In Nineteen Eighty-Four, how do Syme and razor blades help define Winston Smith's character?

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Michael Otis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Syme and razor blades come togther when in the canteen the philologist and specialist in Newspeak asks Winston Smith if he has any razor blades to spare. "Not a one," Winston replies, guiltily. "They don't exist any longer." That both are juxtaposed in the same narrative area of the novel is no accident, and highly significant.  Syme and razor blades are keys to the novel's unique understanding of politics and power. As such they also frame a defining moment in the development of Winston Smith's character. In his lunchtime encounter with Syme, Winston remarks that there was always a shortage of some "necessary article" such as buttons or shoelaces in the party shops. "At present it was razor blades." Here in the humble, and routine, and very necessary ritual of shaving, the Party exercises total control in the same way as it does over the communication of ideas. Syme expresses it eloquently: "...the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought. In the end we will make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it." Syme describes more than a particularly virulent form of totalitarianism. Here is the practical working-out of the notion that language structures our perception of the phenomenal world. The essence of Newspeak is that language is infinitely malleable, and that the one which dominates it, the Party, rules the individual utterly. In a moment of illumination, Winston knows that Syme grasps this essential truth. Therefore, Winston knows for certain that Syme will be vapourized. And if Winston knows the fate of the philologist who is unorthodox, because he is conscious of the Party's motives, he also knows his own. "They don't exist any longer."

aiacia | Student

I think Winston Smith is happy with the 2 other razor blades he had still hoarding, I think he normally always wished to help other persons but not with the providing of razor blades that were already from him, cause he really wanted them only for himself, I think he liked his face well shaven, and certainly didn't want to grow a beard, I think it's nice when people want to help other people but not with everyting and not all the time, Winston to my opinion was certainly right to have kept the razor blades for himself, he had the right for at least that small 'luxury', and I think he might have himself that same view of it!