We are introduced to Winston Smith the main character of the story. Works at Ministry of truth. Ministry of truth is one of four government buildings in destroyed London, the main city of Airstrip One, a province of Oceania. The year is 1984 and three countries are at war, Oceania, Eurasia, and East Asia. Oceania is run by the party whose leader is Big Brother.
Winston is sick of his life in the ruined city and decides to keep a diary. This is against the law in Oceania. He felt his feelings begin to hate Emmanuel Goldstein, leader of the enemy party. He also spots O’Brien, a party leader whose eyes he sees a bit of political sympathy. He feels it is only a matter of time before his thought crimes are detected. A knock at the door he thinks is the police. Mrs. Parsons, his neighbor is at the door and asked him to unclog a sink.
He does it but smells sweat all over the apartment. Mrs. Parsons is a follower of party doctrine and a fellow employee at the ministry. The children are members of Spies, a youth that encourages spying and telling on traitors, including parents. Winston is revolted. He returns home and writes a couple more minutes before going back to work. He remembers a dream where O’Brien told him he would meet him in a place where there is no darkness. He washes his hands and hides the diary
Waking from dreams, he remembers his mother and sister, and can barely remember their disappearance, and feels responsible for their deaths. He has another dream where he is in the perfect countryside wit
h the girl he had noticed earlier. He dreamed she stripped for him. This time he is woken up by the telescreen, telling him to do his exercises. He thinks about how much power the Party has overall information. Begins work at the ministry of truth. His job is to correct printed articles in line with the Party’s orders.
The Ministry and records department’s jobs are to rewrite history to make the party look good. They get a break because of the 2-minute hate. When he gets back he replaces a speech by Big Brother with invented history. Makes up a story about a man named Ogilvy. The article had become contrary to the present party policy. It is replaced as though it never existed. Winston meets Syme, a philologist, for lunch.
Syme explains parts about Newspeak. They are joined by Parsons. Winston thinks of the fate that each co-worker will receive. Syme will be vaporized because he is too smart, where Parsons is dull enough to escape vaporization. He is the only one who has not been taken over by the propaganda that is always being broadcast. He notices the same girl from the other day starring at him and thinks it is the thought police.
He records in his diary an encounter a couple of years ago with a prostitute made up to look young but was really an old woman. This memory of the encounter causes him to think of the policy regarding sex and marriage which the party has enforced. This causes him to think of his miserable life with his wife Katherine, which he has not seen in eleven years.
Winston resents the intrusion of the Party into the sex lives of its members. Also realizes the discouragement of sexual enjoyment, which makes any love affair with a party member impossible. Writing down the incident does not help him. He feels they are the only group that might over through the party, but they are unaware of it. There is no way of finding the truth about the past but he does think that present life is worse than the past. He remembers a photo that came into his possession trying to change the past but he destroyed it.
He plans to stay free. After work one evening, he wanders into the prole end of London and ends up near the store where he bought the diary. Follows the man into a pub and plans to ask him about revolution but man is incoherent. He leaves the pub and wanders. He ends up outside the little antique shop and decides to buy a glass paperweight. Mr. Charrington shows him a room upstairs and Winston dreams of renting it. He notices a dark-haired girl following him and he is sure it is the thought police and he will be arrested.
At work, he runs into the dark-haired girl again, in the hallway. She falls and while he is lifting her up she slips him a note. He reads it at his desk and is amazed to find that it simply states, I love you. Eager and excited to meet with her, he has to wait 7 days until they eat together in the cafeteria. They decide to meet in Victory square. When meeting there, they arrange another meeting for next Sunday afternoon. At the designated meeting place, in the countryside outside London, he finally learns her name. Julia explains that she considers herself rebellious to the party. She has had sex with many other non-members. Suddenly he walks into the scene exactly like his dream.
She removes her clothes and they have sex. He believes that sexual desire may be the force that destroys the party. Following their secret meeting, they meet each other occasionally. Julie arranges the meetings. They go a month without seeing each other but whenever they can before and after. She believes that she must pretend to cooperate with the party and in secret break the rules whenever possible. Winston thinks that rebellion is the best answer. They discuss past girl and boyfriends and how the party controls them.
