1984 Study Guide


1984 by George Orwell

Nineteen Eighty-Four is an allegorical dystopian novel about the dangers of police states, groupthink, and surveillance of the public. It follows the hapless government employee Winston Smith as he dreams secretly and fruitlessly of rebellion against the all-powerful Big Brother and the Inner Party. Smith's England has been renamed Airstrip One, its citizens stripped of their individuality, its world locked in a constant state of manufactured war. It is a grim vision of the future intended as a commentary on the policies of England at the time of its writing.

Winston Smith

Winston Smith is the protagonist of the novel. He is a sickly, 39 years old man who works in the Records Department of the Ministry of Truth. He has a penchant for drinking gin and is a habitual smoker. Winston is somewhat of an intellectual who is cultivating a dangerous hatred for the Party and Big Brother.


Julia is Winston's girlfriend. She is 26 years old with dark hair and brown eyes. She is rebellious in her own ways though on the surface she remains orthodoxy. She is vivacious and possesses a rather acute understanding of Oceanic society. She works in the Fiction Department at the Ministry of Truth where she operates the machines that create party and prole literature.


O'Brien is a prominent member of the Inner Party and Winston's anti-hero/nemesis. He is a large, burly man with a thick neck and a severe face. His elegant manner of speaking and gentility offset his disarming appearance. Winston believes that O'Brien shares his hatred for Big Brother and credits him for the inspiration to start his diary.

Big Brother

Big Brother is the ruler of Oceania. No one has ever seen or spoken to Big Brother except, perhaps, for members of the Inner Party. He rules mainly through the iron fist of the Inner Party and constant surveillance with telelscreens, the Police Patrol and the Thought Police. His reign can be considered totalitarian.

Emmanuel Goldstein

Goldstein is the enemy of Oceania and the most hated man alive. He fuzzy, white hair, a small goatee, a thin nose on which glasses are perched, and a shrewd face. He was once a leading figure in the Party before engaging in counterrevolutionary activities. Upon being sentenced to death, Goldstein went underground and created an organization known as The Brotherhood. He also wrote a book that explains the motivation behind and secrets of the Party's regime.

Mr. Charrington

Mr. Charrington is the owner of the antiques shop Winston frequents in the prole section of London. He is a 63 years-old widower who has been living in his store for the past thirty years. He is congenial, respects Winston's privacy when he rents him the room, and always willing to discuss life before the Revolution. At the end of the novel, he reveals himself as a member of the Thought Police.

Mrs. Parsons

Mrs. Parsons is the exhausted, dowdy wife of Tom Parsons, Winston's co-worker. She lives in the apartment across from his in Victory Mansions. She is the mother of two indoctrinated children over whom she has little control and who will most likely report her as a though-criminal one day.

Tom Parsons

A.K.A. Parsons. He is Mrs. Parsons's husband and the father of the two ill-behaved, spy children. He works at the Ministry of Truth with Winston as well as oversees the Hate Week treasury for the Victory Mansions. He is extremely orthodoxy as demonstrated by his participation in many community organizations. Winston loathes him for his unhygienic behavior (he always smells of stale sweat) as well as for his extreme stupidity as demonstrated by his willing acceptance of everything the Party tells him.


Syme is an acquaintance of Winston who works as a philologist in the Research Department at the Ministry of Truth. He has a slight build, dark hair, unusually large eyes which simultaneously expressed lament and contempt as well as always seemed to be searching for the truths that lie beneath the surface of one's face. Syme is [i]n an intellectual way... venomously orthodox (49). Winston enjoys talking to him about his work on the Newspeak dictionary.


Katherine is Winston's wife. They have been separated for approximately ten years as a result of their failure to have children. She is tall, has blond hair, and is very graceful. She is similar to Parsons in that she is exceedingly orthodox and loyal to the Party. Winston considered her mind to be the most vulgar and empty one he has known. He also despised her distorted beliefs about sex and love which were in line with the Party's mission to destroy all human sentiment.

Aaronson, Rutherford, and Jones

They are three of the original leaders of the Revolution and the Party. For a reason unbeknownst to the reader, the three men were accused of thought-crime and vaporized. Winston found a photograph of the three men that would have cleared their names if their names still existed on public record. They serve as a reference for Winston he considers the consequences of his thought-crime.


Ampleforth is a poet who works in the Records Department with Winston. His primary job is to translate classic (Oldspeak) poems into Newspeak while also censoring any of their politically and culturally objectionable language. Winston runs into him in prison, for leaving the word God at the end of a Kipling poem. Winston does not seem him again after he is called into Room 101.


Martin is O'Brien's Mongolian manservant. He is small in stature and has an expressionless face; however, there is an air of elegance about him that is typical of servants who enjoy some privilege. O'Brien allows Martin to remain at his meeting with Winston and Julia. One gets the impression that Martin is O'Brien's confidant/co-conspirator rather than merely his attendant.

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