Knowing how to forgive is an essential, if not the essential skill of love. On that note, in continuation of the 360 Degrees of Compassion series, I’d like to offer you an example of betrayal and forgiveness, from Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell’s famous dystopian novel.
Nineteen Eighty-Four is a very complex work with multiple layers of meaning. To date, the book has been translated into 65 languages – more than any other novel. So, for those of you who aren’t familiar with this work, I will only summarize the part of the story that is relevant to the topic of betrayal and compassion.
Winston Smith, a civil servant/bureaucrat responsible for maintaining the propaganda of the Party, is a citizen of the Big-Brother totalitarian regime. He falls in love with Julia, a mechanic that repairs novel-writing machines. They develop a romantic-dissident relationship in a society that had banned both love and freedom of thought. They are set up by a party member, O’Brian, and are eventually captured by Thought Police. They are interrogated and tortured. O’Brian explains that the Party wants power for the sake of power and aims to extinguish any form of free thought and individual partiality (such as romantic attachments; love, after all, is a form of partiality and individual bias). During this psychologically and physically trying re-programming and re-education, Winston quickly breaks down – he confesses anything just to escape further turmoil. O’Brian, who is personally responsible for this re-education, however, is not convinced. He believes that Winston still loves Julia. To help Winston break through this attachment, he designs a custom-made torture for Winston.
The following re-formatted dialogue from the novel will help set up the scene further.
O’Brian: “You asked me once what was in Room 101. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst world.” (The door opened… A guard came in, carrying something made of wire, a box or a basket of some kind.) “The worst thing in the world varies from individual to individual. It may be burial alive, or death by fire, …