Characterize Winston in chapters 1–3 of 1984.

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Winston Smith is characterized as a depressed and frustrated individual who hates his life and desperately attempts to maintain his sanity by writing in his secret diary. Winston Smith views the Party as an oppressive, abusive force and does not subscribe to their propaganda but is forced to feign happiness in order to avoid being tortured in the Ministry of Love. Winston despises the dystopian nation of Oceania and suffers from depression. His apartment is small and dilapidated, he is constantly under government surveillance, and must participate in required government exercises and rituals to avoid persecution.

Winston is also an alienated individual and does not trust or love anyone. He treats everyone as a government spy and passionately hates Julia, who he will eventually grow to love. Winston's frustration manifests itself into hatred toward Big Brother and his orthodox coworkers. Winston also experiences a significant amount of anxiety and is afraid that he will be identified as a political dissident.

Winston is also an insightful man who understands the tenets of Ingsoc and is aware of the government's lies. Unlike the other citizens of Oceania, Winston does not exercise doublethink or thoughtlessly accept the government's propaganda. He is also haunted by his past and continually dreams about his mother. Winston experiences a sense of guilt for his mother’s death and desires privacy, independence, and affection. Winston also desperately wishes to know what life was like before the Party but struggles to maintain his train of thought when the telescreen is continually shouting directions at him. Overall, Winston Smith is characterized as a depressed, frustrated individual who despises the Party and hates his oppressed life.

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mrs-campbell eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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From these chapters, Winston is revealed to be an incredibly frustrated, haunted, confused and miserable character.  He hates the government but knows he can't do anything about it, or that he is too afraid to do anything overt about it.  He hates the exercises, the telescreens, the clubs and patriotic groups that it runs, and he hates everyone that he perceives to be loyal to the government.  Yet, he works for the government and is, deep down, to afraid to do anything about it, even though he longs to.  So he has to live constantly with his hatred, which fights side-by-side with his fear.  It causes a lot of inner turmoil and misery for him.

Winston is also unsettled and confused, and haunted.  He has dreams about his mother and blames himself for her disappearance.  He is haunted by her memory and his potential role in her demise.  He also feesl that there has to be other people that hate the government, but is confused about how to contact them or know.  He is constantly second-guessing himself when it comes to figuring out who might be an ally or not, and also constantly paranoid about being caught for his unpatriotic thoughts.

It's not a pretty picture of a man that we get in the first three chapters of the book.  Winston is miserable, in many, many ways.  We understand that he is a smart person who longs to have more in life, but at this point, is totally unsure and baffled as to how to accomplish that dream. I hope that helped; good luck!

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karaejacobi eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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At the start of the novel, George Orwell describes the setting and Winston's place in it. While he hasn't reached the peak of his rebellious behavior yet, Winston is already starting to question the control of Big Brother and illegally recording his thoughts in a personal journal. Winston, at the start of his rebellion, is afraid of being caught, more so than he is later when he begins his affair with Julia. In chapter 1, the narrator describes Winston as "writing in sheer panic" (10). Winston's early impressions of Julia and O'Brien are shared in this chapter. As Julia is a woman and "He disliked nearly all women," Winston feels "uneasiness" and "hostility" toward her. As for O'Brien, Winston "felt deeply drawn to him." Both relationships will evolve in significant ways in parts 2 and 3 of the novel.

Despite his incipient rebelliousness, Winston is described as participating (compulsively) in the Two Minutes Hate, getting as passionately involved in spewing insults at Goldstein as anyone else. In the third chapter, Winston begins to think more about his mother and the past and to try to reconcile what he thinks are memories with the official Party narrative of Oceania's history. Winston grows more and more curious about the past, and more eager to find evidence of a world before the Party, as the novel continues.

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