Divided into a rigid system of social classes, the world of Nineteen Eighty-Four consists of proles, representing the vast majority of the population, the Outer Party, and the elite Inner Party. Yet, within the faceless, uniform mass of human existence, the character of Winston Smith emerges to become the protagonist of the novel. Winston is a member of the Outer Party, an employee of the Ministry of Truth. His job is largely to rewrite the history and documentation of the state in order to satisfy current Party policy and interpretation. Of dramatic consequence, however, Winston surreptitiously attempts to establish his own identity and derive a sense of his social and cultural heritage in a form of personal and unaided rebellion. In violation of existing order, he begins to keep a diary to record his private thoughts and feelings. In essence, Winston has committed a "thoughtcrime," marking the beginning of a courageously futile and ultimately fatal enterprise.
As further evidence of his determination to challenge authority, Winston begins an affair with a co-worker who seemingly shares his desire for human contact, companionship, and emotional commitment. Having initiated the liaison, Julia assumes responsibility for the planning and arranging of their clandestine relationship. Yet the affair is pathetically doomed, as is Winston's search for ideal and meaningful existence. Together Winston and Julia fall victim to the mistaken belief that their...
(The entire section is 359 words.)
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Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Winston Smith, a citizen of Oceania. He is an intelligent man of thirty-nine, a member of the Outer Ring of the Party who has a responsible job in the Ministry of Truth, where he changes the records to accord with the aims and wishes of the Party. He is not entirely loyal, however, for he keeps a secret journal, takes a mistress, and hates Big Brother. Caught in his infidelities to the Party, he is tortured until he is a broken man; he finally accepts his lot, even to the point of loving Big Brother.
Mrs. Smith, Winston’s wife, a devoted follower of the Party and active member of the Anti-Sex League. Because she believes procreation a party duty, she leaves her husband when the union proves childless.
Julia, a bold, good-looking girl who, though she wears the Party’s red chastity belt, falls in love with Winston and becomes his mistress. She, like her lover, rebels against Big Brother and the Party. Like Winston, too, she is tortured and brainwashed and led to repent her political sins.
O’Brien, a member of the Inner Party. He leads Winston and Julia to conspire against the Party and discovers their rebellious acts and thoughts. He is Winston’s personal torturer and educator who explains to Winston why he must accept his lot in the world of Big Brother.
(The entire section is 275 words.)
Big Brother, the mysterious all-seeing, all-knowing leader of the totalitarian society is a god-like icon to the citizens he rules. He is never seen in person, just staring out of posters and telescreens, looking stern as the caption beneath his image warns “Big Brother Is Watching You.” Big Brother demands obedience and devotion of Oceania’s citizens; in fact, he insists that they love him more than they love anyone else, even their own families. At the same time, he inspires fear and paranoia. His loyal followers are quick to betray anyone who seems to be disloyal to him. Through technology, Big Brother is even able to monitor the activities of people who are alone in their homes or offices.
Of course, Big Brother doesn’t really exist, as is clear from the way O’Brien dodges Winston’s questions about him. His image is just used by the people in power to intimidate the citizens of Oceania. Orwell meant for Big Brother to be representative of dictators everywhere, and the character was undoubtedly inspired by Adolf Hitler Francisco Franco Joseph Stalin and Mao Tse-tung, all of whom were fanatically worshipped by many of their followers.
Mr. Charrington is an acquaintance of Winston’s who runs a small antique/junk shop and rents Winston a small...
(The entire section is 1672 words.)
This mustachioed face, whose resemblance to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin is not coincidental, is quite literally the "poster boy" for the Party. It is uncertain and irrelevant whether Big Brother personally exists. What matters is that his image is everywhere, watching over everybody, simultaneously inspiring the love and fear that assure the perpetuation of the totalitarian state. More than any of 1984's other characters, Big Brother has entered the English language and the popular consciousness.
This dark-haired 26-year-old woman projects the image of a Party zealot, but secretly revels in her sexual escapades. Leading a double life comes naturally to Julia, an employee of the Ministry of Truth's fiction department. She sees the Party as an impediment to her unbridled sensual enjoyment of life, rather than as a malignant destroyer of humanity. She has never known any other system of government and therefore simply seeks to break the rules when she can. She is attracted to Winston because she can sense the rebelliousness in him as well.
But it is Julia's lack of deeper convictions that makes her so easy for the Party to break when she and Winston are captured and tortured. Unlike Winston, she does not harbor abstract moral or intellectual principles. She lives strictly for the moment. When Julia surrenders in the...
(The entire section is 1019 words.)