a grey man in a black world
Nümbrecht - November 2010
The Character of Winston Smith
How does Winston appear ?
•He‘s dressed in blue as a party member
•They are blue coveralls
•His uniformity is meant to make him melt into the
crowd; to stamp out the individuality in him
•In cinematographic terms he stands out slightly
because all of the background party crowd appear
•He is aloof
•He is a loner
Winston‘s Character (2)
How does Winston act ?
•He follows the party line at Minitrue
•He stays mostly non-commital amongst the others in the
•He writes the forbidden diary out of sight of Big Brother
•He responds to Julia‘s advances
•He is out of his depth with O‘Brien
•He offers love and his thoughts to Julia
•He is helpless in the face of torture
•He denies Julia and breaks absolutely in the end
Winston‘s Character (3)
He reveals his thoughts at significant moments:
[Winston writes in his forbidden diary]
If there is hope, it lies in the proles. If they could
become conscious of their own strength, they would
have no need to conspire. History does not matter to
Winston Smith: [reciting poem]
Under the spreading chestnut tree / I sold you /
You sold me.
Winston‘s Character (4)
He gets the reactions of others:
Winston Smith: Look, I hate purity. Hate goodness. I don't want
virtue to exist anywhere. I want everyone corrupt.
Julia: Well, I ought to suit you, then. I'm corrupt to the core.
Winston Smith: Do you like doing this? I don't mean just me...
Julia: I adore it.
O'Brien: What are your feelings towards Big Brother?
Winston Smith: I hate him.
O'Brien: You must love him. It is not enough to obey him. You must
Faced with Big Brother’s massive
machinery of control
there is something of the ‘little boy lost’
about Winston. But who can blame
him for being CONFUSED?
When there is work to be done or problems to
be reflected upon Winston concentrates hard
and shows concentration and focus
He is part of the world of Big Brother.
He rewrites history for them.
He compromises as much as necessary
to remain secure within the system.
Until he meets Julia he keeps his private
thoughts and doubts to himself and his diary.
He is an introvert. and he is secretive
Introverted and secretive
Peace stolen from the flux
When apparently alone with Julia,
he experiences moments of peace
stolen from the chaos around him
Reflective, non-commital and
He listens, he observes and understands a lot but he
keeps it to himself until he meets Julia the active yet
eventually destructive catalyst in his life..
Winston plays chess
with the system
The symbolism is visually clear as is
his later denunciation of his own actions
He effectively co-operates in his own
brainwashing and destruction when
captured and tortured by O‘Brien
Desire for a fellow-spirit
His desire to be understood, loved and find a
companion who thinks as he does together with
his wish to be recognized somewhereleads him
to accept O‘Brien too readily at face value.
In such a crazy, crazed world self-doubts
become normal. There are few orientation
points. Only Julia and the proles provide any.
William Empson (1930) spoke of seven types of ambiguity.
He critiqued poetry and regarded ambiguity as the highest creative skill.
We will look at ambiguity related to the central protagonist Winston.
•He loves and hates Julia and O‘Brien
•He is hero and anti-hero
•He is courageous and a coward
•He is in the system and outside of it
•He can marvel at the party‘s control and the proles relative freedom
•He sees the contradictions of history; real and fake
•He sees beauty in ugliness
•He perpetuates the system yet struggles against it
•He understands his freedom and imprisonment
Thank you for listening