Notes on Characters from 1984

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1984 Major Characters

Winston Smith: Winston is thirty-nine, small and frail with fair hair and reddish skin. He wears the blue overalls that are the uniform of the Outer Party. He has a varicose ulcer above his right ankle. He is dissatisfied with life under the Party and wonders what things were like before, when people were free and had human dignity. He thinks deeply about the condition of the world. Winston has a phobic fear of rats.

Big Brother: The beloved leader of Oceania and symbol of the Party. Big Brother has black hair, a black moustache and piercing eyes that seem to follow you. His face and voice are everywhere--on the telescreens, coins, stamps, banners, posters, cigarette packets and book covers. Winston sometimes doubts that Big Brother is a real person.

Mr. Charrington: The owner of the prole junk-shop Winston visits. He is an old man, with a mild, friendly face and thick glasses. He has an intellectual air. His hair is almost white but his eyebrows are still black. Later, when Winston is arrested, he sees him with black hair and no glasses, a man of about thirty-five, and he realizes that all along Mr. Charrington was a disguised Thought Police agent.

Julia: When Winston first meets Julia he doesn't know her name and thinks she is a typical Party follower--a mindless, well-behaved robot. She works as a mechanic on a novel-writing machine. She has short, thick, dark hair, a freckled face and is twenty-six years old. Around her waist she wears a red sash, a symbol of the Junior Anti-Sex League. Later Winston discovers that Julia merely participates in the Anti-Sex League and other community activities as a cover and that she, too, hates the Party. She is intelligent and less likely to be fooled by Party propaganda than even Winston, but she is more interested in evading authority and having a good time than trying to overthrow the government. Julia is a highly sexual person.

Winston's Mother: She was tall, silent and moved slowly. She had magnificent, fair hair. She disappeared when Winston was about ten or eleven years old. Winston finds it tragic that she loved him and died loving him when he was too young and selfish to love her in return.

O'Brien: O'Brien has a very important, mysterious job. He is a large, well-built man with a 'coarse, humorous, brutal' face. He wears spectacles. Winston has always hoped that O'Brien may be an ally and also against Big Brother. As it turns out, he has been toying with Winston and is in charge of his torture and 're-integration' in the Ministry of Love. The two of them do have a special kind of empathy, although O'Brien can also be very cruel and is determined to force Winston to conform: ''Do you remember writing in your diary,' he said, 'that it did not matter whether I was a friend or an enemy, since I was at least a person who understood you and could be talked to? You were right. I enjoy talking to you. Your mind appeals to me. It resembles my own mind except that you happen to be insane.' (Part 3, Chapter 2, pg. 271)

Mr. Parsons: Parsons is not only Winston's neighbor but also works with him in the Ministry of Truth. Parsons is fattish but active. He is stupid, and incredibly enthusiastic about all political and community activities. He sweats a lot--he always smells of sweat and leaves damp patches on the handles of the table-tennis rackets at the Community Center. Winston thinks of him as 'one of those completely unquestioning, devoted drudges on whom, more even than on the Thought Police, the stability of the Party depended.' Even in the cells of the Ministry of Love, Parsons is loyal to the Party and glad to be arrested.

Minor Characters

Ampleforth: A poet who works with Winston in the Ministry of Truth. He is quite fond of Winston in his own way. Working on a definitive edition of the works of Kipling, he allows the word 'God' to remain at the end of a line because he cannot find another suitable rhyme, and he is taken to the Ministry of Love.

Winston's Father: He was dark and thin, wore spectacles and dressed neatly. Winston especially remembers that the soles of his shoes were very thin.

Goldstein: The leader of the mysterious Brotherhood, and the enemy of the Party. He was one of the original leaders of the revolution, but Big Brother later exposed him as a traitor and forced him into exile.

Jones, Aaronson and Rutherford: Among the last survivors of the original leaders of the Revolution--who were all, except for Big Brother, exposed as traitors and counter-revolutionaries or wiped out. Like all Party enemies, they were arrested and then released for a while after they confessed, but eventually killed by the Thought Police. After their release Winston saw them in the Chestnut Tree Café. They were silent and unmoving, and Aaronson and Rutherford had broken noses. He saw Rutherford's eyes fill with tears.

Katharine: Winston's wife. They parted nearly eleven years ago and he hardly ever thinks of her. She was tall and fair-haired with strong facial features. She was very politically orthodox and not at all intelligent. 'She had not a thought in her head that was not a slogan, and there was no imbecility, absolutely none, that she was not capable of swallowing if the Party handed it out to her.' (Part 1, Chapter 6, pg. 67) Katharine hated sex, but insisted that she and Winston should try to have children for the Party.

Martin: O'Brien's mysterious servant. A small, dark-haired man in a white jacket, with a totally expressionless, yellow face which might be Asian. O'Brien reveals that he is one of the Brotherhood. It seems to Winston that Martin's whole life is playing a part. O'Brien tells them that sometimes the organization finds it necessary to alter someone's appearance, and Winston wonders whether Martin has a synthetic face, if this is why he shows no expression.

Comrade Ogilvy: A character Winston makes up. He is the perfect Oceanian citizen and even as a child had spent all his time supporting the Party. As an adult, he had designed a highly effective hand grenade and then died in action at the age of twenty-three protecting important dispatches. He didn't drink or smoke, was completely celibate and never discussed anything but the Party philosophy, Ingsoc. 'Comrade Ogilvy, who had never existed in the present, now existed in the past, and when once the act of forgery was forgotten, he would exist just as authentically, and upon the same evidence, as Charlemagne or Julius Caesar.' (Part 1, Chapter 4, pg. 50)

Mrs. Parsons: Mr. Parson's wife. She is about thirty, but looks older. She has dust in the creases of her face and her hair is wispy. She looks crushed and afraid.

The Skull-faced Man: One of Winston's fellow prisoners in the Ministry of Love. He looks ordinary and mean--he might have been an engineer or technician. He radiates murderous, unappeasable hatred. His face is so emaciated that it looks like a skull, and he is obviously starving to death. When the guards come to take him to Room 101, he hysterically begs them not to take him. He starts to scream and says he will do anything rather than go there--offers to confess to anything, tells them to shoot him, tells them to cut the throats of his wife and three small children in front of him, but begs them not to take him to Room 101.

Syme: One of Winston's co-workers. A Newspeak specialist who is working on the Eleventh Edition of the official dictionary. He is politically orthodox and a hard worker, but, Winston thinks, he is too intelligent. Sooner or later he will get vaporized.

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