Winston Smith: a Free Thinker in the Most Oppressive of Circumstances

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Winston Smith, the protagonist in George Orwell’s novel 1984, is a classic example of a tragic hero fighting for a lost cause. Oceania’s entire population is under totalitarian rule and is completely unknown to the ideas of freedom of speech, action and thought. Winston’s rebellion in search for freedom ultimately ended in failure. Why, however, did Winston decide to Rebel? Early in the book, it becomes apparent that Winston is more intelligent than most residents of Oceania; he refused to believe the propaganda that the party continually spewed. It also becomes clear that Winston has a strong sense of self; he is an individual who did not let the party’s slogans define who he is. A characteristic that very prominently contributed to Winston’s downfall, however, was his indulgence. He indulged when he wrote a journal, rented a flat and had an affair with fellow party member Julia, all punishable by execution. All of these qualities eventually led to Winston’s failure.

Right from the beginning of the novel it is clear that Winston understands the way Oceania works more than most of it’s residents. It is this intelligence that allows him to see that the “Two Minutes Hate”, an assembly including everyone citizen where they scream and curse the enemies of Oceania and praise Big Brother at the end, is used as a tool to control people. He understands that hate is a very powerful tool used to demonize the enemy and therefore glorify Big Brother. Winston’s job, changing historical records to match up with the ever-changing past put forth by the party, also requires great aptitude. His intellect also helped him form, against the party’s wishes, his own sense of self.

Although the party sees it merely as a flaw in the reality it’s creating, Winston is an individual with his own interests and desires. At his work, an “intricate and responsible job” [Pg. 41] would give Winston a “faint feeling of satisfaction.” [Pg. 41] This might be the closest to a hobby that is...
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