In 1984, does Winston's solitary belief in overthrowing the Party suggest he is a lunatic or simply an individual thinker?

Quick answer:

The evidence in 1984 that supports the question of being a lunatic or just simply having individual thoughts is in the torture scene between O’Brien and Winston. Winston's waning resistance to O'Brien suggests that what qualifies as lunacy is the belief that one can think individually and survive in Oceania.

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Evidence that can help answer the question about individual thoughts versus lunacy can be found in the torture scene between O’Brien and Winston. Earlier, Winston wrote in his diary, “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four.” This sentence indicates individual thought. A person is free when they can say what they believe. It doesn’t matter what other people say. Individual thought relies on the ability to state what one feels and what one perceives as true.

However, in the end, Winston’s adherence to individual thought could come across as lunacy. O’Brien is thoroughly torturing Winston. The anguish will subside if Winston abandons his individual thoughts and tells O’Brien that he’s holding up five fingers when, in reality, he’s holding up four. Winston is not a lunatic, but it might strike some as crazy for him to continue to hold onto individual thought when it’s causing him great pain. Arguably, the rational thing to do is to tell O’Brien what he wants to hear. Soon, Winston does just that.

In a sense, the meaning of individual thought and lunacy are upside down in 1984. “The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears,” writes George Orwell. In such an oppressive setting, where survival is at stake, it’s possible to claim that what qualifies as lunacy is not two plus two equals five, but two plus two equals four. The former aligns with the Party and gives one a chance at survival; the latter leaves one alone and vulnerable to harrowing punishment.

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