1984 Question

In 1984 when Winston and Julia were surrounded by the Thought Police why didn’t they just jump off the building to commit suicide or fight to the death with the Thought Police? They could also have choked on their food and killed themselves that way. It was quite obvious that they prefer death to utter brainwashing and they will die even if they do so eventually.

It’s actually a minor plothole in the book that Smith reflects that means of suicide are hard to come by, yet also that “from the roof” of the seven-story apartment building he lives in, one could see all four of London’s Ministry buildings.

As for the circumstances of their arrest, I didn’t get the impression the love-nest was high enough off the ground to ensure a suicidal fall (at one point, Winston and Julia stare down into a courtyard to watch a prole hanging her laundry - I figured they were on the second floor). Plus they were shocked into inaction by the abrupt intrusion of the third voice (though its tendency to just repeat their comments in the second person always confused me).

I don’t know about Julia, but Winston’s internal monologue struck me as meaning he figured his death was inevitable and the best you could do was avoid giving someone an excuse to inflict pain on you. The persistent low-level terror had already been a constant companion all his adult life.

It’s obvious they thought that. But perhaps when the decision really had to be made, they just couldn’t do it.

Because it would’ve made a crummy ending to the story?

It would be a more upbeat ending to see Winston and Julia perish while their minds remain normal then to be utterly broken and brainwashed.

That’s kind of the point of the book. 1984 is not an “upbeat” novel.

Yes, I agree. I’m just saying it’s a big plothole.

Actually, an uplifting “happy” ending was shot for the 1956 film adaptation. It’s my understanding that it sucked.

Not necessarily. People can say and mean certain things, and when the time comes, they hesitate and lose an opportunity, or they’re not strong enough. It was all too realistic. In that time and place, love doesn’t conquer all, the human spirit can be broken, and Winston truly loved Big Brother.

1984 is a book about failure. Winston and Julia fail to uphold their personal convictions when faced with adversities. All their talk about rebellion and killing themselves before getting captured is just wishful thinking. Even the super-states are slowly collapsing in on themselves.

How does it end?

I have to figure sooner or later some Party member will decide that since he can’t understand electrical engineering, it must be “thoughtcrime” and the profession will be purged, rather like the “Doctor’s Plot”. Without them, the telescreen network, and the Party’s ability to monitor and propagandize the population, will collapse.

Winston overcomes the brainwashing, starts publicly shouting “Down with Big Brother!” to a crowd and gets gunned down by the police. Julia rushes to his side, ignoring police orders to halt, and is also shot. She reaches for Winston’s dead hand, but succumbs before managing to touch him.
Charming, no? Orwell’s widow was not amused, and apparently neither was the British audience or the critics. American audiences got the version that was closer to the book.

Ref: OMNI’s Screen Flights / Screen Fantasies, 1984

Still not exactly “upbeat”, is it!

Which is really the point; neither Winston or Julia want to die, and both are willing to do anything to hang onto that last little bit of life…even if it means betraying the other by the worst means imaginable. In the end, the undoing of the individual (from The State’s point of view) is that he or she is unwilling to perish for the good of The State; the only way to change that is to break him or her utterly (Room 101). Winston, of course, is “happy” in the end; happy in the way that The State needs him to be.

If you want a “happy” ending to 1984, watch Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (the original cut, not the Sid Shinberg “Love Conquerers All” network television cut). Of course, in an authoritarian state in which information is utterly controlled, happiness comes at a cost: the detachment from reality. It is the only real escape.


Yup, Brazil is one of my favorite movies. I saw it when it first came out in the theater. And I agree, that’s the “happy” ending to 1984.

I’ve never seen the version in question (though I have seen the “Americanised” version many moons ago), but it seems to me that gunning Winston down in his moment of defiance is the last thing the Party would do. During their conversations in MiniLuv, O’Brien made it very clear that as long as Winston harbored a single heretical thought, he was safe from the bullet to the brain.

From the Party’s POV, allowing a member to die with a criminal thought intact would be a blot on its political purity (or if you want another analogy, the first infinitesimal crack in the proverbial dam). Inevitably, it would lead to the collapse of the Party and the death of BB — both of which were inconceivable.

Well then what if for instance (not Winston and Julia) but some other thought criminal commits suicide when about to be arrested? It was mentioned that one of Julia’s sex partners did commit suicide to avoid arrest.

I’ve always wondered why they shoot them at the end. Presumably if you’ve already invested tons of resources to completely brainwash somebody, creating a loyalty that’s more certain than a random person’s, they would be useful as an informant. It’s not like the Party would view it as a moral imperative or anything to complete the punishment.

It’s been a long time since I read the book, but I’m pretty sure no one shoots anyone at the end. :confused: