George Orwell once offered this definition of heroism: "ordinary people doing whatever they can to change social systems that do not respect human decency, even with the knowledge that they can’t possibly succeed." In Winston Smith, the protagonist of 1984, Orwell creates an ordinary person, an “everyman” who stands for all the oppressed citizens of Oceania. Yet, as the novel closes, Winston cries as his love for Big Brother overwhelms him. Is Winston the novel’s hero, by Orwell’s definition? Is he a hero that readers can admire and emulate? Explain your position by tracing Winston’s actions throughout the novel and considering the results of those actions. Cite specific examples from the novel in your response.
Winston fits Orwell's definition of a hero. Winston shows himself a hero, first, by embarking on the path of decency and modeling what that looks like for us. He becomes the change he wants to see. Later, he shows his heroism in being willing to sacrifice himself to join an underground movement against the state.
As the novel opens, Winston is filled with a seething anger. His buying and writing in a journal, two subversive acts, signal his willingness to fight back against the system, even if his rebellion is ultimately futile.
However, at this point, Winston has internalized the dehumanization and violence of his society. For instance, although he is sexually attracted to Julia (though he doesn't yet know her name), in his fantasies he wants to rape and kill her. As he later tells her:
I wanted to rape you and then murder you afterwards. Two weeks ago I thought seriously of smashing your...
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