- Winston's parents
- The purge
- Memory consolidation
In our blog post about Chapter One Part one, we talked about Winston's memory deficiencies. When Winston tried to remember if London was always this downtrodden, he could not recall anything in that moment. He mentioned how tough it was to remember things from his childhood, and even questioned the current date when he was getting ready to jot down his diary entry. We spent the first two parts not really knowing much about Winston's past, but in part three, this all changed.
The opening scene of part three is a dream that Winston is having. This is not just any dream, as we gain a glimpse into Winston's family. Winston sees his mother and begins to describe her appearance and noting his father's appearance as well. In this dream, the focus is more on his mother, as he does not have as vivid of a picture for his father.
In this first dream, We see Winston's mother holding his sister. We do not know much about Winston's sister, other than she was quiet with watchful eyes. Winston's mother and sister are looking up at him while they are on some sort of platform that keeps moving downward away from him. They are down there because he is up there where he is. So in a way, in order for him to stay up there, they must continue down to the underworld area. Winston even mentions how his Mother and Sister were sacrificed to save his own life, as well as great purges that took place in his childhood. It is very likely that the imagery from his dream is an illustration of this fact. The Mother and Sister going away, in order for Winston to stay.
After Winston wakes, he remembers more and more from his childhood. We even get details into an air raid that causes Winston and his family to take shelter in a underground tube. This leads Winston to remember how the Party came to be and their rise. One question I ask myself is how did Winston, in seemingly less than at least 2 days, go from not being able to remember his childhood to starting to recollect details. Now this could be due to a lot of things, think about our own lapses in memory. At a particular moment when we catch the sight of a baseball diamond, or the smell of fresh baked cookies, we then get teleported back to a childhood memory of playing baseball or going over to grandma's house. Winston's recollection is triggered while he is sleeping, and made me think about what I have heard about dreams and memories.
Enter Memory Reconsolidation
There are many theories as to why we dream. There is the threat simulation theory, which states that dreams are a virtual training ground to improve reactions to threats. The Sigmund Freud backed psychoanalytic theory states dreams can represent desires and conflicts that take the form of symbolism. Another such role of dreams is for memory consolidation. This is where memories are being processed by the brain and stored for later recall. Consolidation actually means the action or process of making something stronger or more solid. A pair of scientists, Horton and Malinowski, describe that complex elements get decomposed during the dream state into decontextualized elements, then recombined in different ways in order to support consolidation. This might explain the memories that Winston formed at the time of the great purge. However, how is it that 30 years later these memories bubble up in his sleep? Mira Hendrix explains how this could happen in her blog post "What it means to dream of childhood memories?". She says that dreams about childhood memories could symbolize a state of transformation that is currently taking place in one's life. It could, in a way, be trying to tell you something about where your life is going. We have mentioned this before, about how Winston's lack of memory makes it difficult to learn from the past. The dream of the purge of his Mother and Sister could be trying to show him something about another purge that is to come. It could be something that is so buried in Winston's subconscious that it is only possible to be "remembered" in the relaxed state of sleep.
As a thought, Winston's childhood memories could have been sparked by seeing the Parson's children in Part II. This could have caused him to remember how different growing up was for him compared to the Parson's kids who are seemingly getting ready or are already a part of the Spies organization.
"What it means to dream of childhood memories", Mira Hendrix, 03/10/2021, dreamsmean.net
"Are Dreams required for Memory?", Patrick McNamara Ph.D, 02/18/2016, psychologytoday.com
Zhao H, Li D, Li X. Relationship between Dreaming and Memory Reconsolidation. Brain Science Advances. 2018;4(2):118-130. doi:10.26599/BSA.2018.9050005