A Big Brother in the novel 1984

Big Brother, the mysterious all-seeing, all-knowing leader of the totalitarian society is a god-like icon to the citizens he rules. He is never seen in person, just staring out of posters and telescreens, looking stern as the caption beneath his image warns “Big Brother Is Watching You.” Big Brother demands obedience and devotion of Oceania’s citizens; in fact, he insists that they love him more than they love anyone else, even their own families. At the same time, he inspires fear and paranoia. His loyal followers are quick to betray anyone who seems to be disloyal to him. Through technology, Big Brother is even able to monitor the activities of people who are alone in their homes or offices.

Of course, Big Brother doesn’t really exist, as is clear from the way O’Brien dodges Winston’s questions about him. His image is just used by the people in power to intimidate the citizens of Oceania. Orwell meant for Big Brother to be representative of dictators everywhere, and the character was undoubtedly inspired by Adolf Hitler, Francisco Franco, Joseph Stalin, and Mao Tse-tung, all of whom were fanatically worshipped by many of their followers.

B Mr. Charrington in the novel 1984

Mr. Charrington is an acquaintance of Winston’s who runs a small antique/junk shop and rents Winston a small room above it. Winston and Julia do not realize he is actually a cold, devious man and a member of the Thought Police. Charrington is responsible for Winston and Julia’s eventual arrest.

C Emmanuel Goldstein in the novel 1984

Emmanuel Goldstein is the great enemy of Big Brother. An older Jewish man with white hair and a goatee, Goldstein is a former Party leader but now the head of an underground conspiracy to overthrow the Party. When his face is flashed on telescreens, people react to him as if he were the devil himself, frightening and evil. He personifies the enemy. Winston fears him yet is fascinated by him as well. He thinks Goldstein’s speeches, which are broadcast as a warning against anti-Party thoughts, are transparent and shakes his head at the thought of people less intelligent and more easily led than him being taken in by such revolutionary talk. Yet Winston changes his mind later, and as he reads Goldstein’s revolutionary tract, “The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism,” he is more impressed than ever by Goldstein’s ideas.

Goldstein is reminiscent of Leon Trotsky, the great enemy of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin who led an unsuccessful revolt and was later brutally murdered by Stalin’s men. It is no accident that he is a Jewish intellectual-dictators Stalin and Adolf Hitler deeply feared and hated the Jewish intelligentsia.

D Julia in the novel 1984

At first Winston doesn’t like Julia because she seems like a zealous pro-Party advocate. Moreover, she is also a member of the Anti-Sex League, and deep down Winston resents that he will never be able to have sex with her. However, when he takes her up on her request that they meet privately, Winston discovers that Julia is smart and funny and loves sex, and she doesn’t care at all about Big Brother. As for her membership in the Anti-Sex League, she is simply doing what is expected of her in society. A pretty woman with dark hair and freckles, she is basically a simple woman who doesn’t worry about the revolutionary implications of her actions; she does what she does because it feels good and right. She cares little about revolution and even falls asleep when Winston is reading from Emmanuel Goldstein’s revolutionary tract. Julia is practical as well. For instance, she is discreet in arranging her meetings with Winston and warns him that they will eventually get caught.

When they are caught, it is Julia who insists that her love for Winston cannot be destroyed, but she betrays Winston more quickly than he betrays her (at least, according to O’Brien), and when they finally meet again she is indifferent to him.

E Katharine in the novel 1984

Winston’s wife. She was a tall, fair-haired girl, and, according to Winston, remarkably vulgar and stupid. Technically, he is still married to her, though they’ve lost track of each other. They parted ways about ten or eleven years ago, after only fifteen months of marriage, when they realized that she could not get pregnant by him. The Party has declared that the only reason for marriage is procreation, and in fact it is illegal to have sex simply for pleasure. Therefore, there was no reason for Winston and Katharine to stay together. The Party does not believe in divorce, just separation, so Winston and Katharine just sort of drifted apart.

Readers only see Katharine through Winston’s memory of her, and her main purpose in the novel is to show how the Party destroys love, sex, and loyalty between husband and wife.

