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By George Orwell
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Part One
Chapter 1
t was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were strik-
ing thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his
breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly
through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not
quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from enter-
ing along with him.
The hallway smelt of boiled cabbage and old rag mats. At
one end of it a coloured poster, too large for indoor display,
had been tacked to the wall. It depicted simply an enor-
mous face, more than a metre wide: the face of a man of
about forty-five, with a heavy black moustache and rugged-
ly handsome features. Winston made for the stairs. It was
no use trying the lift. Even at the best of times it was sel-
dom working, and at present the electric current was cut
off during daylight hours. It was part of the economy drive
in preparation for Hate Week. The flat was seven flights up,
and Winston, who was thirty-nine and had a varicose ulcer
above his right ankle, went slowly, resting several times on
the way. On each landing, opposite the lift-shaft, the poster
with the enormous face gazed from the wall. It was one of
those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow
you about when you move. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING
YOU, the caption beneath it ran.
Inside the flat a fruity voice was reading out a list of fig-
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ures which had something to do with the production of
pig-iron. The voice came from an oblong metal plaque like
a dulled mirror which formed part of the surface of the
right-hand wall. Winston turned a switch and the voice
sank somewhat, though the words were still distinguish-
able. The instrument (the telescreen, it was called) could be
dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off complete-
ly. He moved over to the window: a smallish, frail figure,
the meagreness of his body merely emphasized by the blue
overalls which were the uniform of the party. His hair was
very fair, his face naturally sanguine, his skin roughened by
coarse soap and blunt razor blades and the cold of the win-
ter that had just ended.
Outside, even through the shut window-pane, the world
looked cold. Down in the street little eddies of wind were
whirling dust and torn paper into spirals, and though the
sun was shining and the sky a harsh blue, there seemed
to be no colour in anything, except the posters that were
plastered everywhere. The blackmoustachio’d face gazed
down from every commanding corner. There was one on
the house-front immediately opposite. BIG BROTHER IS
WATCHING YOU, the caption said, while the dark eyes
looked deep into Winston’s own. Down at street level an-
other poster, torn at one corner, flapped fitfully in the wind,
alternately covering and uncovering the single word IN-
GSOC. In the far distance a helicopter skimmed down
between the roofs, hovered for an instant like a bluebottle,
and darted away again with a curving flight. It was the po-
lice patrol, snooping into people’s windows. The patrols did
not matter, however. Only the Thought Police mattered.
Behind Winston’s back the voice from the telescreen was
still babbling away about pig-iron and the overfulfilment
of the Ninth Three-Year Plan. The telescreen received and
transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made,
above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by
it, moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vi-
sion which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen
as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing
whether you were being watched at any given moment. How
often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on
any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable
that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate
they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You
had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in
the assumption that every sound you made was overheard,
and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.
Winston kept his back turned to the telescreen. It was
safer, though, as he well knew, even a back can be revealing.
A kilometre away the Ministry of Truth, his place of work,
towered vast and white above the grimy landscape. This,
he thought with a sort of vague distaste—this was London,
chief city of Airstrip One, itself the third most populous
of the provinces of Oceania. He tried to squeeze out some
childhood memory that should tell him whether London
had always been quite like this. Were there always these vis-
tas of rotting nineteenth-century houses, their sides shored
up with baulks of timber, their windows patched with card-
board and their roofs with corrugated iron, their crazy
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