1984

Class Conflict: Winston Smith in George Orwell's 1984

The title year of George Orwell's most famous novel is nineteen years past, but the dystopian vision it draws has retained its ability to grip readers with a haunting sense of foreboding about the future. At the heart of many of the issues touched on in 1984 is a subject of contemporary debate: the conflict of the individual versus the state. In the totalitarian world that Orwell paints, the position of the state as all-powerful only heightens the importance of the individual as counter-balance. In 1984, the characters that Orwell portrays are all the more important because the only possible rebellion is personal rebellion, so there are no heroic plots, only heroic people. Orwell's anti-hero protagonist Winston Smith notes that "[r]ebellion meant a look in the eyes, an inflection of the voice; at the most, an occasional whispered word" (60). The personal has become political, and so increased tenfold the importance of character in the novel .

While character is of paramount importance, the novel is also an expression of Orwell's own political ideas. The novel contains a long digression in the form of an illicit book that Winston reads, ostensibly written by Emmanuel Goldstein, a mythic...

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