and acceptance. O'Brien informs Winston that he is about to enter the understanding stage.

This stage begins with O'Brien reminding Winston of how he once wrote in his diary that he knew the how, but not the why. In explaining this, O'Brien asks Winston if he knows the motive of the Party's rule. Winston answers that the reason why the Party does what it does with people is for their own good, an answer for which O'Brien shocks him with the machine.

Obviously displeased with Winston's answer, O'Brien tells him that the Party rules the people the way it does for the sake of absolute and limitless power. Winston argues that there can be no such thing as absolute and limitless power because the Party cannot control reality. O'Brien dismisses his argument, simply saying that if he wanted to, it could overcome the force of gravity and float midair. After all, O'Brien continues, reality is in the human mind, and the Party controls it. Therefore, the Party has absolute and limitless power and will do what is necessary to maintain that power.

O'Brien Shows Winston the Human Spirit

Even after O'Brien's explanation, Winston is still adamant that the Party will be somehow defeated, more than likely by the force of the human spirit. Faced with Winston's refusal to change his mind, O'Brien orders him to undress completely and stand in front of a winged mirror on the other side of the room.

Once there, Winston is frightened and horrified at what he sees. His skin has turned grey, and his face is contorted, bent and twisted out of its original shape by all the beatings. Winston can see the curve of his spine and other parts of his skeleton through his skin, the muscles having long since been destroyed by starvation. As Winston stands horrified in front of the mirrors, O'Brien asks him if he thinks the human spirit he sees in the mirror is capable of overthrowing the Party. Having made his point, O'Brien tells Winston to get dressed and lie back down.

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