The main protagonist in fictional books or films is often labeled as a hero. In 1984 by George Orwell, the plot follows a man named Winston who is trying to rebel against the totalitarian government called Ingsoc. Ingsoc, also known as the Party, defeats Winston and because he is defeated he does not remain a hero in the reader’s eyes. Winston’s lack of cunning, lack of courage, and lack of effort to defeat the Party shows that he does not fit the description of a hero.
Winston is not a hero, but some might argue that he displays heroic characteristics. One might consider Winston a hero because he is brave enough to oppose the Party and rebel. However, Winston is not brave. Instead he is merely angry because he has knowledge of what Ingsoc’s motives are and how the Party manipulates its citizens. If more people realizes the truth about the Party, they would likely rise up and rebel against the party like any reasonable person would. If Winston is truly brave, he would risk his life and fight the Party head on.
Also, Winston opposes the Party and rebels, but his acts of rebellion have minimal effect on the Party. Winston may occasionally show signs of a hero but ultimately never lives up to it. Winston does not have the cunning edge that most heroes possess. He is often careless in covering his tracks and takes many foolish risks. For example, in part two, Winston skips an event at the Community Centre. Orwell explains how Winston is skipping his second evening at the Community Centre, which is an audacious act and Orwell also notes that his attendance will be monitored (94).
Julia on the other hand, attends as many community events as she can and her performances during the Two-Minutes Hate are convincing so that the Party does not suspect her of committing thought-crime. If Winston were to be hero, he would need the cunning edge like Julia to outsmart the Party. Winston is also easily fooled because he trusts Mr. Charrington and O’Brien without question. When Winston first meets Mr. Charrington and later rents the room above the antique shop, he never suspects Mr. Charrington as being potentially dangerous because he seems like a nice old man trying to make money to make ends meet.
After renting the room Winston never examines the room thoroughly because he foolishly takes Mr. Charrington’s word that the room is free of surveillance devices. Additionally, Winston absolutely trusts O’Brien and reveals everything to him even though he is not sure whether O’Brien is friend of foe. In contrast to Winston, heroic characters from other books and films are more cautious. Winston is a coward because he has many fears. In part two, Winston spots Julia while wandering around in the proletarian area and he immediately walks away in fear for his life because he believes that Julia is part of the Thought Police (Orwell, 115).
He even considers killing her but instead, hurries home to safety. Heroes in today’s society such as police officers never flee from danger. Instead, they confront danger to protect citizens. Furthermore, Winston is selfish because he betrays his family and Julia. On the other hand, heroes will act for the well being of others and not for themselves. For example, firefighters will risk their lives to rescue people. Winston also has a fear of rats which the Party uses to break him. Heroes can have weaknesses but most eventually conquer them.
An example is Terry Fox who was determined to fight cancer even though it was holding him back. Heroes are different from ordinary people because they can overcome their weaknesses and they are always determined to succeed. Winston’s lack of effort is another reason why he is not considered a hero. In part one, he writes down his thoughts on Ingsoc in his diary, but it is no use because he is keeping his thoughts to himself. Without Julia, he might have never opposed the party. Moreover, he believes that loving Julia is the ultimate act of rebellion, but it does not affect the Party significantly.
He only rebels by loving Julia because he is sexually frustrated. In addition, Winston does not possess the leadership skills to start a rebellion. In the book The Mockingjay, Katniss leads the charge in the rebellion against the Capitol, because she passionately despises the oppressive government. In 1984, Winston has the passionate hate for Ingsoc but is unable to use it against the Party. Not only is Winston unable to spark a rebellion, he also has an idea of how overthrowing the Party might be accomplished: “If there is hope, it lies in the proles” (80).
If Winston is truly a hero, he should be able to inflict more damage to the Party. It is evident that he is not much of a hero in the reader’s perspective because of his carelessness, cowardice and effortlessness. 1984 lacks a spectacular and heroic protagonist who is able to defeat the Party, and this is what Orwell intends. Winston weeps with joy because he finally loves Big Brother and the end of the book disappoints and even enrages readers. This will move readers to take action and prevent Oceania from becoming a reality.
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