Nineteen Eighty-Four is one of Orwell's best-crafted novels, and it remains one of the most powerful warnings ever issued against the dangers of a totalitarian society where an individual is under constant surveillance and denied all personal freedom. It is a famous novel of dystopian in which there is only war and oppression instead of peace and order. We can experience the nightmarish world, the 'dark society' that Orwell envisions through the eyes of Winston Smith. But does Winston fit into this society? Does he want to fit after all?
He is a low-ranking member of the ruling Party in London, in the nation of Oceania. He works at the Ministry of Truth, where he rewrites old articles and retouches photos. Orwell describes him like this: [He is]...A small, frail figure, the meagreness of his body emphasized by the blue overalls which were the uniform of the Party." (Orwell, George: Nineteen Eighty-Four, Signet Classic, New American Library, 1961, chapter 1)
It becomes obvious that Winston cannot cope with the rules of the totalitarian state. As I also mentioned in the title of my essay, his personal tendency is to resist the stifling of his individuality. From my point of view, our protagonist is really speculative and curious, a so-called 'desperate figure' who wants to know why and how the Party --whose slogans were: "WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY AND IGNORANCE IS SRENGTH" (part 1, chapter 1, page 4) -- can exercise such absolute power in Oceania. The strength and the power of the Party are enormous. It has a minimalist artificial language, Newspeak, as mind control, psychological and physical manipulation, and the knowledge of the past.
On the one hand, Winston is aware of the oppression, so he rebels. Rebelliousness is one of his main attributes. But what forces him to rebel? One reason is that he hates the Party and wants to test the limits of its power. Actually, his rebellion against the Party begins when he writes in a diary. We can realise his amazing courage because of the draconian penalties involved in 'the decisive act' of writing into the diary. Winston nevertheless tries to find his greatest pleasure in his work while rebelling against the reality.
Orwell tries to point out that in this society --- where there is clearly absence of freedom from the authoritative figure and force of Big Brother --- survival means no personal loyalty. The only loyalties allowed are those to the Party and Big Brother.
In this world expression is greatly corrupted and limited. Winston commits countless crimes (thought crimes) throughout the novel. He believes that the Party will catch and punish him for committing a thought-crime, especially after he writes 'down with Big Brother' into his diary. The effort Winston puts into his attempt to achieve freedom and independence. He also writes in his diary that freedom is when we are free to say "two plus two makes four." At the end of the novel, he is totally sure that two plus two makes five. It is a symbol of the absolute oppression.
Another reason for rebellion is his sense of fatalism. I mean, that Winston finally must love Big Brother, because it enforces its harsh rights, so he attains a false happiness. It should be asserted though that he has fully submitted himself and accepted that there is no more hope. Orwell is allowed to know the same and so much knowledge that Winston has. The protagonist has never met such manipulator who is not manipulated by someone.
Therefore, everybody is manipulated by someone, so it is a vicious circle of the manipulation. I think it can lead to the fatalism.
On the other hand, Winston cannot trust anybody, neither Julia, with whom he falls in love. It can happen, because Julia is a striking contrast to Winston. She has sexual relationship with many Party members, and he fears her that she is a member of the horrible Thought Police. He believes he can trust his superior, O'Brien but we discover that he only breaks Winston through terror and torture.
Smith takes a lot of unnecessary risks - when trusts O'Brien or when he rents a room above Mr Charrington's shop, where only they and their love exist--, but he is aware of them. He knows that, in order to resist the stifling of his individuality, he must continue to rebel. In the face of the odds Winston becomes a character whom we must admire.
However; in such a horrible world, where every movement and act is controlled, and everywhere he looks or goes he sees telescreens and posters of Big Brother whose face bearing the message 'Big Brother is watching you', rebellious is difficult. It is really terrifying and morbid. Moreover, he knows he is alone in his rebellion. As a result, in my opinion, the fear is not a surprising attribute. Winston is very brave but he cannot take action against such a powerful organisation like Big Brother and against the totalitarian state in itself. There is no way to escape the Party, so his rebellion remains a solitary one.
He is a kind of innocent in a world gone wrong. He is a complete, sympathetic human being who is so real and so common that it is easy for us to identify with him. Winston embodies the values of a civilized society where democracy, peace, freedom, love and decorum exist. However, the 'dark society' in which he lives is totally the opposite of these values. Orwell tries to draw the attention to the horrible, often mysterious totalitarian world with enigmatic elements. While the writer gives the reader a close look into the personal life of Winston, the reader only glimpses of Party life. As a result, several Party inner workings remain unexplained. He represents the feelings in every human being, and it is for this reason that we hopes that things will change.
From my point of view, Winston is an irrelevant figure in the society, only one among many. He is determined that is important to resist of his individuality's suppression, but he is weak. The opposite power is too huge. It defines people's feelings and thoughts, and if they do something negative to the Party it will punish them cruelty. Thought-crime is death, not a possibility but a certainty. Winston continues his rebellion despite the possible consequences. We admire his rebellion but in his situation it is meaningless. He is unlikely to survive. He loses his spirit and humanity which are two significant characteristic features that he finds too hard to keep.
Orwell insists that Winston's fate can happen to anyone, and it is for this reason that Orwell destroys Winston in the end. When Winston is destroyed, these things are also destroyed with him. However, we can believe that these values are undying and a natural part of being human. Winston represents the struggle between good and bad forces, and tries to show where the lines are drawn, so we may understand Orwell's warning and see that the society of 1984 never happens in the future.
- Orwell, George: Nineteen Eighty-Four, Signet Classic, New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 1961
- Wadhams, Stephen: Remembering Orwell, Penguin Books, 1984, Canada
- Audrey Coppard and Bernard Crick: Orwell- Remembered, Birkbeck College, University of London, July 1983 (its headline: From Animal Farm to Nineteen Eighty-Four)
- Greenleaf, by Flannery O'Connor: Literary analysis 1984 by G. Orwell, 11 July 2003