Guide: an A to Z ramble through the peaks of great literature (abridged)

O is for Orwell


by George Orwell

It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith hurried up the stairs to his seventh floor flat after a hard day at the office.
He paused as he reached the landing and cast a furtive glance over his shoulder. For some time now Winston had suspected that he was being followed. It was probably the man who was following him everywhere which led to this suspicion. And there he was again, approaching the top of the stair-case.

"Look!" said Winson in exasperation, "Just who are you anyway?"

"The Thought Police," replied the stranger.

"I thought so," said Winston

"I know you did," said the strange man, making a note of the conversation in his book. Winston walked on along the landing and stopped outside his front-door hwere he bagan searching frantically through his coat for the elusive key.

"Try your right-hand trouser pocket," suggested the strange man. He did so and he found it there.

"Thanks," he said, still rather perplexed as he pushed the key into the lock.

"All part of the service," said the stranger, "Good job Big Brother is watching out for you, isn't it?"

"Yes it is," muttered Winston and he stepped inside his flat, quickly shutting the door behind him. Safely inside, he breathed a deep sigh of relief then went and sat down in his armchair.

"Watch it!" shouted the man on whose knee he was sitting.

"Sorry," said Winston, jumping to his feet, "I didn't see you there."

"I should think so too," said the man, "I'm trying to listen to the news," and he getstured towards a television set in the corner of the room. On the screen a stern-faced young lady was reading the latest trading figures.

"What exactly are you doing in my flat," asked Winston, having recovered from the intial shock, "Are you spying on my or something?"

"Don't be ridiculous," replied the man, laughing off the accusation, "I told you, I'm watching the television."

"Oh no you're not! You're in here to spy on me. Go on admit it!" insisted the irate Winston.

"Winston Smith!" yelled the lady oin the television set, "Nobody is spying on you! Now stop being so neurotic and keep quiet while I finish reading the news!"

"Sorry," squirmed Winston.

"Go and make the dinner, Smith!" said the man in the armchair, "And not cabbage soup again! War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, but cabbage soup is cabbage soup, and I hate cabbage soup."

"So do I," chirped in another man from the bedroom.

"So do I," echoed a third man from the bathroom.

"Hate, hate, hate, hate, hate!" they sang in unison.

"Right, I'll do sauerkraut on toast then," said Winston and he walked off towards the kitchen with a disgruntled look on his face.

"Oh, and Smith!" called the man in the armchair.


"Don't forget to warm the tea-pot before you make the tea!"

"I always do!" protested Winston, his feeling injured.

"Oh no you don't," replied the man in the arm-chair.

"Oh no you don't," chimed in the man from the bedroom

"Oh no you don't," said the man from the bathroom.

"Oh no you don't," thundered the weather-woman on the television.

The telephone rang. Winston lifted the receiver and pressed it to his ear.

"Oh no you don't," hissed a voice on the other end.

"Who are you?" demanded Winston

"The speaking-clock," said the voice, "It's ten past fifteen, and two sugars for me please."

The next day Winston left home a little later than usual; there had been a queue for the bathroom.
As he approached the street which led to the Ministry of Truth, where he worked as a compiler of unemployment statistics, he noticed a young woman from the same office a few yards in front of him. She was an attractive brunette, just nineteen years old and she exuded vivaciousness from every pour of her numbile body. Winston deliberately checked his pace in order to remain discreetly behind her and from this position he surveyed her rolling gait. For some months now, he had been watching her; leering at her; stealing sly side-glances of her as she went past. Secretly desiring her. What he would love to do with her, he thought.

"Gotcha!" yelped a man, leaping out of a doorway at the side of him. He was dressed in a black uniform with leather belt and a strop running diagonally across his chest, the peak of his black cap coming down over his eyes.

"What?" croaked Winston in surprise.

"You filthy pervert!" the man shouted, "I'm from the thought police, and you just thought a violation of the law."

"So you have been watching me then, " said Winston.

"Of course not," replied the uniformed man, "It was a pure coincidence that I was lurking in the doorway when I over-read your mind."

"Oh," said Winston, meekly.

"Right," called the uniformed man to his companions who were already abseiling down the front of the nearby office-block, "Take him away!"

The truck drove into the underground car-park of the Ministry of Love. Winston was dragged into the lift and taken down to the minus tenth floor. Then he was marched along a dark corridor to a small office. The door was flung open . Behind the desk of the over-light little office sat none other than Big Brother himself.

"Alright our kid," said Big Brother.

"Hello Tommy," replied Winston.

"I hear you've been causing trouble again, little brother. People are starting to talk about you and this silly obsession you've got about being watched. What's worse, you're insane behaviour is starting to reflect on me. You're making me look ridiculous, Winnie. I'm afraid I'm going to have to lock you away for your own safety. I'm going to have to put you in room 101."

"101? What's in there, Tom?" asked Winston.

"Nothing!" said Big Brother. "Nothing at all. You will be left there with nothing but your own crazy thoughts for company."

Winston's face lit up, "At last!" he said as they dragged him away, " a room of my own!"