The novel's protagonist. Winston is a quiet 39-year-old man living in Oceania in the year 1984. A Party member, Winston works at the Ministry of Truth correcting "errors" in past publications. Winston is also an amateur intellectual who nurses a secret hatred of the Party. To protect himself from discovery, Winston goes through the motions of outward orthodoxy, but relishes his internal world of dreams, memories and speculation about the past. Winston is married but separated, and has no children. Upon meeting Julia, he finds an outlet for his heretical opinions and for the love he yearns to share with another human being. His physical and mental health improves, and Winston starts to believe more powerfully in an established covert movement against the Party. Unfortunately, the affair is short-lived, and the couple is arrested. Winston is taken to the Ministry of Love and subjected to extensive torture and humiliation, which force him into submission. As a result of this experience, Winston loses all rebellious thoughts, gains unadulterated love for Big Brother and the Party, and eradicates his love for Julia. In short, Winston loses his humanity. Upon his release, he is a shell of a man, yet also an ideal, loyal, and devoted Party member.
A 26-year-old Party member who works in the Fiction Department of the Ministry of Truth. Julia also secretly despises the Party, but accepts its rule over her and therefore outwardly appears to be zealously devoted to the Party's causes. Julia declares her love for Winston, thus beginning their affair and setting them down the path towards their eventual imprisonment. Unlike Winston, Julia sees life simply, and is interested only in her survival and personal rebellion against the Party - not in long-term plans for the resurgence of democracy. Julia is arrested along with Winston and tortured in the Ministry of Love. When they meet again after their respective releases, Julia is spiritless, physically broken, and even nurses a vague dislike for Winston. Just like Winston, Julia leaves the Ministry of Love as a mere shell of a human being.
A prominent Inner Party member with whom Winston feels a strange bond. Winston feels that even if O'Brien is an enemy, it wouldn't matter because he knows O'Brien will understand him without explanation. O'Brien is a large, graceful, and clearly intelligent man who leads Winston to believe he is part of an underground movement against the Party, but in fact helps turn Winston in for thoughtcrime and tortures him in the Ministry of Love. O'Brien is full of strange contradictions. He can be fatherly - and even tender - even while fanatically expressing his devotion to the Party by torturing Winston.
The symbol of Oceania and the Party, Big Brother is Oceania's supreme leader, and is omnipresent through telescreen projections, coins, and even large posters warning, "BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU." Big Brother is theoretically one of the original founders of the Party and the Revolution, but Winston assumes he does not exist, will never age, and will never die. He is the mouthpiece of the Party, and the symbol all Party members worship.
The wife of Tom Parsons and neighbor of Winston's. A tired, aged woman with "dust in the creases of her face," Mrs. Parsons is the mother of two horrific children belonging to the Spies and Youth League and who are bound to eventually denounce her and her husband to the Thought Police. At the beginning of the novel, Mrs. Parsons knocks on Winston's door when he is writing in his diary to ask for his help unclogging the kitchen sink. Winston obliges.
Husband to Mrs. Parsons, and Winston's neighbor and coworker. Tom is a heavy, sweaty, simple man whom Winston despises for his unquestioning acceptance of everything the Party tells him. Parsons is active in his community groups, and appears to truly believe Party claims and doctrine. However, his daughter eventually denounces him to the Thought Police, claiming he was saying "Down with Big Brother" in his sleep. Winston sees Tom while imprisoned in the Ministry of Love, and Tom is ironically proud of his seven-year-old daughter for having done her duty.
A coworker of Winston's, Tillotson sits across from him in the Records Department and is extremely secretive about his work.
A coworker of Winston's, and a poet who works in the Records Department rewriting politically or ideologically objectionable Oldspeak poems. By the end of the novel, Ampleforth is in prison along with Winston, for, he believes having left the word "God" in one of his poems.
A "friend" of Winston's and a philologist working on the Eleventh Edition of the Newspeak Dictionary. Although Winston dislikes Syme, he enjoys having somewhat interesting conversations with him. Winston notices that Syme, although a devoted Party member, is too smart and too vocal for his own good. He predicts Syme will be vaporized, and is proven correct when he suddenly disappears.
Winston's wife, who never appears directly in the book but is discussed at some length. Winston describes her as "unthinkful" and claims she was absurdly devoted to the Party, to the point where she referred to sleeping with Winston to produce offspring as her "duty to the Party." The two never had children, and eventually separated. In a conversation with Julia, Winston reveals he was once tempted to murder Katharine when they were separated from others on a nature walk. However, he did not, and he assumes Katharine still lives, although he has not seen her in years.
The owner of the antique shop where Winston first buys his diary, pen, and later on a glass paperweight. Winston rents the room above the shop from Mr. Charrington for his love affair with Julia. Mr. Charrington appears to be a kind old man interested in history and the past, but later reveals himself to be a member of the Thought Police. Mr. Charrington leads Winston and Julia into his trap, and observes their action from the hidden telescreen in the room above the shop. As he is being arrested, Winston notices that Mr. Charrington looks entirely different, and has clearly been working under disguise for quite some time.
O'Brien's servant, Martin is a small, dark-haired man who Winston believes might be Chinese. He leads Winston and Julia into O'Brien's apartment and sits in on their meeting, but does not speak.
A former prominent Inner Party member who received the Order of Conspicuous Merit, Second Class. The subject of a "correction" Winston must make at the Ministry of Truth after Withers is vaporized.
A man Winston invents to replace Comrade Withers when "correcting" the news story surrounding the honors Withers, an unperson, received from the Party.
Jones, Aaronson and Rutherford
Three Inner Party members wrongly arrested in 1965 and forced to incriminate themselves of various crimes, including treason and murder. They are eventually killed. Winston finds a clipping proving their innocence and destroys the document, but never forgets holding the proof that Party "fact" was fiction.
A coworker of Winston's who delays his first conversation with Julia by inviting Winston to sit with him in the canteen.
Prole Washer Woman
A large, brawny, stocky prole woman who is constantly hanging laundry and singing below the window in Mr. Charrington's apartment.
A man briefly placed in Winston's holding cell who is clearly being starved to death. When told to go to Room 101 he tells them to take the man who offered him food (Bumstead) instead - anything but 101.
A prisoner in the Ministry of Love who offers the starving man a piece of old bread. He is immediately punished with a violent attack that breaks his jaw and causes heavy bleeding.
1984 Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for 1984 is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
The tone in the opening of 1984 is one of suspicion and nuance. Winston's thoughts and conversation reveal his life in Oceania, its limitations, invasions into the privacy of the citizens, and fear of the Thought Police.
Syme is a Newspeak specialist working on the Eleventh Edition of the Newspeak Dictionary. He goes into great detail about his work, discussing the greatness he sees in the destruction of words and the simplification of language. For instance, why...