1984 by George Orwell
In 1984 by George Orwell, the lead character Winston Smith works at the Ministry of Truth based in London the main city of Airstrip One. Big Brother gazes from every poster and the Thought Police uncovers all acts of betrayal. When Winston Smith develops feelings for Julia, he experiences changes in his deadening and dull life as he opens up to new and optimistic possibilities. Despite police helicopters hovering and circling overhead, Julia and Winston start to question the motives of the Party and get drawn towards conspiracy. 1984 is the frightening story of a possible future where everyone’s actions and even their thoughts are under authoritarian control. “Big Brother is Watching You” (Orwell 3). Winston Smith is a man who still remembers the start of Revolution and the rise to the power of the Party. But he cannot talk about it with anyone as the Party now possesses the complete power above everything, everyone and their past, present and future. “Who controls the past controls the future, who controls the present controls the past” (Orwell 37). Everyone’s past is flexible, and the Party can change it in an instant, this is part of Winston Smith’s job at the Records Department in the Ministry of Truth. After long periods of oppression, Winston is terrified of being caught; still he rebels in minor ways by loving Julia and scribbling in his diary.
Winston is the main character of the novel, 1984, though he is not the hero of this story. In the beginning, the author (Orwell) is careful in his presentation of Winston in an unheroic light and in the culmination of the story it is made clear that he has failed to achieve the heroic status with his behaviour. “The flat was seven flights up, and Winston, who was thirty-nine and had a varicose ulcer above his right ankle, went slowly, resting several times on the way” (Orwell 1). His appearance and presence are against the traditional heroic mode: he is presented as 'a smallish, frail figure, having varicose ulcer on his right ankle, and he is unfit needing to pause many times when ascending the stairs and faces difficulty with Physical jerks regulation.
Winston Smith is the main protagonist in the story. He has a very similar name as most people in London; it also stands for the greatness of a leader in Winston Churchill. Winston’s character is unique, but in many ways he is similar to other citizens who kowtow to society. He plays the role of a potential hero who may maintain his individuality against the public demand, though Winston’s surname spells out his probable fate as it implicitly proposes that he will ultimately share the same fate as the others. Winston Smith is not a typical hero in this novel. His character has more resemblance with a post-modernist antihero rather than a natural, conventional hero.
It is significant in the story that Winston’s wound improves when he meets Julia and the party conform him. It is Winston’s dark and ironic fate in which the party heals Winston and eradicates every sign of his individuality and his former self. In the novel 1984, the author Orwell provided his apocalyptic vision for the future. The most perplexing aspect of the story is its sheer predictability of the protagonist Winston Smith’s failure. “But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother” (Orwell 300). The symbolism throughout the story indicates the eventual doom of Winston’s surrendering his rationality, individuality, emotions and above all himself. Winston’s surrender is a thoughtful depiction of denial of human values and integrity. It is also important to note that Winston is not a threat to the ruling government and Big Brother. His minor and individual acts of defiance are no more than his wishful thinking of living his life on his own terms and claim small measure of happiness and comfort for himself. His journal contains his personal reflections and thoughts that he has no intention to share with anyone.
“At the sight of the words I love you the desire to stay alive had welled up in him and the taking of minor risks suddenly seemed stupid” (Orwell 110). Winston’s relationship with Julia is no more than stolen moments from his life; when they get a chance. This very desire of having something separate of their own, and more significant, something of their own, which the Party has no control over makes Winston and Julia targets of the Thought Police and O'Brien. This was because they represent a threat to the power of Big Brother and because they represent a possible affront for a rebellion. Winston is obviously not presented as a hero, either with his own behavior and thoughts, or through what happens to him. "Do it to Julia! Do it to Julia! Not me! Julia! I don't care what you do to her. Tear her face off, strip her to the bones. Not me! Julia! Not me!" (Orwell 289). He is just the lead character in the story, from whose point of view the horrifying events and society are shown. The author, Orwell, ensures that readers do not identify with Winston’s character, partly by showing what is repellent in his character and by careful distance Orwell maintains between the character and the narrative.
No, Winston is not a hero, but he’s not a traditional hero or even the traditional anti-hero. He’s just a weak man that struggles through life in an oppressive regime, knowing that there is no hope of change. He doesn’t join the rebels in their fight against the Party and the Big Brother, neither does he become a high-ranking official in the Inner Party. He does not participate in the distribution of pamphlets for denouncing the government, and he does not do other traditional things that a hero-in-a-dystopia usually does in stories.
Orwell, G. 1984. New York, United States: Signet Classic, 1950. Print.