How do Winston Smith from Orwell's 1984 and John Preston from the movie Equilibrium contrast and compare as foils?

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A "foil" is a literary term that describes one character that stands in contrast to another, usually in the same story. However, the characters Winston Smith from 1984 and John Preston from the movie Equilibrium certainly have enough differences and similarities to write about in your assignment.

For starters, both characters are similar in that they live in oppressive regimes. Winston lives under the rule of The Party, which demands absolute loyalty and rewards its citizens for betraying friends and family who may not be loyal anymore. John Preston lives in a society that solves conflict by making its citizens suppress emotions.

This is where the similarities end for the most part, however. But this is good because it means that you can write about how the two characters diverge, revealing much about their character. Winston is in the government, but at a low level, in the Outer Party. John Preston is a “cleric,” which is a respected and high-ranked position.

Winston also moves towards accepting The Party as unbeatable at the end of the novel, whereas John Preston eventually elects to fight against the regime at all costs. One approach you can take in your assignment is showing them on almost opposite paths, since Winston moves more towards rebellion early on, and more towards acceptance of the oppressive regime later.

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There are a number of quotes from both the film and novel that could connect these two characters, and I’d like to suggest a number of areas to hone your search. There are several connecting elements to each story I believe you should consider.

First, consider the worlds in which they live. Both Smith and Preston find themselves living in police states, but while Winston is a simple clerk, John Preston is a member of the police force—and an elite member at that. Both are responsible for some revision of history in their professions, though they approach it in dramatically different ways: Smith with the pen, Preston with violence and fire. You might look into quotes about their jobs to support these similarities and differences.

You might also find quotes that support the similarities between the images of Big Brother in 1984 and Father in Equilibrium. Both represent the government at large, and both are little more than propaganda. One is tied to fear and the other benevolence through the offering of Prozium.

Secondly, I think you’ll find plentiful contrasts in their successes and failures. Consider the ending of each text. Does Winston Smith get what he wants in the end? Does John Preston? One is far more successful than the other. While both men find women who help them achieve a kind of enlightenment in the face of totalitarianism, those relationships also end very differently.

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