Room 101 in 1984

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  • 0:00 Introduction to Room 101
  • 1:27 Room 101's Use of Fear
  • 2:09 Role of Room 101 in 1984
  • 3:09 George Orwell's Inspiration
  • 3:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kaitlin Oglesby
This lesson focuses on Room 101 found in George Orwell's dystopian novel, 1984, and its effects on the protagonists, Winston and Julia, after they are caught and identified as dissenters.

Introduction to Room 101

In George Orwell's 1984, the words used to describe certain parts of the government are completely contradictory to the manner in which they are administered. In fact, that's one of the trademarks of Newspeak, the fictional language used in the novel, that only positive words are spoken. Therefore, we are not surprised to hear that the Ministry of Love is capable of some truly cruel actions. While some branches within that ministry may be capable of making you talk, only one inspires true fear in the hearts of all who hear its name. Room 101 is the single most feared space within Oceania, and for our protagonist, Winston Smith, it is where he ends up at the climax of the book.

Of course, Winston doesn't start out in the hated chamber, but actually begins the book working in the Oceania Ministry of Truth. One of the great ironies of 1984 is that the organizations of government all have contradictory names, so in reality the Ministry of Truth is actually a government body dedicated to perpetually rewriting history so as to be in line with the current goals of the government. Seeing so much of the blatant falsehoods of the government has made Winston doubt the official party line, so much so that he has conspired with individuals whom he had thought were sympathetic to his cause. However, one of these individuals, O'Brien, turns out to hold the keys to Room 101.

Room 101's Use of Fear

One of the premises of 1984 is that the system has complete control over all citizens of Oceania, the setting. In other words, Big Brother is always watching. That means not only can Big Brother and the Ministry of Love build a solid case against a person, having documented his or her every move, but also they know each individual's worst fears. That is what Room 101 is for. In that chamber, the most stubborn dissidents are forced to encounter their worst fears one on one, in the most gruesome manners imaginable. In fact, the room is best described when Winston asks O'Brien what is actually in Room 101. O'Brien responds simply that it is the worst thing in the world.

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