To what extent does winston smith successfully resist oppression in 1984?

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amymc eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Resisting the mental, physical and intellectual oppression of the Party is usually met with instant vaporization - death.  However, for Winston, resisting that oppression is vital to his own happiness. 

Early in the novel Winston is portrayed as a sickly, thin, depressed individual.  Instead of mindlessly following the Party's dictums, he begins to seek ways of expressing his own thoughts and opinions.  One way in which he accomplishes this feat is by illegally obtaining a diary and hiding in a small spot in his room unseen by the everpresent telescreens.  Here, he uses his diary to record his real, and treasonous, thoughts about the party, such as "Down with Big Brother," and "if there is hope, it lies in the Proles " (Part 1). 

Later, he seeks remedy for his physical needs by engaging in a sexual relationship with a woman who seems to share his views.  They rent a room in a prole neighborhoods to share intimacy and thoughts about joining a rebellion which exists only in rumor.  Both of these activities provide outlets for Winston both physically and emotionally, and the result is a healthy weight gain and a lessening of his physical ailments.

However, his resistance is short-lived.  He is discovered and arrested, missing death only through an interminable period of torture and reintegration into the Party, where he then becomes almost a shell of his former self.  If he had the ability to say it was worthless, he might have done so, but the reader will never know.

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