1984 Questions and Answers
by George Orwell

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When Winston Smith is captured in Part 3 of 1984, what is his serial number?  

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Winston's number of 6079 doesn't have any particular significance in itself. What is significant, however, is the very fact that Winston has a number in the first place. Most people have official numbers given to them by the government for ID purposes, whether it's Social Security numbers or the numbers you have on passports. But Winston has his official ID number simply by virtue of being a citizen of Oceania. Like everyone else, he's been given a number by the state since birth, a number that doesn't just identify him, but makes it easier for him to be monitored and controlled by the powers-that-be.

In this totalitarian state, all citizens have been stripped of their identity as human beings, deprived of all those special characteristics that make each and every one of us unique. Mindless conformity is now the norm. Everyone's expected to act the same way and think the same way, and woe betide those who don't get with the program. The state has effectively reconstructed each citizen's identity, with the sole purpose of controlling them. A mere number is an entirely appropriate emblem of this artificial identity as it is wholly impersonal, giving us no inkling as to the personality of the citizen to which it is attached.

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The answer to this can be found right at the beginning of Part 3, Chapter 1.  The answer is that Winston's serial number is "6079 Smith W."

What is interesting about this is that this is not a number that is given to him when he gets captured.  Instead, it is a number that has been his throughout the book.  We see it used for the first time in Part 1, Chapter 3.  There, the fitness instructor on the telescreen uses it.  This is a way of showing us how the whole society is like one giant prison.  People are so unfree in everyday life that they don't even need a new number when they are literally imprisoned.

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