George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four: Winston Smith's rebellion

Seminar Paper, 2001
15 Pages, Grade: gut (2)



I. Introduction

II. Main part
2.1 Winston Smith’s first appearance – Facts about his life in Oceania
2.2 The development of Winston’s rebellion in dependence on his love affair with Julia
2.2.1 First indicators of his future rebellion
2.2.2 Winston and Julia – How they get in touch with each other
2.2.3 Winston and Julia – How their love affair develops The room in Mr Charrington’s junk shop – Their private meeting place O’Brien, an Inner Party member as a decoy Their captivity
2.2.4 The giving up of their relationship and their whole lives

III. Conclusion

I. Introduction

I decided to write an essay about George Orwell’s utopia Nineteen Eighty-Four and, more explicit, about the protagonist’s rebellion because this story about a citizen being a “passive victim of state oppression”[1] touches my feelings very deeply.

Nineteen Eighty-Four was published in 1949, a time which was characterized by the consequences of the Second World War and the communism of the Eastern Bloc.

These relevant events of mankind find expression in Orwell’s utopia and form the fundament of its contents. Orwell forecasts the possibility of a black future within the frame of that knowledge which might be considered as a warning of the population. Still moved by the upsetting experiences of the last years, he tries to make the people aware of the fact how important morality is.

Nevertheless Nineteen Eighty-Four is more likely a “satire on existing practices, drawing them out to absurd extensions”[2], than a “straight attack to socialism”[3]. It is obvious that Orwell does not give any personal comment about what is going on in the world, “[e]verything that Orwell wants to say about totalitarianism is communicated through the sensations and thoughts of Winston Smith”[4].

My essay aims at the description of the development of Winston’s rebellion, its increase, climax and decrease. To describe his character in connection with his rebellion it is necessary to deal with the ideology and the system of the state he lives in. At first I am providing the reader with facts about his normal life in Oceania: his outer appearance, his social status depending on his job, his past referred to his family and his former wife. Winston is playing the part of a “figure[…] of no worldly success and of unenviable physique; somewhat educated [...]; no longer young, sexually frustrated; self-conscious and self-pitying”[5].

I am concentrating on his love affair with Julia and its effects on Winston’s personality then. His real nonconformity evidently starts with the first moment he gets in touch with her. Different subjects like the room in Mr Charrington’s junk shop, O’Brien, a member of the Inner Party, and at last their captivity give the reader an orientation over the stages Julia and Winston are running through.

II . Main part

2.1 Winston Smith’s first appearance – Facts about his life in Oceania

“[...] a smallish, frail figure, the meagreness of his body merely emphasised by the blue overalls which [are] the uniform of the Party. His hair [is] very fair, his face naturally sanguine, his skin roughened by coarse soap and blunt razor blades“[6] – this is how we get to know Winston Smith at the beginning of Orwell’s utopia.

He is a man of about thirty-nine years, “born in 1944 or 1945“[7], and lives in “London, chief city of Airstrip One“[8] which belongs to Oceania, a completely totalitarian police state, and was called England or Britain in times gone by.

“[T]he world has been divided into three blocs, Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia, constantly at war but with no hope or indeed intention of victory”[9].

Oceania’s society consists of different shifts, “a system which is hierarchical in power and privilege”[10]: the fundament of the pyramid form the Proles, manual workers who live like animals in an uncontrolled world. They make up eighty-five percent. One step higher come the Outer Party members who form a mass of thirteen percent. The Inner Party members (two percent) are described next as “the brain of the state”[11] ; Big Brother, the all-seeing and all-powerful ruler of Oceania whose magnetic eyes store out from every billboard, stands at the top of the pyramid. The higher a person is situated in the pyramid, the more power, knowledge and intelligence he possesses.

Winston is introduced as a member of the Outer Party. He works in the Ministry of Truth, and his task is to censure every kind of literature, “newspapers, [...] books, periodicals, pamphlets, posters, leaflets, films, sound-tracks, cartoons, photographs“[12], i.e. to eliminate original copies of news that could endanger the stability of the state. By falsifying every note and altering the past every prediction of the Party can be shown by proof.

It is said that Winston can hardly remember his parents and his sister. They had to die and sacrifice their lives to his own when he was a ten-year-old boy.

Also characteristic of his outer appearance is a “varicose ulcer above his right ankle“[13] which is referred to several times.

