The book starts with Winston entering his apartment in noon, leaving work at noon by choice since we are given the information that

By leaving the Ministry at this time of day he had sacrificed his lunch in the canteen, and he was aware that there was no food in the kitchen except the bread that must be saved for morning.

Winston takes a sip of VICTORY GIN after entering his apartment and simply watches outside turning his back to the telescreen, which resides in an unusual position due to an alcove and the reader is led to..

It was partly the unusual geography of the room that had suggested to him the thing that he was about to do.

But it had also been suggested by the book that he had just taken out of the drawer. It was a beautiful book, smooth creamy paper..

where what he is about to do is to start a diary.. So it is almost immediately after he enters his apartment, he gets inspired by his surroundings, not after a while. And we also know that it is a 20 minute walk from Ministry of Truth to his apartment.

However, after writing for a while in his diary he stops and we learn that..

It was, he now realized, because of this other incident that he had suddenly decided to come home and begin the diary today.

Are we already warned that Winston has a terrible memory and conscious? Or is the narrator altering the past so quickly?

Who decides to start a diary and sacrifices his lunch in such a world where access to food is limited, forgets what he came home for, decides to start a diary due to a reason completely different than his original intent as he was leaving his work ~20 minutes ago?

Maybe there is a very simple explanation I am missing or I am not understanding the passage, or is there a different message here?

Here are some further hints I was able to find on Winstons memory from Chapter 1:

He tried to squeeze out some childhood memory that should tell him whether London had always been quite like this. But it was no use, he could not remember: Nothing remained of his childhood.


.. the book that he had just taken out of the drawer. He had seen it lying in the window of a frowsy little junk shop un a slummy quarter of the town (just what quarter he did not now remember)..


The thing he was about to do was to open a diary. It was curious that he seemed not merely to have lost the power of expressing himself, but even to have forgotten what it was that he had originally intended to say. All he had to do was to transfer to paper the restless monologue that had been running inside his head, literally for years. At this moment, however, even the monologue had dried up.

Seems like Winston has problems remembering things that are:

  • very old (from his childhood)
  • somewhat old (buying a diary from a shop)
  • very recent(coming home with an intention that he forgot)
  • active information (monologue he constantly has in his mind)..

This is a description of Winston's subconscious motivation, not forgetfulness.

The problem, I think, starts here:

It was partly the unusual geography of the room that had suggested to him the thing that he was about to do.

The tense of this statement is timeless: there is no way of knowing when this "suggestion" occurred to Winston. It could have been a moment before, or the moment he moved into his apartment.

However, the implication is that this "suggestion" is not a new one. Since he was at work that morning he must have bought the book - at the very earliest - the previous day. He also went to some pains to obtain an ink pen to write in it, which suggest it's been in his possession for a while.

Winston also describes how the lift rarely works in his block of flats, so it's likely he's been living there for some time. Given that he is clearly of a rebellious frame of mind, the observation that the alcove in his apartment affords him a rare degree of privacy is likely to have occurred to him quite quickly.

So: the desire to write a diary is not new. It's been growing in his mind for some time, inspired by the alcove and his possession of the book. So when the book tells us that:

It was, he now realized, because of this other incident that he had suddenly decided to come home and begin the diary today.

It is not suggesting he has suddenly remembered that we was planning to start a diary. Rather, it is describing that Winston has not really understood, himself, what his motivation was for suddenly deciding to start his diary that particular day rather than any other. After writing for a while, he has suddenly realised why.

The incident in question is:

But there was a fraction of a second when their eyes met, and for as long as it took to happen Winston knew--yes, he KNEW!--that O'Brien was thinking the same thing as himself. An unmistakable message had passed. It was as though their two minds had opened and the thoughts were flowing from one into the other through their eyes. 'I am with you,' O'Brien seemed to be saying to him. 'I know precisely what you are feeling. I know all about your contempt, your hatred, your disgust. But don't worry, I am on your side!'

Winston is a citizen an extremely powerful, dangerous and controlling totalitarian state. It monitors its citizens almost the entire time and hands out extreme punishments at a whim, ensuring there is near-total compliance with its desires.

So to have a sudden flash suggesting another citizen is as miserable and insecure as Winston feels is a huge revelation. It gives Winston a once in a lifetime surge of hope and inspiration. Easily enough to motivate him to skip a meal and want to go home to begin is little act of rebellion.

  • So to have a sudden flash suggesting another citizen is as miserable and insecure as Winston feels is a huge revelation. It gives Winston a once in a lifetime surge of hope and inspiration. Yes, exactly.. But once he enters his apartment, he seems to forget this already. He is in a calm mood. He is watching outside, drinking GIN. He starts his diary without remembering this trigger.. He already forgot.. – Koray Tugay Oct 5 at 13:37
  • @KorayTugay No: he hasn't understood his motivation. It only becomes clear to him later. Have you never made a decision and only after some time has passed and with the benefit of hindsight come to understand your reasons for making the choice you did? It's certainly something I've experienced. And I would suggest his behaviour is not remotely calm. "Watching outside" could well be a symptom of paranoia. And the gin is described as tasting so vile that it makes his eyes water: not something you'd want to drink for pleasure. – Matt Thrower Oct 5 at 13:53

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