Saturday, April 7, 2012

Nineteen Eighty-Four ~ A study of Winston Smith

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Nineteen Eighty-Four ~ A study of Winston Smith

George Orwell wrote the political novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four to illustrate the consequences if the state gained too much power and control over its citizens. Orwell conveys this idea through the experiences of an individual who dares to think freely in a world where freedom of thought can be considered a crime. This individual is, Winston Smith, and although he is centrally controlled by the government, as are all the other characters, he possesses some individuality. This proves to be his eventual downfall. He works at the Ministry of Truth, rewriting records of the past, where he begins to feel that the past is better than the present.

There is nothing particularly significant about Winston’s physical appearance. He is years old, is quite small and not very strong. He is red faced, has fair hair and has a varicose ulcer above his right ankle. Like everyone else he wears the compulsory blue Party uniform. Winston however is not only physically malnourished but also mentally malnourished. He doesn’t have much contact with other people and so physically and emotionally he has a constant hunger. He craves physical health and mentally tries to escape from a wicked system of ideas.

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Winston hates the Party and Big Brother.

“…he had also been writing, as though by automatic action. And it was no longer the same cramped awkward handwriting as before. His pen had slid voluptuously over the smooth paper, printing in large neat capitals-






Over and over again, filling half a page.” (P. 0 chapter 1)

He lives in a world where freedom of thought is a crime, and so he starts to write a diary in secret. To make things worse, the party makes Winston think he is crazy for wanting to be free to think and wanting to remember.

“You know perfectly well what is wrong with you. You have known it for years, though you have fought against the knowledge. You are mentally deranged. You suffer from a defective memory. You are unable to remember real events, and you persuade yourself that you remember other events which never happened.”

(P. 58 chapter )

In this quote O’Brien attempts to make Winston believe that he is crazy.

In his private writing, Winston creates the opportunity to think and feel for himself. The diary tells us about each stage of Winston’s rebellion from the early entries until his final tragic submission. Orwell’s use of the narrator stops us from completely identifying with Winston, however with the use of the diary we can share Winston’s inner thoughts and feelings.

As the reader I felt that Winston had a very pessimistic view of life. Everything about Winston’s life drives him closer and closer to a suicidal point each day. In his working life he rewrites the truth making up elaborate stories to cover up past events. He becomes more and more disenchanted as the book progresses. This is apparent in chapter 5 when Winston has lunch with two colleagues, Syme and Parsons, and they discuss the merits of the Newspeak Dictionary. Syme explains his support for the system, demonstrating that he has been brainwashed by the Inner Party.

“It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words…In the end the whole notion of goodness and badness will be covered by only six words-in reality, only one word. Don’t you see the beauty of that, Winston? It was B.B’s idea originally, of course,” (P. 54 chapter 5)

Syme sees the destruction of words as a “beautiful thing” whereas Winston finds it depressing to see Syme believing these lies that the Party have enforced on him.

Winston is a lonely, isolated character who struggles to rebel. Julia is unable to give him much support, he fails to communicate effectively with the proles, whose way of life he would prefer to his own, and he is betrayed by O’Brien when he attempts to join the Brotherhood. At this point when he is arrested he is so alone he cannot fight against the Party’s attempts to convert him.

We have seen in the first part of the book how Winston detests the world of Nineteen Eighty-Four. In the second part of the book he desperately tries to build an alternative world. As we read through part three we see his view of life being cynically taken apart piece by piece.

When he is taken prisoner by the thought police the process of demoralising him begins at the Ministry of Love. Winston is kept in a state of constant fear, he is tortured and drugged, but at the end of this although he tries to believe what the party wants, even accepting that +=5, his emotions for Julia are too strong.

“O’Brien held up his left hand, it’s back towards Winston, with the thumb hidden and four fingers extended.

‘How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?’


‘And if the Party says that it is not four but five-then how many?’


The word ended in a gasp of pain. The needle on the dial had shot up to fifty-five.” (P. 61-6 chapter )

In room 101 Winston is forced to face up to his worst fear- in his case, rats, and eventually he begs for Julia to take the pain instead of him. At this point he is not a very courageous or admirable character.

We have seen at various stages of the book that Winston really wanted to live a better life, but he is always inhibited by the way of life around him. Finally in room 101 he is forced to love Big Brother and the Party as a result of brainwashing.

“He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.”

(P. 11 chapter 6)

Therefore we can now see that, Winston has become a pitiful, pathetic character unable to distinguish between real and unreal.

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