1984 Questions and Answers
by George Orwell

1984 book cover
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How does Winston Smith link to the plot and the themes of 1984?

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The plot is the action in a novel that unfolds step by step. The theme is the message or meaning the author is trying to convey.

Winston Smith is central to both the plot and the theme of the novel. The story centers around what happens to him as sets out on a path of rebellion against the state. The story also follows his development as he moves from being largely dehumanized by his environment to regaining his humanity as he falls in love and enters into an old-fashioned romantic relationship with Julia. The second half of the novel focuses on how the state breaks Winston and causes him to betray his beloved.

The plot illustrates the novel's theme, which is that a humane, decent society is not built around constant surveillance, lies, and terror. We must not, as Winston's story shows, abandon old fashioned human values of love and decency. Truth matters, history matters, language matters, and democracy matters—because democracy spreads power widely across society, preventing the kind of abuses that Winston must endure.

Winston is called the "last man" because he tries to cling to the idea that there is a truth beyond raw power, a truth that lies in love, in facts (two plus two is four), and in human beings being allowed to think and reason for themselves. If he is crushed, he also acts as warning that we must not let the state attain too much power over individual lives.

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