Winston Smith is the main character of Nineteen Eighty-Four. Although the story is told by a third-person narrator, the point of view is limited to Winston and we get full access to his point of view.

Both his first and last names can be read as symbolic.

The last name Smith is one of the most common names in the English-speaking world, which shows that he is meant to represent an everyman, a representative of the average human being – and how such a person might react to a dystopian reality.

The first name Winston may be inspired by Winston Churchill, who was Prime Minister of Great Britain during the Second World War and an important person in the Allies’ struggle against Nazi Germany. This is meant to highlight the fact that Winston is a rebel who fights against an oppressive regime, even though his story ends in defeat rather than victory.

Winston is a developing character, as he changes dramatically as the story progresses through its three parts. We have therefore split our characterisation of Winston into three parts as well.

Part I

Winston is a 39-year-old man at the beginning of the story. He is described as having a “smallish, frail figure”, and the description continues: “His hair was very fair, his face naturally sanguine, his skin roughened by coarse soap and blunt razor blades and the cold of the winter that had just ended” (p. 4).

He is also not physically fit, as we learn he has “a varicose ulcer above his right ankle” (p. 3) and a persistent, violent cough (pp. 33-34). It is also suggested that he has an alcohol problem, as he regularly uses gin as a tool to calm his emotions (p. 7).

Winston is a member of the Outer Party (p. 33), which forms a sort of ‘middle class’ in London. He therefore wears the “blue overalls which were the uniform of the Party” (p. 4). Despite this, there are signs that he lives in poverty, as he struggles to acquire razor blades and his apartment building is in a poor state.

Winston works in the Records Department of the Ministry of Truth, where the Party changes published stories, images or videos so they fit the version of reality that the Party wants to create (pp. 41-45). Winston finds some enjoyment in his job, as it occasionally gives him intellectual challenges:

Winston’s greatest pleasure in life was his work. Most of it was a tedious routine, but included in it were also jobs so difficult and intricate that you could lose yourself in them as in the depths of a mathematical problem. (p. 46)

However, Winston is secretly against Big Brother and the totalitarian state which he lives in, even though he knows these rebellious thoughts will probably cost him his life.

His first, simple act of rebellion is to purchase a diary, in which he secretly writes his real feelings about the Party,...

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