Orwell mentions in passing that the protagonist has been married to a woman called Katharine. They parted about eleven years ago, and they had only lived together for fifteen months. The state does not allow divorce, so they separated without having cancelled their marriage properly. Winston does not even know now whether she is still living or not, he is not even able to remember properly that they were a couple and that Katharine existed in his life.

She might be the reason for his bad attitude towards women. Although Katharine and Winston had a problem to exchange tenderness she wanted to have a baby in order to fulfil the duty of every human being in this state. The purpose of every marriage is reproduction so that the offspring can also serve for the state[14].

Winston is going to a prostitute regularly at intervals of the year. He would like to have a real girlfriend but the state does not permit friendships either. They have to destroy one’s natural desires and teach the citizens chastity because the animal instinct would tear the Party to pieces[15].

2.2 The development of Winston’s rebellion in dependence on his love affair

with Julia

2.2.1 First indicators of his future rebellion

Even at the beginning Winston is different from the others although he is a “recognizably ordinary character”[16]. He does not actually fit into this system, he is intelligent and reflecting upon his life. That means that he is questioning the sense of the population’s obedience, and he moreover does not enjoy his stupid work. But he does not show his disgust towards the state’s leader, he rather pretends to like his job and, for example, “[t]he Physical Jerks”[17] than to act against them. He even dislikes seeing the executions of criminals by which all the other inhabitants of Oceania feel attracted. The reason for the concealment of his true self is the fact that resisting Big Brother means being killed, vaporized, eliminated, being made a non-existent unperson[18].

Nevertheless Nineteen Eighty-Four starts with mentioning the fact that he is evidently deviating from the rules of the state: he has bought an old book and later a “paperweight with [an] embedded coral”[19] at a “junk shop in a slummy quarter of the town“[20] which party members are not supposed to go to. It is a book with empty, white pages and he does not know what to use it for when he buys it. He has been attracted by its look and carries it home guiltily.

When he enters a pub and talks to the Proles he tries to speak to an old man and get to know some facts about the past. Unfortunately he does not give satisfying answers.

Wanting to be informed about the past means a danger to the stability of the state, and for this reason it is forbidden.

When Winston gets to know the old room in Mr Charrington’s junk shop which does not seem to be provided with telescreens and bugs at the first glance, he is interested in renting the room[21]. That would give him the chance to spend time on himself without any superior control and would make life much easier. Telescreens do not only transmit propaganda, they also watch over individuals[22]. He always has to think about what he is doing, what he is saying, even how his face looks like because these little hints could betray a person that does not completely obey the leader of the Party.

These deeds are the first indicators of Winston’s rebellion although his feelings of guilt show that he is not sure whether to act in this way or not. He is aware of the consequences, e.g. punishment by death or at least a stay in a forced-labour camp, which makes him hesitate for a second.

Real rebels do not fear the consequences of their resistance, so one cannot state that Winston is a real rebel at that time. He actually needs someone who stirs him to execute illegal deeds, and that is the reason for the increase in rebellion when he is having a sexual relationship with Julia.


[1] Roger Fowler, The Language of George Orwell (London: Macmillan Press Ltd, 1995) 186.

[2] Ibid., 183.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., 186.

[5] Ibid., 184.

[6] George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four (London: Penguin Books, 2000) 4.

[7] Ibid., 9.

[8] Ibid., 5.

[9] Fowler, The Language of George Orwell, 182.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, 217.

[12] Ibid., 42.

[13] Ibid., 3.

[14] Cf. Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, 68-69.

[15] Cf. Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, 132.

[16] Daphne Patai, The Orwell Mystique: A Study in Male Ideology (Amherst: The University of Massachusetts

Press, 1984) 261.

[17] Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, 33.

[18] Cf. Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, 48.

[19] Alok Rai, Orwell and the politics of despair: A critical study of the writings of George Orwell (Cambridge:

University Press, 1988) 149.

[20] Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, 8.

[21] Cf. Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, 100.

[22] Cf. Fowler, The Language of George Orwell, 182.

Excerpt out of 15 pages


George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four: Winston Smith's rebellion
University of Dusseldorf "Heinrich Heine"  (Anglistisches Institut)
Proseminar: Utopian Literature
gut (2)
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George, Orwell, Nineteen, Eighty-Four, Winston, Smith, Proseminar, Utopian, Literature
Quote paper
Gaby Schneidereit (Author), 2001, George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four: Winston Smith's rebellion, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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