How can Winston be seen as an unlikely hero?In George Orwell's novel '1984.'

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parkerlee eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The reader identifies with Winston through his weaknesses rather than for his strengths. He is no bigger-than-life Hercules but a tired, middle-aged, non-descript man reduced to subservience by "the system." Despite his doubts and deep feeling of angst, he collaborates with the state (at the Ministry of Truth) by rewriting "history" to its convenience.

Winston is not at all charismatic; he is not the kind of person who can rally people together for a common cause. He has the gut feeling that everything has gone terribly awry, but he has neither the mental resolve nor the emotiional reserve to fight back - until he meets Julia. Even then he betrays her when the pressure's on, is punished for his insubordination, and is finally conditioned to "love" Big Brother in the end. Winston is not the kind of character one can admire, but he does evoke pathos and pity. His vulnerability makes him so very human. If anything, Winston is an anti-hero, but he is nevertheless the protagonist of the story and an "Everyman" type all the same.

timbrady eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The definition of a hero has evolved over thousands of years.  The current understanding, as defined in enotes (reference below) is "the principal character of a plan, novel, etc."  By this definition, he is the hero of the story.  Is he "heroic" in any traditional sense of the word?  Probably not.  But it is impossible for any individual to be a hero in this story and I think that's the point.  There can only be a hero when there is an individual free to think and act as such.  When the state can control you to the point where objective reality disappears, where you are willing to accept whatever you are told, where 2 + 2 = 5 can actually BE the truth, then the heroic is impossible.

Winston is unlikely in the sad sense that this is what Orwell sees coming for all of us.

heatherxx | Student

Winston is a coward, a fool. His brains seem to be muddled from the months of tomfoolery with Julia. He is no hero, he is the enemy. A true hero would rise up, start a rebellion, not hide in the shadows. Prove me wrong.

decadence | Student

He is a normal guy. His views are no more special... his actions no more noble than any other guy on the street.

aiacia | Student

Or at least I thought he had pain in one of his shouders, I'm not really sure anymore, but I thought I had deducted that from the book, but now I'm not that sure anymore, but I thought it had something to do with the chapter about the physical jerks, anyway the book made it very clear to me that he suffered enough from his own body (varicose ulcer, easily tired) that I think yes, in general he might have had pain in his entire body, I should read back the entire book again, when I have more time!

aiacia | Student

I also think Winston isn't a hero, not even 'an unlikely one', but I also think he never wanted to be a hero, he collaborated with the state he lived in, certainly through the means of his job, but I think he had problems with that from (despite the fact of it seems, at times liking his job) the very first beginning, these problems only evolve as the story continues, to my opinion Winston is very charismatic, he's of course not the guy, who can rally people together 'for a common cause', but who can in such a society, Winston was the kind of thoughtful guy who kept (his) reality high in mind, and therefore of course he not so easily acted, he also seemed to have been someone who despite his 'very' bad health (easily tired, pain in one of his shoulders, varicose ulcer!) was anyway prepared to help, and care for, his fellow people, his fellow people - very much aware of that, they seemed - seemed to have been easily turning toward him when they for example were in search for razor blades, but that, luckily, was the one 'luxury' - in case he had any spare - that he was not willing to provide them with. Yes, I have to say, I like Winston very much, and I think he's the kind of guy I am very much willing to stand up for!

atilapaton | Student

I tend not to feel sorry for Winston. I tend to see that he could have tried more to endure and face the Big Brother regime by himself and by that I don't mean starting a rebellion, he's not that type. He could have said no to loving Big Brother, he could have stick to his own principles enticed by his love for Julia which he betrayed after all. He's an everyday person in a very outrageous output, I agree with that but that doesn't make him any less guilty of his own mistakes. He lost his own internal battle and that's the worst case.

titsmcgee33 | Student

Winston can't really be seen as a hero even though he the protagonist of the story.
Howvever, you can take this as on of the reasons the he is an 'unlikely hero'
In your generic plot, as the hero, he might have (but not necessarily) been younger. His age aside however, he would have developed from his image of ordinary subservient middle-aged man (with a number of undesirable physical and perhaps mental features) to a character that you as the reader can really appreciate his stuggles and feats. Contrary to this however, Winston doesn't fulfill the "hero mold" and betrays Julia and his initial ideal. In the context of 1984, when winston loses his freedom and surrenders to "2+2 = 5" the "hero" title can effectively be stripped from him.

himself | Student

Winston seems like an average middle aged person with slight health and social problems, yet unlike others in the party he still retains his own thoughts and can manage to see past all of the superficial slogans of Big Brother.

He can be seen as a hero because he seems like an average every day person that most people can probably relate to in more than one way. His weaknesses make him a appear human and it is through this way that he can be seen as an unlikely hero

ajk | Student

First of all I strongly believe that Winston Smith is not a hero.  I say this because Winston betrays Julia at the end of the book, and when looking back at all the events in the book Winston does stand out of the crowd, but at the end of the novel Winston becomes a normal person do to the brainwashing of the Party.