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, wanting them to only love Big Brother.

Meaning

It ironically implies that the bad times have gone. The phrase refers to the way the Party succeeds in dividing and breaking up a couple, Winston and Julia, while both sell their love to work for the Party. 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, in politics, and in business. In the context of the corporate sector, we may use it to show the gratification of the companies for making people love their products, but in reality such would be not be good for the people. Likewise, it can be suitable for political parties that make fake promises to people, just to fulfill their own ulterior motives, and convince the people to be happy as if their bad times are 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 the 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 the destruction of human feelings like love.

Literary Analysis

This phrase is very important in the context of 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 him, and instead torture Julia.

This is how they break his spirit and bring him back to work for the Party. He would often go to the Chestnut Tree Café, and runs after her. Once they would be lovers, however now they meet like strangers. The Party has brought them back to its own line, to utilize their energy for the Party’s mission. This is where this phrase plays a significant role in making them 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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