What horrible realization does Winston have upon seeing the altered appearance of Mr. Charrington in 1984?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is Mr. Charrington, a older man with a cockney accent who owns a "junk shop" in the Prole District, a section of town that is considered slummy, who sells Winston the "thick blank quarto-sized book with a red back and a marbled cover." This is the diary in which Winston records his private thoughts. 

Later, in Part I, Chapter 8, Winston talks with an older man in a bar--

A very old man, bent but active, with white mustaches that bristled forward like those of a prawn--

but is frustrated because this man cannot remember how life was before the Revolution other than a "rubbish heap of details" that are insignificant. Later, Winston meanders into the junk shop and again sees Mr. Charrington as the proprietor, described this time as

a man of perhaps sixty, frail and bowed, with a long, benevolent nose, and mild eyes distorted by thick spectacles. His hair was almost white but his eyebrows were bushy and still black.

From him, Winston purchases a coral paperweight reminisient of a rose or sea anemone. In addition, it suggests another age. The owner leads Winston to another room that seems particularly inviting, a room, the old man says, that he and his wife used to occupy--a room with no telescreen. Winston also notices an old painting of St. Clemens church.

In Book II, Winston meets the rebellious Julia and begins an erotic affair with her; in Chapter 4, he rents the little room from Mr. Charrington for his rendez-vous with Julia. There, they share splendid moments in which they can forget what life is really like. But in Chapter 10, their illusions of happiness and Winston's sense of security with Julia comes to an abrupt ending. As they talk in the morning, Winston reminds Julia of the thrush they heard the night before--perhaps, an allusion to Thomas Hardy's "darkling thrush" who heralds a new century--and, then, there is a crash as the picture of the church falls, revealing a telescreen and a ladder has been hoisted and the panes of the window broken along with his beautiful paperweight. Men in black uniforms enter, followed by a man who somehow resembles Mr. Charrington. Amazingly, the demeanor of the men in the black uniforms suddenly changes.

Something had also changed in Mr. Charrington's appearance. His eye fell on the fragments of the glass paperweight....the cockney accent had disappeared; Winston suddenly realized whose voice it was that he had heard a few moments ago on the telescreen. Mr. Charrington was still wearing his old velvet jacket, but his hair, which had been almost white, had turned black. Also, he was not wearing his spectacles.

Obviously, Mr. Charrington has been disguised as a friendly old man. Standing straighter with no bushiness to his eyebrows, the wrinkles have disappeared. and the nose seems shorter, Mr. Charrington's appearance is greatly altered. It was the cold face of a man of thirty-five, and with a fearful recognition, Winston knows he belongs to the Thought Police. Chillingly, Mr. Charrington embodies the motif of how no one is safe from the watchful eyes of Big Brother. Charrington personifies the deception, betrayal and cruelty of the world of 1984.