In 1984, Winston Smith is distant from most of his coworkers. Recall how he works across from a man named Tillotson, who is extremely secretive. He has “no idea” what Tillotson really does. In fact, he does not really know what anyone around him does because “people in the records department did not readily talk about their jobs.” He also works near a poet named Ampleforth, who has a “surprising talent” for writing poetry and who eventually ends up in jail for using the word “God.”
Winston also has a “friend” named Syme, but note how the narrator says “friend was not exactly the right word,” because people don’t really have friends in this society. Winston actually does not really like Syme, but he spends time with him and reflects on his intelligence. He also realizes the dangers of it:
One of these days, thought Winston with sudden deep conviction, Syme will be vaporized. He is too intelligent. He sees too clearly and speaks too plainly. The Party does not like such people. One day he will disappear. It is written in his face.
Later in the text Syme does disappear, so Winston was evidently correct about Syme’s intelligence. However, even with the distant relationships he has with his coworkers, Winston’s “greatest pleasure in life was in his work.” It is not until the dark-haired girl enters his life that things really begin to change for him. She captures Winston’s attention and she looks at him intensely. This stresses him out, and he does not know what to make of her. Even questioning her motives makes him nervous, as “it was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place.” Eventually, Winston becomes close with the dark-haired girl, Julia, and the two begin an affair that changes the course of their lives.