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Nightmare Fuel / Nineteen Eighty-Four

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When you're reading a book about a society whose highest goal is to be "a boot stamping on a human face — forever," it's hard not to find something that unsettles you to your very core.
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  • Room 101. Imagine a Place Worse Than Death where you are tortured with whatever you fear the most, right up to the point where you will betray literally anything just to get it away from you, and subsequently go irreversibly past the Despair Event Horizon.
    • As one character points out, "You really do mean it, and nothing is ever the same afterward."
  • The whole third act is quite possibly one of the most horrific mundane Mind Rapes ever put to paper. Earlier, Winston and Julia agree that the Thought Police "can make you say anything, anything, but they can't make you believe it. They can't get inside you." The third act proves that yes, they can.
    • The part where O'Brien tortures Winston to the point that he really sees five fingers instead of the four that he once believed were being held up.
    O'Brien: "How many fingers, Winston?"
    Winston: "Four."
    The needle shot up to sixty.
    O'Brien: "How many fingers, Winston?"
    Winston: "Four! Four! What else can I say? Four!"
    The needle must have risen again, but he did not look at it. The heavy, stern face and the four fingers filled his vision. The fingers stood up before his eyes like pillars, enormous, blurry and seeming to vibrate, but unmistakably four.
    O'Brien: "How many fingers, Winston?"
    Winston: "Four! Stop it! How can you go on? Four! Four!"
    O'Brien: "How many fingers, Winston?"
    Winston: "Five! Five! Five!"
    O'Brien: "No, Winston, that is no use. You are lying. You still think there are four. How many fingers, please?"
    Winston: "Four! Five! Four! Anything you like. Only stop it, stop the pain!"
    • The torture that finally breaks Winston is the threat to release a starved rat to devour his face while he is still alive.
    • We don't even know how long he was in there. Weeks? Months? Years? Even Winston doesn't know, as he's imprisoned in such a way that he can never tell for sure what time of day it is. It's amazing how Oceanians can withstand so much pain, even without O'Brien's moments of kindness.
    • When Winston sees himself in the mirror and realizes how much damage has been done to him, and then later in the more comfortable cell when he tries to regain some of his strength, realizing just how weak he has become. It really hits home how powerless he is to stop this or escape.
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    • The entire speech leading to the "boot stamping on a human face — forever" line is quite possibly the most horrific part of it all, as it effectively serves as the Motive Rant for the Party.
    "Power is in inflicting pain and humiliation. Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing. Do you begin to see, then, what kind of world we are creating? It is the exact opposite of the stupid hedonistic Utopias that the old reformers imagined. A world of fear and treachery and torment, a world of trampling and being trampled upon, a world which will grow not less but more merciless as it refines itself. Progress in our world will be progress towards more pain. The old civilizations claimed that they were founded on love or justice. Ours is founded upon hatred. In our world there will be no emotions except fear, rage, triumph, and self-abasement. Everything else we shall destroy — everything. Already we are breaking down the habits of thought which have survived from before the Revolution. We have cut the links between child and parent, and between man and man, and between man and woman. No one dares trust a wife or a child or a friend any longer. But in the future there will be no wives and no friends. Children will be taken from their mothers at birth, as one takes eggs from a hen. The sex instinct will be eradicated. Procreation will be an annual formality like the renewal of a ration card. We shall abolish the orgasm. Our neurologists are at work upon it now. There will be no loyalty, except loyalty towards the Party. There will be no love, except the love of Big Brother. There will be no laughter, except the laugh of triumph over a defeated enemy. There will be no art, no literature, no science. When we are omnipotent we shall have no more need of science. There will be no distinction between beauty and ugliness. There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — for ever."
  • The ending. Both Winston and Julia are left as soulless, brainless shells with no free will after the Party's re-education. All of their humanity has been snuffed from them. Of course, Julia has an extremely tiny shred left. Winston? He loves Big Brother. He worships the Party. All of his old personality is now gone, replaced by a soulless robot filled with propaganda and gin. And he is very shortly going to be shot.
