What does the smashing of the coral paperweight signify in 1984?
In the stark, utilitarian world Orwell portrays, there is almost no beauty. Winston and his girlfriend must go outside the boundaries of Big Brother’s world in order to find beauty to enjoy together, like the pastoral countryside landscape they sneak off to for trysts and the small room that they share in the back of the antiques store. The coral paperweight that Winston buys from the store and puts in that room signifies for him the beauty of the world. “It’s a beautiful thing,” says the store owner when Winston buys it, “there’s not many that’d say so nowadays.” In the modern, totalitarian climate, people have lost the ability to appreciate beauty because they’re allowed so little of it. Consequently, when the government agents break the paperweight as they seize Winston and his girlfriend, this signifies that Winston’s brief moment to appreciate the wonder of being in love and being (somewhat) free is now over.