Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree

Origin

This phrase appears in Part-I, Chapter-VII of George Orwell’s novel 1984. In fact, Orwell has taken this passage from Glen Miller’s nursery rhyme “The Chestnut Tree.” He uses this song as, “Under the spreading chestnut tree/I sold you and you sold me…” (Part-I, Chapter-VII). Orwell refers to a place, the Chestnut Tree Café, where rebels or lovers meet. Ironically, the Party does not permit its members to have feelings like love for one another; however, it only wants them to love Big Brother.

Meaning

It ironically implies that the bad times have gone. The phrase refers to the fact how party succeeds in dividing and breaking up a couple, Winston from Julia, while both sell their love and started working for the Party, following its commands and spending their whole energy loving and honoring Big Brother. Thus, the good time has come, because now Julia and Winston love only the Party and Big Brother.

Usage

Though use of this phrase is not very common, nevertheless we may find it in our everyday life, politics and in businesses. In the context of corporate sector, we may use it to show the gratification of the companies for making people love their products, but in reality that would be not be that good for people, likewise it can be suitable for political parties that make fake promises with people to just to fulfill their own ulterior motives and people would feel happy as if their bad time is gone.

Literary Source

This line appears in the first part and seventh chapter of George Orwell’s novel, 1984. It reads as;

“Under the spreading chestnut tree
I sold you and you sold me:
There lie they, and here lie we
Under the spreading chestnut tree.”

(1984, Part 1, Chap 7)

Winston here is sitting in the Chestnut Tree Café, after his release from Ministry of Love.

The chestnut tree symbolizes chastity, honesty and justice; hence, the Party too. In fact, it represents irony that in the name of justice, honesty and chastity only betrayal occurs. Thus, it shows alteration of moral values leading to destruction of human feelings like love.

Literary Analysis

This phrase is very important in the context when O’ Brian takes up Winston and tortures him. As a result, he betrays Julia. The purpose of this torture was to break him away from his will and convert into accepting and loving Big Brother’s philosophy. He was scared of rats. Therefore, when he could not tolerate this torture anymore, he begs them to stop torturing and instead torture Julia. This is how they break his spirit and brings him back to work for the Party. He would often go to Chestnut Tree Café and runs after her. Once they would be lovers, however now they meet like strangers. The Party has brought back them to its own line to utilize their energy for Party’s mission. This is where this phrase plays a significant role in making it realized that bad times have gone.

Literary Device

  • Symbol: Chestnut tree symbolizes justice, honesty and chastity
  • Foreshadowing: Chestnut Tree foreshadows a place where only rebels meet

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