1984 Section One, Part I Summary (pp. 1-20)
1984 is a novel written in 3rd person, limited point-of-view of the main character and narrator, Winston Smith. The author, George Orwell, published the work in 1949, but set it in a dystopian future of 1984. The world in the novel has been divided into three massive "superstates": Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia. The story takes place in London, which is the "chief city of Airstrip One" (3).
The novel opens with Winston returning to his dilapidated apartment building, named Victory Mansions, and details the harsh realities of his day-to-day existence: blunt razors, coarse soap, food shortages, a totalitarian government sponsoring snooping police patrols and the dreaded Thought Police, constant surveillance via "telescreens", and four ominous government skyscrapers with euphemistic names: Ministry of Truth, Ministry of Peace, Ministry of Love, and Ministry of Plenty. Each Ministry is a branch of the totalitarian regime established by "the Party" (who call their form of government English Socialism, abbreviated "Ingsoc") and actually functions in direct opposition to its name; for example, the Ministry of Peace conducts continuous wars against the other two superstates. The symbolic head of this regime is Big Brother, who has "the face of a man of about forty-five, with a heavy black mustache and ruggedly handsome features" (1). Winston wears "the blue overalls" that are "the uniform of the Party" (2).
The reader learns that the telescreens, which are ubiquitous in the homes of Party members, simultaneously receive and transmit information and are used by the Thought Police to continually monitor Party members. Because of the constant monitoring, Winston is careful to "set his features into the expression of quiet optimism" (5) whenever he faces the telescreen. Winston's apartment, however, is unusual in that it contains an alcove not within view of the telescreen.
In this alcove, Winston begins a journal—an act that, while not illegal, is punishable by death or decades of imprisonment. Initially, Winston can think of nothing to write, but soon the words are rushing out, detailing a violent film he'd recently seen and a woman's reaction to it. While writing, Winston remembers a moment earlier in the day when he attended the "Two Minutes Hate", a propaganda film about the villain Goldstein, used to alleviate the built up tensions of Party members. This scene introduces Julia (though she is not named) and O'Brien, an Inner Party member to whom Winston feels drawn.
This section ends with Winston writing, almost as if possessed, "Down with Big Brother" repeatedly in his journal. He realizes he's no more condemned himself by writing this than by opening the journal, so he resists the urge to tear out the page and destroy it. Winston hears a knock at the door and panics, sure that it is the Thought Police coming for him already.