In 1984, why does Winston consider himself a dead man in chapter 2?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Winston Smith reflects on the fact that he is already a dead man after he begins writing his thoughts down in his diary. Winston understands the decisive step that he has taken when he begins to formulate his negative thoughts towards the government. Winston then writes, "Thoughtcrime does not entail death: thoughtcrime IS death" (Orwell, 36). In Orwell's dystopian society, the Thought Police are an efficient, enigmatic government force that tracks down dissidents and arrests them. Now that Winston has made the decision to write his rebellious thoughts in his diary, it is only a matter of time before he is arrested. Winston is under constant surveillance in Oceania, and his revolutionary beliefs will not go unnoticed. Winston is continually reminded that he is being watched every time he sees the Party’s posters, which read, "BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING” (Orwell, 4). Later on in the novel, Winston forms a relationship with Julia and becomes increasingly rebellious. Eventually, Winston is captured in his rented room above Charrington's shop by the Thought Police. He is then tortured until he becomes a genuine supporter of Big Brother.

timbrady eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Winston is a divided man.  He knows the power of the state, he knows how it controls information, he knows that it will find out everything tht he is doing,and when they do, he will be a "dead man."  On the other hand, he has romantic illusions that someone, someone will be able to "break" the system, will step out of the state's control, and destroy that system.  He suspect that "The Brotherhood" exists, that Goldstein exists, that O'Brien may be the link to the Brotherhood --- all nonsense, but the other half of Winston.

So transcending reason, Winston continues to act against his own best interests, perhaps suggesting that we are not as "reasonable" as we like to think we are.