    "You will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty and then we shall fill you with ourselves."
  • Near the beginning of the novel, Winston starts his diary with a frantic, semi-coherent paragraph about his experience at the cinema with the audience enjoying a movie about a refugee boat in the Mediterranean being blown up and people trying to escape from it being shot and bombed to death. People guffaw at a scene of a fat man trying to swim away in desperation being shot to bloody pieces with the water turning pink around him. Mass applause is had at a scene of a lifeboat full of mothers trying to comfort their terrified children being blown up with a bomb sending the children's dismembered limbs flying into the air. The only one who criticizes the film is some prole woman who is promptly arrested. What it says about the sheer level of fanatical indoctrination of Oceanian citizens is truly horrifying.
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  • In one scene, Winston recalls once walking through a street hit by a bomb and kicking someone's severed arm into the gutter without a second thought.
  • The telescreens. They are everywhere, from the workplace to your own apartment, constantly watching people. Fortunately, their cameras are relatively limited and don't have any features such as night vision, so you might get away with doing things like making anti-party gestures in the dark, but their microphones are very sensitive to the point that they can apparently pick up a heartbeat.
  • The most scary thing about the setting of this book? Not only does it remain one of the most nightmarish dystopias ever devised, but there is no supernatural element at all and it is all entirely plausible. Want proof?
    • Maybe the most horrifying part of 1984 isn't the literal fictional ideology of Oceania, Eastasia, and Eurasia so much as the current and recently historical (in 1949) ideas that they embodied. In the early-to-mid 20th Century, there was a very real concept that modernity required totalitarianism. While not as prominent as it once was, it's very difficult to say that this idea is gone. Oceania may only be a major global conflict or an extraordinary economic crisis away from reality, even now.note 
    • One of the most horrific aspects of historical truth in the novel is the concept of the Unperson. Not only is someone quietly executed, but every trace of their existence is wiped away. Photographs, books, articles, and every piece of media that could contain them is altered so that there is no evidence of them. Anyone who mentions them is also eliminated.
  • The mere idea that there is no escape from this hellish dystopia. We see Oceania in all its hellishly oppressive detail, but living in Eurasia or Eastasia is pretty much exactly the same. The only place left is the Equatorial Front, which is nothing more than a giant fighting arena where you'll either be gunned down by supersoldiers or taken as a slave by whatever nation grabbed you. And if Julia's theory that Oceania is a One World Order is true, then there's nowhere to run.
    • The idea that Eurasia and Eastasia are "exactly the same" or that the rest of the world is even just "Eurasia and Eastasia" is an idea propagated purely by Big Brother and its raging thought police. Meaning that not only is it unlikely that Eurasia and Eastasia are exactly the same, it's likely that Oceania is one of the few places on Earth that's as repressive as it is and the rest of the world is more or less similar to our real world. A real life example would be North Korea: they have a repressive, thought-policing government much like Oceania's, and they don't think it's the year 2018 A.D. and are engineered to believe that the outside world is a hellhole and much worse than North Korea. Obviously as informed people we know that's a pile of crap, which means the propaganda that Oceania's government hoists up that states that "Eastasia and Eurasia are the same as they are" is probably a pile of crap as well.
      • I don’t think Orwell would have put so much effort into writing “The Book” and constructing in detail how the world works, for it to all be a figment of Party propaganda. He clearly meant this to be the world the book takes place in, to make a bigger point about geopolitics in his own time.
  • Something as simple as talking in your sleep can earn you a visit from the Thought Police. Your life will end over something you had as much control over as a breath or a heartbeat.
  • A West End/Broadway adaptation ended on a terrifying theory about the appendix: How do we know for sure the Party fell? They could've restructured things to make people think they no longer exist.
  • The Sydney Theatre Company adaptation. Highlights include:

If you want a picture of the future, imagine reading the Nightmare Fuel pages — for ever.
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