What crime does the main character commit in 1984?

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amymc | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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Winston Smith commits thought-crime in the novel 1984.  This is a type of crime in which the offender's thoughts conflict with or defy the current laws or beliefs of the society.  The thought-police identify this crime through the actions of the offender either through the sophisticated and widespread surveillance of the society or through another individual turning that person in.

Thought-crime is hard to define and equally hard to prevent.  Winston's thoughts eventually manifest themselves in his desire for a forbidden physical relationship, his desire for personal reflection through his diary, and his desire to join an underground movement against Big Brother.

He is punished as all thought-criminals are:  through a terrifying visit to the Ministry of Love, Room 101.  While some thought criminals are completly vaporized both physically and historically, Winston is, after torture, brainwashed to reintegrate harmlessly into society.


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