From Orwell's 1984, how does Winston Smith clearly not portray the qualities of a heroic character?  What are some quotes that could be used to prove this? 

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Orwell constructs Winston Smith as a protagonist that does not embody the traditional characteristics of a heroic character.  He is heartfelt about his resistance, but Orwell creates a hero that fails.  This is not the Quixotic hero, but rather one who is withered and weakened by the external reality.  Unlike Quixote, the readers does not fully remember all that Winston set out to do, but rather recognizes in his failure likes the flawed condition of human beings.

Winston is perfectly ordinary, with a respectable job within the social order of Oceania.  While Winston is a rebel and does want to challenge authority, his failures are where Orwell constructs him as representative of what it means to be human, more than what it means to be heroic.  When Winston is captured, there is not the brave resiliency of a hero.  Rather, there is capitulation.  Winston does not portray the qualities of a hero when he is arrested and tortured because he succumbs to his fear of rats.  It is at this point where Orwell shows him to be not necessarily heroic, but more of a human being.  For him to portray truly heroic qualities, Winston would overcome his fear of rats. Rather, in acquiescing to it, Winston merely shows himself to be a human being.

In the world of Oceania, Big Brother, and the Party, there can be no heroes.  Human beings are merely meant to be controlled, as parts of a larger configuration.  It is here in which Winston is not a hero.  Rather, he is simply fulfilling his part in what Oceania wants to communicate to all of its citizens.  This is seen in the final moments of the narrative.  Orwell develops Winston in these final moments as not a hero, but a broken human being, one who has been crushed by the power of the forces around him:

A violent emotion, not fear exactly but a sort of undifferentiated excitement, flared up in him, then faded again. He stopped thinking about the war. In these days he could never fix his mind on any one subject for more than a few moments at a time. He picked up his glass and drained it at a gulp. 

Winston is not shown to be a hero in this quote.  Rather, he is struggling as a human being, seeking to voice clarity and coherency in thought and action.  These are qualities which are not reflective of heroic status is a reflection of how Big Brother and the Party seeks to break down the will of the Oceanic citizen.

From an emotional standpoint, Orwell continues to show Winston as one who does not portray the qualities of a heroic character.  When his recollections move towards his meeting with Julia, it is clear that there is no heroism evident. His blunt statement that she shares of how each betrayed the other is far from heroic. Orwell uses this as an opportunity to show how human beings are capable of betrayal of those who hold intimate meaning.  It is not meant to be heroism, but rather a sense of realism:

They did not speak again. She did not actually try to shake him off, but walked at just such a speed as to prevent his keeping abreast of her. He had made up his mind that he would accompany her as far as the Tube station, but suddenly this process of trailing along in the cold seemed pointless and unbearable. He was overwhelmed by a desire not so much to get away from Julia as to get back to the Chestnut Tree Cafe, which had never seemed so attractive as at this moment. 

It is Orwell's genius to show that one of the challenges of the modern setting is that individuals have lost heroism, the quality of risk and courage to do what can be in the face of what is.  Winston does not fight for Julia, but rather seeks to go back to the Chestnut Tree Cafe where he could sit and be alone.  Such a characterization is far from heroic.  The ending of the novel is one where Winston is shown to be a sad human being, and not one of the confident and assertive hero.  Orwell's characterization is deliberate.  It is reflective of the modern condition, the logical result where external forces become far too powerful over the will of the individual.  Winston is the product of this reality, one where heroism is muted and silenced.

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