The Island

The Island Imagery


The prison imagery is the most obvious in the play. This imagery shows Winston and John trapped in cells, freed only for minimal amounts of time, unless they are called to work, which is even worse. They are forced into cruel manual labor and then, after they have already exhausted themselves, they are made to run miles with their shackles still on. The metal is heavy and damaging to their legs. The prison is more than a trap—it is designed to bring about suffering and mental stress.

Relationships and Brotherhood

Through their shared sentence, John and Winston become friends. They begin to commiserate, sharing stories, and before long, they feel they are blood brothers. The imagery of their friendship is central to the plot, because they are asked to sacrifice for one another and help one another. When John gets news that he will be freed early, Winston struggles to feel happy for him, and in the end, they escape together.

The Play within the Play

During their sentence, the prison allows them to put on a play, and they start preparations for Antigone, but they are only allowed to rehearse from their cells. Winston plays Antigone, struggling to adopt the female role in prison, for fear that he will be mistreated by the prisoners, many of whom have not seen a real woman in years. The play within the play adds a layer of interpretive fodder to help the reader consider the plot alongside the well-known plot of Antigone's fiery sense of justice.