1984 By George Orwell Summary and Analysis Part 2: Chapter 4

Summary

Winston Smith strikes a deal with Mr. Charrington, owner of the junk shop where Winston bought the diary and the glass paperweight, to rent the upstairs room for his affair with Julia. Waiting for Julia, Winston recognizes a song that a prole woman below his window is singing — a popular song written by a versificator — a machine that writes songs with no human intervention. He muses on the folly of taking the room and what it will eventually mean — capture and death.

Julia arrives, bringing Inner Party luxuries: real coffee, sugar, bread, jam, and tea. Julia paints her face with make-up and puts on perfume, all illegal items. Winston and Julia make love and fall asleep. After waking, Julia notices a rat poking its head through a hole near the baseboard. Winston reveals that he's afraid of rats, and Julia comforts him, promising to fix the hole. Winston begins the nursery rhyme that Mr. Charrington taught him a few weeks back, and Julia mysteriously finishes most of the verse — something her grandfather taught her. Winston looks at the glass paperweight and muses about it and what it symbolizes for himself, Julia, and their life together.

Analysis

The lyrics that the prole woman sings mirror the feelings that exist in Winston about his relationship with Julia, even if he does not know it as he hears them. He is becoming much more fond of Julia, to the point of becoming upset when she must break plans with him. In fact, Winston and Julia are beginning to live like "real" people now, like people of the past who luxuriated in the kinds of freedoms forbidden in their current situation. This chapter sets up a certain domesticity between them, a kind of comfort previously unavailable to them. But that comfort is deceptive, and Winston is aware of that fact, even if Julia is not. He is sure that they will be caught; the only question in Winston's mind is when.

Whenever a detail recurs or is emphasized, the reader should be certain to pay attention to its meaning or function. This chapter emphasizes, introduces, or returns to symbols mentioned previously: Winston's fear of rats, his nightmare, the nursery rhyme, and the paperweight. The rat poking his head through the wall foreshadows two separate events, both having to do with the couple's eventual capture. Winston is terrified of rats, a fact that is his breaking point later in the novel. The picture of St. Clement's Dane, aside from sparking another round of nursery rhymes, becomes the couple's downfall.

While Julia comforts Winston about the rat, he muses about a recurring nightmare in which he is in front of a wall of darkness and, although he knows what horrible thing is behind the wall, he does not have the courage to face it before waking. What is behind the wall is both symbolic and real: Behind the metaphoric wall is Winston's fate; behind the real wall in the room where he and Julia meet is the telescreen that reveals them.

Winston describes Julia knowing a piece of the nursery rhyme as a countersign, a secret signal that is still a mystery to him. He does know, however, that the rhyme ends with "a chopper to chop off your head!" — foreshadowing that does not bode well for Winston. Why everyone seems to know this rhyme except himself boggles Winston. Not knowing the rhyme sets him apart from others yet again — he is the perpetual outsider.

Finally, the image of the paperweight returns, this time as a symbol for the relationship between Winston and Julia. Winston sees it as a symbol of himself, feeling that he is actually inside the paperweight with Julia and that they are the coral "fixed in a sort of eternity at the heart of the crystal." Because most of Winston's perceptions are ironic, the reader must by this time be aware that a statement as boldly optimistic as this one will eventually crumble in the end. There is no such thing as "eternity" in Oceania, except where Big Brother is concerned.

Glossary

countersign a secret word or signal which must be given to a guard or sentry by someone wishing to pass; password.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

What are the Party slogans -- War Is Peace, Freedom Is Slavery, Ignorance Is Strength -- examples of?




Quiz