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How does Orwell’s writing here make this extract so horrifying? This passage is from Part 3, Chapter 3 during Winston’s interrogation at the hands of O’Brien. In this passage Orwell describes how Winston’s imprisonment within the Ministry of Love has lead to the horrendous emaciation of his body, which is now terribly hideous. Orwell makes this passage horrifying through his description of Winston’s emaciated body, the portrayal of how Winston and his rebellion are completely meaningless and the fact that Winston isn’t able to argue with O’Brien.
In this passage Orwell further emphasizes the dangers of totalitarian regimes, the immense control the Party has over its subjects and the importance and fragility of freedom. Firstly, Orwell makes this passage horrifying through the description of Winston’s emaciated body. Orwell portrays Winston as having become a “skeleton-like thing” suggesting that he no longer considers himself to be a person. This implies that Winston has lost all his humanity at the hands of the Party as the “skull-faced man” had earlier in the novel.
The fact that the Party had done this to Winston, brutalizing him into the “creature” in the mirror is what is truly horrible about his condition, clearly showing the dangers of totalitarian regimes. As Winston’s body could be manipulated so severely by the Party that he now views his own appearance as being “frightening” illustrates that the Party has total physical control over its subjects. Winston is also said to have let out an “involuntary cry” when he saw himself in the mirror.
The adjective “involuntary” shows the reader that Winston was shocked to see his reflection and the fact that it was a “cry” illustrates that he was completely distressed when he viewed himself in the mirror. Orwell also describes Winston’s varicose ulcer as being an “inflamed mass”. Throughout the novel Orwell mentions this ulcer which seems to symbolize Winston’s state of mind and health. At the beginning when Winston was miserable it was described as “itching unbearably”. These symptoms however seem to subside when Winston meets Julia, starts to rebel and is fed more wholesome foods.
This seems to reflect his content attitude and the slight freedom he obtains. In stark contrast to this when he is captured and separated from Julia his ulcer deteriorates as does his health and his desire to rebel. Secondly, Orwell makes the passage horrifying through the portrayal of how Winston and his rebellion are completely meaningless. Orwell illustrates how the Party can “control life… at all its levels” demonstrating that the Party has complete and utter control over every aspect of Winston’s life which implies that their power is invincible which is exactly what Orwell saw as the true danger of totalitarianism.
O’Brien also states that “men are infinitely malleable” suggesting that the Party is able to do what they want with the Party members and that the Party can change their very thoughts through the use of propaganda, language and the control of history. The adjective “malleable” suggests that the people are little more than pieces of metal which can be shaped as the Party wants. This quote also shows that human freedom is evidently very fragile as the Party is able to force their subjects into doing exactly as they please.
O’Brien also conveys that Winston is the “last man” who is “outside history… non-existent”. This quote shows the reader that Winston is alone in his useless rebellion and that the Party can destroy all record of Winston ever living as they have complete control of the present and therefore the past. The fact that Winston is considered the “last man” suggests that everyone else has completely lost their humanity and that he is expected to do likewise. Finally, Orwell is able to make the passage so horrifying through Winston’s inability to argue with O’Brien/the Party.
When Winston attempts to argue with O’Brien over whether or not he is “morally superior” to the Party he is forced to listen to his promises to perform disgraceful acts such as “to throw vitriol in a child’s face”. This shows the reader the power of the Party as they are able to use a person’s words against them, to make them feel “irrelevant” and to ultimately make them “confess” to the so-called “thought crime” they have allegedly committed. O’Brien also says that everyone “outside” the Party has no humanity when in actual fact the only people with decency are the proles who are ultimately “helpless”.
In the passage Orwell attempts to make a horrifying scene in which Winston learns of how emaciated his body has become. Orwell manages to make such a horrifying passage through his description of Winston’s emaciated body, the portrayal of how Winston and his rebellion are completely meaningless and the fact that Winston isn’t able to argue with O’Brien. The passage also manages to illustrate that there are many dangers to totalitarian regimes, the Party has immense control over its subjects and freedom is important but very fragile.