F O’Brien in the novel 1984

O’Brien is a member of the Inner Party. He is a large, burly, and brutal-looking man, and yet Winston thinks he has a certain charm and civility. Winston suspects he is very intelligent and may share his subversive views of society. When O’Brien reveals that he does have revolutionary thoughts, Winston is excited to go with him to a secret underground meeting led by Emmanuel Goldstein. The group aims to overthrow the Party. Winston does not realize that O’Brien is secretly loyal to the Inner Party and that the secret underground group is simply a set-up by the Party to detect potential subversives. O’Brien betrays Winston and becomes his interrogator and torturer. It is he who reveals to Winston that the true, ugly purpose of the Party is to stay in power for power’s sake. Like the Party, O’Brien cares for one thing only: power. He has no personal ambition, however. He only needs and wants to be a part of the Party’s power structure.

As a torturer, O’Brien reveals himself to be extremely intelligent and sophisticated. His relationship with Winston is complicated and twisted. O’Brien seems to respect Winston, and he enjoys their conversations because Winston is a challenge. O’Brien and Winston ought to hate each other; after all, it’s O’Brien’s job to brainwash Winston and thereby destroy him. Still, they are drawn to each other out of respect and mutual understanding.

G Old Man in the novel 1984

Old man is a prole who lives near Winston. He remembers a lot about the past, but only insignificant snippets of his own life, so he can’t answer Winston’s pressing questions, such as, “Was life better then than it is now?” Winston describes him as an ant who can’t see the bigger picture.

H Tom Parsons in the novel 1984

Winston’s neighbor, Tom Parsons, is a representative of the proletariat, or working class. His children, like children in Nazi Germany, belong to scout-like organizations sponsored by the government. They wear uniforms and are encouraged to betray their parents to the authorities should they see any signs of disloyalty. His wife, Mrs. Parsons, is about thirty but looks much older because she lives in constant fear of her own children. Tom Parsons, age 35, is sweaty, fat, pink-faced and fair-haired. He is also not very bright, a zealous man who worships the Party. Eventually, his daughter turns him in for Thoughtcrime because he says “Down with the Party” in his sleep. He tells Winston he is grateful he was turned in before his terrible thoughts became conscious.

I Prole Woman in the novel 1984

A heavyset neighbor of Winston’s, he watches her singing to herself as she hangs out the laundry. She is a symbol of the future, representing the spirit of the proletariat that cannot be crushed.

J Winston Smith in the novel 1984

Orwell named his central character Winston Smith after Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of England during World War II; he also gave him the most common British last name, Smith. A thirty-nine-year-old man who works in the Ministry of Truth, Winston Smith is fairly ordinary. His heroism is heartfelt, not out of false notions of rebellion for the sake of power and glory. Because of the visceral nature of his actions, he acts in a foolhardy manner. For example, he keeps a diary in order to record events as he experiences them, even though he is very likely to get caught by the Thought Police. Similarly, he rents the room above a junk shop to use as a love nest with Julia despite the obvious risks. Finally, Winston trusts O’Brien, not suspecting that he is a loyal member of the Inner Party who is trying to entrap him.

When he is captured and tortured, Winston continues his defiance as long as possible. He has a strange respect for his torturer, O’Brien, and seems to enjoy their battle of intellect, ideas, and wills. Indeed, he has been thinking about and fascinated by O’Brien for years, even dreaming about him. In a way, he seems happy to be confronting him at last.

K Winston’s Mother in the novel 1984

Dead for thirty years, Winston’s mother appears only in his dreams of the past. He recalls her as a fair-haired and self-possessed woman. He’s not certain what happened to her, but he thinks she was probably murdered in the purges of the 1950s (reminiscent of Joseph Stalin’s infamous purges in Russia, in which large numbers of people simply disappeared overnight and were murdered). Winston misses his mother greatly and feels guilty that he survived and she did not. In fact, he has the feeling that somehow she gave her life for his.

L Syme in the novel 1984

Syme, who works in the Research Department of the Ministry of Truth, is a small man with dark hair and large eyes. He is helping prepare a new dictionary of Newspeak which will eliminate even more words from the language. He is so smart and straightforward that Winston knows Syme is destined to be purged. Syme’s lack of savvy and self-protectiveness irritates Winston because he knows he is loyal to Big Brother.

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