Search Menu

Contents

Winston Smith

Orwell’s primary goal in 1984 is to demonstrate the terrifying possibilities of totalitarianism. The reader experiences the nightmarish world that Orwell envisions through the eyes of the protagonist, Winston. His personal tendency to resist the stifling of his individuality, and his intellectual ability to reason about his resistance, enables the reader to observe and understand the harsh oppression that the Party, Big Brother, and the Thought Police institute. Whereas Julia is untroubled and somewhat selfish, interested in rebelling only for the pleasures to be gained, Winston is extremely pensive and curious, desperate to understand how and why the Party exercises such absolute power in Oceania. Winston’s long reflections give Orwell a chance to explore the novel’s important themes, including language as mind control, psychological and physical intimidation and manipulation, and the importance of knowledge of the past.

Apart from his thoughtful nature, Winston’s main attributes are his rebelliousness and his fatalism. Winston hates the Party passionately and wants to test the limits of its power; he commits innumerable crimes throughout the novel, ranging from writing “DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER” in his diary, to having an illegal love affair with Julia, to getting himself secretly indoctrinated into the anti-Party Brotherhood. The effort Winston puts into his attempt to achieve freedom and independence ultimately underscores the Party’s devastating power. By the end of the novel, Winston’s rebellion is revealed as playing into O’Brien’s campaign of physical and psychological torture, transforming Winston into a loyal subject of Big Brother.

One reason for Winston’s rebellion, and eventual downfall, is his sense of fatalism—his intense (though entirely justified) paranoia about the Party and his overriding belief that the Party will eventually catch and punish him. As soon as he writes “DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER” in his diary, Winston is positive that the Thought Police will quickly capture him for committing a thoughtcrime. Thinking that he is helpless to evade his doom, Winston allows himself to take unnecessary risks, such as trusting O’Brien and renting the room above Mr. Charrington’s shop. Deep down, he knows that these risks will increase his chances of being caught by the Party; he even admits this to O’Brien while in prison. But because he believes that he will be caught no matter what he does, he convinces himself that he must continue to rebel. Winston lives in a world in which legitimate optimism is an impossibility; lacking any real hope, he gives himself false hope, fully aware that he is doing so.

We're reading 1984 and WE HAVE THOUGHTS

More Help

Previous Next
Gosh

by Tildinator, November 27, 2012

This is my favourite thing ever

12 Comments

33 out of 90 people found this helpful

This book is amazing

by LukeLay, January 28, 2013

Not really; Hamlet died at the end.

9 Comments

31 out of 142 people found this helpful

Winston Dies

by SkullCrusher69, February 25, 2013

*Spoiler Alert*

4 Comments

32 out of 178 people found this helpful

See all 69 readers' notes   →

Buy on BN.com and save!

1984

1984 (SparkNotes Literature Guide Series)

Got it?
Take a quiz on All Major Characters →