Winston’s Memories

Winston’s Memories

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Unseen passage analysis (IGCSE Paper 1 Question 2 d)
— Ch. 3, Nineteen Eighty Four

The question will be based on the following extract.


At this moment his mother was sitting in some place deep down beneath him, with his young sister in her arms. He did not remember his sister at all, except as a tiny, feeble baby, always silent, with large, watchful eyes. Both of them were looking up at him. They were down in some subterranean place — the bottom of a well, for instance, or a very deep grave — but it was a place which, already far below him, was itself moving downwards. They were in the saloon of a sinking ship – sibilance, looking up at him through the darkening water. There was still air in the saloon, they could still see him and he them, but all the while they were sinking down, down – epizeuxis into the green waters which in another moment must hide them from sight for ever. He was out in the light and air while they were being sucked down to death, and they were down there because he was up here. He knew it and they knew it – epiphora, and he could see the knowledge in their faces. There was no reproach either in their faces or in their hearts – anaphora, only the knowledge that they must die in order that he might remain alive, and that this was part of the unavoidable order of things.

He could not remember what had happened, but he knew in his dream that in some way the lives of his mother and his sister had been sacrificed to his own. It was one of those dreams which, while retaining the characteristic dream scenery, are a continuation of one’s intellectual life, and in which one becomes aware of facts and ideas which still seem new and valuable after one is awake. The thing that now suddenly struck Winston was that his mother’s death, nearly thirty years ago, had been tragic and sorrowful in a way that was no longer possible. Tragedy, he perceived, belonged to the ancient time, to a time when there was still privacy, love, and friendship – rule of three, and when the members of a family stood by one another without needing to know the reason. His mother’s memory tore at his heart because she had died loving him, when he was too young and selfish to love her in return, and because somehow, he did not remember how, she had sacrificed herself to a conception of loyalty that was private and unalterable. Such things, he saw, could not happen today. Today there were  fear, hatred, and pain – rule of three, creates contrast, but no dignity of emotion, no deep or complex sorrows – anaphora. All this he seemed to see in the large eyes of his mother and his sister, looking up at him through the green water, hundreds of fathoms down and still sinking.


The first paragraph is about Winston’s dream of his mother’s death. The second paragraph is about Winston’s feelings towards the society he lives in.
Explain how the writer uses language to convey meaning and create effect in these two paragraphs.

In the first paragraph, the writer conveys Winston’s guilt and helplessness through the use of contrast, repetition and sibilance. Firstly, the writer describes that in Winston’s dream, “They were in the saloon of a sinking ship”. Here, the writer uses the language technique of sibilance, repeating the “s” sound in close proximity. This highlights the quietness of the sinking ship, showing that Winston’s mother and sister accept their fates, perhaps desperately, without a blame, and Winston resigns their deaths. Thus, it could be seen that Winston is helpless upon the deaths of his family members. Secondly, the writer shows the reason, as Winston believes, as his family’s death: “they were down there because he was up here”. These words seem to be in a symmetrical arrangement, and sets of antonyms are used, such as “down” and “up”, “there” and “here”. This creates a strong contrast, showing that the situations of Winston and his family are completely different — Winston himself away from danger, while his family approaching death. The contrast shows Winston’s mental burden, which keeps him conscious at all times that he is alive due to others’ sacrifice therefore showing that his heart is filled with guilt. Thirdly, the writer says that for the fact that Winston’s family died to keep Winston alive, “He knew it and they knew it” and that when they are “sinking down, down into the green waters”, Winston’s sister and mother have no reproach “either in their faces or in their hearts”. Through the use of three types of repetition, epiphora, epizeuxis and anaphora respectively, the writer creates a rhythm that seems to resonance in the readers’ heart, perhaps just as the way how these pieces of memories rings again and again in Winston’s mind and he can’t get rid of them. This suggests Winston’s uneasy emotional experience after the death of his family, thus clearly showing his heart is full of guiltiness.

In the second paragraph, the writer shows Winston’s hatred towards the society he lives in through the rule of three, repetition and exaggeration. First of all, in Winston’s opinion, in the ancient times there are “privacy, love, and friendship”, while the time the story is set there is only “fear, hatred, and pain”. The use of the rule of three in the first phrase indicates that the traits of ancient society are memorable to Winston, and his appreciation and yearn for those characteristics. Rule of three used in the second phrase creates a strong contrast with the first phrase. The phrases have the exactly same structure, with three nouns separated by commas, but the words in the second phrase have completely opposite meanings. They seem to replace the three words in the first phrase one by one, suggesting that traits from the past, which Winston is fond of, are completely wiped out and are replaced by negative ones. Thus, it was shown that Winston hates the society he lives in. Secondly, the writer describes that in the society in which Winston lives, there is “no dignity of emotion, no deep or complex sorrows”. Anaphora is used here as “no” is repeated in the beginning of each phrase, listing things Winston would like to have in the society while stating at the same time that these do not exist in Winston’s society, showing that the society is frustrating and disappointing to Winston, leading to his hatred to the society.

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