At a Glance

  • Winston Smith is the protagonist of 1984. He rebels against Big Brother by joining the Brotherhood.
  • Big Brother is the symbolic leader of the Party. He watches over Oceania's citizens night and day.
  • Julia falls in love with Winston and colludes with him to rebel against the Party.
  • O’Brien pretends to be a member of the Brotherhood. He later tortures Winston until the man has a psychotic break.
  • Mr. Charrington is secretly a member of the Thought Police. He disguises himself as an innocent shopkeeper.

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List of Characters

Winston Smith

Winston Smith is the pensive, fatalistic, and justifiably paranoid protagonist of George Orwell’s novel 1984. He is a member of the Outer Party and works in the Records Department of the Ministry of Truth. His job is to “rectify” historical records to align with the current rhetoric of the party. However, despite working for the Party, Winston secretly resents it. As the novel progresses, Winston becomes increasingly rebellious, coming to trust his own intellect over Party doctrine. He believes that the proles—short for proletariat—hold the key to liberating society and that his job is to spread dissent in the hope that they will one day revolt. (Read extended character analysis of Winston Smith.)

Julia

Julia is a twenty-six year old Outer Party member who works in the Fiction Department of the Ministry of Truth. She has dark hair and pale skin. Julia is a member of the Junior Anti-Sex League and prominently wears the red membership sash, much to Winston’s disgust. She also participates passionately in the Two Minutes Hate. After she hands Winston a note saying she loves him, they become illicit lovers. Beneath the veneer of Party loyalty, Julia is secretly rebellious. She has conducted a large number of sexual affairs and frequently buys black-market goods. (Read extended character analysis of Julia.)

O’Brien

O’Brien is an Inner Party Member whom Winston comes to greatly admire. He is described as a brutally ugly man with an imposing presence. Winston believes that O’Brien may also harbor anti-Party sentiments and becomes fixated on the idea that O’Brien may be a member of the Brotherhood. Winston is proved correct when a few months after his affair with Julia begins, O’Brien approaches and invites him to join the Brotherhood. However, after Winston and Julia are arrested, O’Brien reveals that he was always a Party loyalist. O’Brien takes the lead during Winston’s rehabilitation, “saving” him and making him into the “perfect” Party member. (Read extended character analysis of O'Brien.)

Big Brother

Big Brother is the leader and figurehead of the Party. His visage is printed on posters and coins, and he is broadcasted on the telescreen regularly. Loyalty to Big Brother and to the Party are considered one and the same. The slogan “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU” conveys the sense that Big Brother—and by extension, the Party—is omniscient. Every move a Party member makes is carefully monitored. However, rather than being presented as a menacing surveiler, the name “Big Brother” is meant to convey a sense of safety and camaraderie. The message suggests that Big Brother watches over and protects Oceania. So, the people of Oceania should love and respect Big Brother in return. Yet for a thoughtcriminal like Winston, Big Brother becomes a more menacing presence. Instead of a beloved authority figure, Big Brother’s perceived omniscience becomes a source of anxiety.

The question of whether or not Big Brother truly exists remains unanswered. O’Brien claims Big Brother will never die. This implies that even if Big Brother is a real person, he essentially represents a bigger concept: Big Brother is the embodiment of the Party’s ideals. It is easier for the Party to focus people’s affections on an individual as opposed to a faceless organization. Ironically, the Party, which relies on the suppression of humanity, appeals to the human instinct to bond with and admire others. Just as they...

(The entire section is 2,124 words.)