Mr. Charrington, owner of the junk shop in the novel 1984, turns out to be a member of the thought police.

Why didn't he arrest Winston for just walking in the door? Why did he wait for Winston to rent the room upstairs and commit other crimes before arresting Winston?

  • 8
    More evidence to turn into the thought police. More knowledge of how he's been betraying the state. Better able to control how they take him in and break him apart.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 17:22
  • 2
    Perhaps he did turn him earlier, but O'Brien either intervened or planned the whole thing from the beginning. He wanted to know how much trouble Winston and Julia could cause. So he looked at them like seldom butterflies under the microscope until he teared their wings apart. Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 17:43
  • As I understood, he was the thought police, they were just observing him for a while before they decided to arrest him.
    – Kevin
    Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 17:58

5 Answers 5


There's no in-canon answer aside from O'Brien telling Winston that they observed him for years (meaning, they knew of his activities independently of walking into bookstore).

But this is actually 100% standard intelligence services SOP.

You take a known suspect. Instead of arresting him right away, you

  1. let them make connections, and use him to trace OTHER, previously unknown suspects.

  2. Let them do stuff to study the opposition and learn from them. Especially if he's basically not doing any material harm with his activity.

  • 2
    Also, it might blow Charrington's cover.
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 20:01

They don't just want to kill the rebels, because if they did, then why would they torture them in the Ministry of Love. They want to make the rebels love Big Brother. In order to do this, Charrington doesn't just arrest Winston and Julia when they walk through the door. He waits until Winston believes that there is a chance to get away with their rebellion. He allows them have their affair in order to completely break their spirit and love Big Brother.


The thought police had been observing Winston for 7 years. The whole process was to learn as much as possible about him to expose his fears and weaknesses.i.e. rats. O'Brien directed all these activities, as he clearly states in Winston's interrogation. How else would he have known such trivia as the last line of Winston's often recited poem about the Oranges and Lemons and the bells of St Clemens. The purpose of his release for a period of time before his execution is to exhibit to the public what becomes of those who harbor impure (unorthodox) thoughts. I disagree that he will face rearrest and more torture. That is not necessary. The whole idea is to shoot such people while their minds are "clean" and when they are unsuspecting of their imminent execution. There is no more need of terror or torture at this point.

  • 1
    Is there any evidence (book quotes, etc) to support your answer?
    – TimSparrow
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 16:59

Remember, The Party was planning the whole thing.

The Party wanted Winston to cavort with Julia, join the Brotherhood, and read Goldstein's book, before they arrested him.

Also, the Party does not tolerate martyrs. Winston must love Big Brother, otherwise he becomes a martyr.


The Ministry of Love had a backlog and they had to wait on two spots to open up for Winston and Julia.

  • Welcome to SFF.SE! I hope you don't mind that I edited your answer slightly; it looked a bit like a joke or troll at first (though I upvoted).
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Mar 5, 2016 at 20:03
  • 1
    What's the source of this? It seems to be completely made up! Commented May 4, 2017 at 16:34

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