Excerpt from a blog written April 17, 2009
A short time before I moved out my brother’s house I was about to watch a movie. My brother asked me what I was going to watch and I told him that I was going to watch George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, the old movie with Richard Burton. His immediate reaction was questioning why I wanted to watch such a depressing movie.
I told him him that when I was a young teenager still in high school around my junior year I had read that book for the first time. I explained to him that first of all when I had read George Orwell’s original book I had been enamored with the female character Julia when I had read it as a teenager.
The second reason, and the that pertained specifically to that version of the movie, was that the actress playing Julia looked very similar to my mind’s eye view of the character. And I remember it being an odd bit of coincidence, as that rarely happens.
And the last reason was Room 101.
Room 101 in the book and the movie 1984 is where they take you when all other means of torture and interrogation has failed. In Room 101 you are forced to meet your greatest personal fear head-on. For Winston, the lead character, his fear was rats. Winston had seen the dead body of his mother being gnawed on by rats as a young child, and because of that rats terrified him.
So by this time his has been tortured beyond torture, interrogated beyond all interrogations. But deep in his mind there was his strong and deep love for Julia. No matter what they did, he loved Julia. But then they took him into Room 101. And in that room they put a special cage on his head. And in that cage on his head were several rats. As the rats scurried over to Winston’s face he was overwhelmed with mortal terror. Terror so great that he soon shouted “Take Julia instead! Give her to the rats!” And that was the moment that they broke the man that could not be broken.
Shocking isn’t it? Or maybe not, as I remember in High School a lot of the other students laughed at the idea anyone being so terrified of a couple of rats.
But to me they had missed the point of Room 101 altogether. For Winston, Room 101 contained rats, but that tactic of utilizing detailed psychological analysis to reveal your deepest darkest private fear could be used on anyone. And in my teenage mind anyone using such draconican tactics was obvious and a very tangible example of evil.