Winston does rent the room above the antique show and realizes the foolishness of what he and Julia are doing. She brings him coffee and real sugar and real old-fashioned make-up. Julie tries to remember an old nursery rhyme, while Winston imagines that he and Julia and the room itself were all closed in like the paperweight. Many preparations for the upcoming hate week keep Winston, Julia, and the others very busy. Winston discovers that his friend Syme has disappeared and all records of him have
been altered. Meanwhile, Parsons is still busy and happy in the preparations for hate week. He was right about them. Because of the increased workload, he and Julia do not meet as much but in the room above the antique shop, they look at things from the past and other forbidden things. They discuss the hopelessness of their private rebellion and that it cannot go on forever. He is disappointed that Julie does not reject propaganda from the party and her theory that the party sends bombs on itself.
One day at work O’Brien gives Winston his address and asked him to stop by so that he can lend him an advance copy of the Newspeak dictionary. Winston thinks this is a conspiracy against the party and is excited but, thinks it will end in torture and death. Winston dreams of his mother again and the hunger and awful conditions there were before the disappearance. He feels bad for asking for rationed food and stealing his sister’s chocolate. When he came back they were gone. Winston tries to tell her but she is tired. He is glad him and she have their own feeling toward each other.
Winston takes Julia to O’Brien’s apartment. He wonders if O’Brien is also a rebel because he finds him in front of the telescreen, hard at work. Over toast, he explains to Winston what is required of the secret rebel brotherhood. They accept the terms of the members accept that they will never see each other ever again. O’Brien promises to be given a copy of Emmanuel Goldstein’s book, secretly in the future. After a long week, of sorting through millions of documents, changing them to prove that the Party’s decision that East Asia, and not Eurasia, was the enemy that they have been fighting all along.
He rushes home to read the copy of the book. He reads while lying back and relaxing. Julia falls asleep when he tries to read her sections of it. When they awake from their sleep they start talking, but a voice arises from behind the picture on the wall. It is a hidden telescreen that instructs them not to move. They are rushed by armed guards. The Thought Police had been observing them all along. Winston and Julia are violently separated. Mr. Charrington enters the room without his disguise, looking much younger. He is a member of the thought police.
Winston is being held prisoner in a large, crowded cell at the Ministry of Love. Ample and Parsons are both prisoners also. Parsons was turned in by his own daughter for thought crime. He feels increased discomfort and room 101 is continually mentioned by several prisoners. O’Brien enters the cell with a guard and Winston now realized he has been betrayed by him. O’Brien is a member of the Inner Party. O’Brien orders the guard to strike Winston who feels a great deal of pain in his elbow.
Winston is tortured both physically and mentally for an unknown length of time. He keeps getting interrogated with beatings and questions until he confesses too many crimes. O’Brien reveals that he has been watching Winston for seven years. O’Brien wants total rehab from Winston. O’Brien explains why the party can never be defeated. He has been informed that Julia quite easily betrayed him and has now been released totally rehabilitated. Winston’s questions about room 101 are not answered.
O’Brien tells Winston the second stage of his rehab is about to begin- understanding the why in the party. He also tells Winston that he wrote sections of Goldstein’s book. He says the Party rules for the sake of power and power alone. The proles will never revolt. O’Brien questions him further and punishes him when he does not answer correctly. Winston says he is morally superior to the Party, but O’Brien has a tape of the conversation about what Winston was willing to do to join the brotherhood.
Winston thinks that the party will be defeated by a nobleman, but O’Brien shows Winston himself in the mirror. Winston weeps to look at his own aged and ghastly body. He comforts himself by thinking about how he never betrayed Julia. Winston’s health is improving, and he is trying to accept the rightness of the party. He examines the past events and realizes the party was in control the whole time. He realizes also that the party can make anything right if it wants to. He has to practice double thinking.
He wakes up from a troubled sleep, calling Julia’s name. O’Brien enters his room and Winston confesses that he still hates Big Brother. He is sent to room 101.
The torture room is brightly lit room 101. O’Brien says that the room contains the worst thing in the world. It turns out to be rats in a cage that can be strapped over his face. Winston yells and screams and is overcome by the horror and the terror. He screams that this punishment should be given to Julia and not him. O’Brien spares his life. Winston is then released.
He is sitting under a tree at the Chestnut Tree Cafe. He drinks very heavily now. He remembers meeting Julia and how they talked about how they betrayed each other. The party would not allow them to see each other, but neither felt anything anymore. He remembers a game of his childhood but then it is pushed out by the broadcast that comes on the telescreen. Eurasia is once again the enemy. His heart fills with love for Big Brother.