Winton Smith, 1984

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Select a character from a novel or play who conforms outwardly while questions inwardly. Analyze the nature and elements of this internal conflict, and discuss how the tension between conformity and defiance contributes to the meaning of the work.

Winston Smith, the protagonist of Orwell’s 1984 is an example of an everyday citizen in Oceania who obeys the rules of the government but questions them inwardly without speaking up. He is described as the only hope for the totalitarian system to be abolished, but ends up weaker than the readers think. The reader might admire his desire to overthrow the tyranny of the state; however he was fully aware of the consequences of his actions, which cause him to look more foolish and psychotic than brave. Winston Smith works as a clerk in the Records Department of the Ministry of Truth, where his job is to rewrite historical documents so they match the constantly changing party line. This involves revising newspaper articles and doctoring photographs — mostly to remove "unpersons," people who have fallen foul of the party. Because of his proximity to the mechanics of rewriting history, Winston Smith nurses doubts about the Party and its monopoly on truth. During a regular day at his work, Winston realizes that you can create a dead man and not a living one. The Ministry of Truth used forgery to make Comrade Ogilvy, exist in the past although he never existed in the present. However, Winston chooses to ignore this discovery and continue to work for The Ministry of Truth. Winston also guiltily buys a diary from Charrington although he was aware of the dangers of having it in his possession. It was not illegal to have this diary, since there were no laws enacted, however if detected it would reasonably be punished by death, or at least by twenty-five years in a forced-labor camp. He dipped the pen into the ink and faltered before marking the paper, proving he was conscious that it was a decisive act. He might’ve dodged it...
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