Answer to discussion questions from chapter 2 of 1984.
1. Explain the significance of the children at the start of this chapter.
In chapter 2 of the book, Winston’s pain is only further exacerbated. He is already deeply pained about the condition of his society and how truth and human values are losing their significance in Oceania. In the second chapter, while writing his diary, he hears a soft knock on his door and is startled. Mrs. Parson, his neighbor’s wife, looks much older than her age, wants his help as her kitchen sink is overflowing.
Winston comes across Parsons’ two unruly children in the flat. They are just as uncontrollable as they are naughty. The elder kid is a 9 years old boy who keeps being a pain for Winston while he is inside the flat, and the other is his 2 years younger sister. The flat bore a look as if visited by a wild animal.
Their presence in the second chapter indicates the extent to which the party is using manipulative techniques to control people’s personal lives in Oceania. They are training kids to become spies of the party, and these two kids are a superb example of how mindless they can grow after training.
The boy is holding a toy gun which he points at Winston and calls him a traitor and Goldstein. He is just nine years old, but the ferocity with which he speaks makes Winston afraid. Parsons himself is a foolish chap who works at the MInistry in a role that requires little or no intelligence. He keeps boasting of his appearances at the community center. However, the rest of his family also seems to be equally lacking in intelligence.
Winston is not at all amused at the boy’s demeanor, but he knows he cannot do anything. These children are trained by the party to hate the rival nations and the traitor Goldstein. The author’s purpose behind introducing children in the second chapter is to demonstrate before readers how easy it is for the party to control people’s lives and turn them into savages that make little use of their minds. Especially when it comes to the children, the party seems to be using them against their own families. Every few days, there was news about how one or other brave young spy handed over his own parents to the thought police.
When Winston is ready to leave Parsons’ flat, he feels a sharp pang in his neck and sees the young boy hiding a catapult. His mother is helplessly trying to bring the boy under control. Winston feels that his society has turned into a society of savages, and he can do little to help. His agony grows at the lack of respect and empathy in the boy’s behavior. Winston thinks that there is no future if the children can be exploited in the party’s manner.
2. Explain what thoughtcrime is in your own words.
Many things are not expressly prohibited in Oceania. However, they are still against the law. For example, nobody uses a pen in Oceania. People are not allowed to keep records. The party keeps a strict watch over people’s personal lives and even uses children against their families to spy on their parents. The telescreen is always there to watch what people are doing inside their flats. The party uses every exploitative technique possible that allows it to gain control of its people’s minds. Psychological manipulation of the people is a key theme in the novel. The party does everything possible to create terror and control its people.
People are not allowed to even think against the government because even thinking against the party and the dictatorship is a crime. A thought crime is a crime of thinking against the party and the government in Oceania. The party crushes every sign of dissent in the country. That is why the ‘thought police’ is always policing people’s personal lives and using fear and other manipulative techniques to manipulate behavior and inspire loyalty to the party and its propaganda.
3. What does the quote, “We shall meet in the place where there is no darkness,” mean to you? What do you think it means to Winston?
Winston had a dream years ago in which he was passing through a dark room and somebody whispered to him that they would eventually meet in a place where there was no darkness. It means that Winston hopes that there will be an emergence from this darkness. Darkness here refers to the dictatorship and its strong hold on people’s lives in Oceania. Since there is no truth and freedom, the author refers to it as an era of darkness. The room represents the Ministry and the darkness represents the lack of hope in people’s lives. Winston is reminded of the words after he sees O’Brian in the Two Minutes Hate meeting. He feels that it was O’Brien who had spoken to him in the dream since he believes O’brien is someone like him who thinks independently and against the dictatorship. However, he is still confused if he should approach O’Brien in this regard since he does not yet know if O’Brien is a friend or enemy.
For Winston, the dream again acquires a special significance in the light of the most current events in his life. While the words do not seem to instill much hope in him, they are still significant for Winston. O’Brien is still a source of hope for him, and Winston believes he could help him struggle against the dictatorship.