What happens in Room 101?
Now that the dismal future predicted in 1984 is sliding into the past I suppose allusions to the novel will lose their force. Still, one can ask:
What is in room 101? That is the question that the protagonist of 1984 had to face. Very simply, room 101 contained the most horrible thing in the world — for you. For Winston Smith, it was rats gnawing on his face. Each person in the world has their own private room 101, each different in its contents, and each the same in its meaning.
When one talks about terrible experiences one really has to distinguish between the experience itself, how one feels after wards, and how one looks at it beforehand.
The meaning of experiences changes. In primitive initiation ceremonies the initiate must undergo pain and torture with out flinching. It’s a learning experience. The initiate learns that the apparently terrible can be survived quite nicely, thank you.
All of us, I hope, have learned at some point that we can endure more than we thought we could. That, as much as anything, is the most valuable thing we can learn. But having learned that, what happens when one experiences that which cannot be endured?
This page was last updated July 1, 2003.