In the novel 1984 by George Orwell, Winston Smith’s empowerment and ability to rebel against the Party lies in the relationship and loyalty he shares with Julia. At the beginning, Winston is weak and frightened to revolt against the Party. Furthermore, Winston is emotionally weakened and frustrated because the dark-haired girl he desires seems distant and cold to him. However, when the girl named Julia declares her love for him, their relationship’s fidelity strengthens Winston. Julia helps him towards redeeming himself from his shameful past. In addition to this commitment, Winston is empowered and motivated to find ways to actively resist the Party, Eventually, Winston and Julia are discovered in their affair and arrested and, at first, Winston remains strong because he stays faithful to Julia. Finally, in the end the Party gains full control over Winston and extinguishes his rebellious spirit by causing him to betray Julia and his emotions. Winston Smith’s power comes from being connected to Julia, but when that companionship is stripped from him, he is unable to fight the Party’s control over him.
A resident of the totalitarian Oceania, Winston Smith is presented as a frail and anxious Party member who fears for his life and cannot rebel successfully. His physical condition is pathetic and he is quite weak and defenseless. Winston is a thirty-nine year old Party member who works in the Ministry of Truth altering historical records. Feeble, skinny, and with a varicose ulcer, he has difficulty climbing the stairs to his apartment: “a smallish, frail figure, the meagerness of his body merely emphasized by the blue overalls” (Orwell 2). Winston is described as insignificant, scrawny, and lonely compared to the Party’s leader Big Brother who is supreme and inescapable (Reilly 27). In addition to his physical handicaps, Winston’s troubles are combined with his inability to be confident and fearless in rebellion against the Party. Although he secretly buys a diary from a junk shop in the slums owned by a man named Charrington, Winston feels uncomfortable possessing such a suspicious item. When Winston goes to write in the diary, he is petrified and not mentally confident because he is unsure of whether he should perform such a seditious act. After Winston records the date, thoughts race through his mind and he feels vulnerable to the Party’s might: “A sense of complete helplessness has descended upon him” (Orwell 7). Panic overwhelms Winston as he begins writing in his diary because he fears the consequences, showing his weakness and lack of nerves. Winston Smith is at first a frail man with little strength to fight back against the Party’s control of him.
Besides his frailty and psychological limitation, Winston’s emotions reach out to the dark-haired girl but he feels she is unattainable and his discouraged and debilitated by his lack of a loving relationship. The dark-haired girl appears to be the perfect Party member, causing Winston to feel helpless and believe he can never have her. During the Two-Minutes Hate at the Ministry of Truth, she throws a dictionary and the screen and Goldstein’s face, painting a picture of her dedication to the party: “suddenly she picked up a heavy Newspeak dictionary and flung it at the screen” (Orwell 14). Not only this, but she is a member of the Anti-Sex league and wears the scarlet sash of chastity, disheartening Winston’s dream of sleeping with her. The girl resembles a fairy tale princess who is attractive but unfeeling and beyond reach (Reilly 27). Therefore, because of her distance from him, Winston feels he can only fantasize about the unobtainable dark-haired girl but is unhappy and vulnerable from the absence of affection. Winston’s ex-wife Katherine brought him no satisfaction or pleasure because their sexual relations were only a duty to the Party to her. Instead, Winston reverts to seemingly unrealistic dreams of an unknown woman wanting him and declaring she loves him (Baruch 50). In one fantasy, the dark-haired girl rips off her clothes and runs across a field to Winston, amazing him with the rebellious nature of the act he feels he can never achieve: “With its grace and carelessness it seems to annihilate a whole culture” (Orwell 31). Winston remains powerless to act on his desires and is emotionally weakened since the object of his desires appears cold and off-limits.
Despite Winston’s doubts and misery the dark-haired girl named Julia reveals her love for Winston and their relationship empowers Winston emotionally. Julia alters and strengths Winston’s mind by creating a steadfast bond between them and fulfilling his dreams. When Winston thinks about relationships, he remembers being unsatisfied and lonely with Katherine (1984 245). One day in the Ministry of Truth, Julia falls and as Winston helps her up, she passes him a note reading, “I love you”, leading to their private meeting in the countryside. They make love and this leads Winston to perceive Julia as a pleasurably and desirable sex goddess, a means of revolting, and a guide towards her degree of unrestricted loyalty (Reilly 59, 63). Winston also leans about the true Julia, not the persona she puts on for the Party to appear how society expects, but an intelligent and fun-loving woman (1984 237). Being secretly disobedient to the Party, Julia leads Winston to follow her example and have a covert and spontaneous love affair (Strachey 58). Moreover, the loyalty Winston and Julia share promotes his physical and psychological strength and self-assurance. His physical condition improves since he no longer depends on gin and his varicose ulcer diminishes: “The process of life has ceased to be intolerable” (Orwell 150). Winston is no longer ashamed of his physical appearance and he is confident enough to strip himself in Julia’s presence. Winston’s emotional health and inner confidence is boosted by being with Julia and having her as his own.
Consequently, as a result of the revitalization of his emotional health, Winston recognizes that his adult relationship with Julia will release him from his remorseful and mistake-ridden past that took his family and mental strength away from him. When he was a child, Winston was selfish and took advantage of his mother’s kindness, leading to his mental instability. He would complain and whine to his mother to give him the most amount of food even though he knew in his heart and mind that it was wicked: “He knew he was starving the other two, but he could no help it” (Orwell 162). One day he stole the family’s chocolate ration and ran away only to return a few hours later and realize his family was gone; Winston felt that he was the cause of his mother’s disappearance and was stained with guilt and shame: “he felt somewhat ashamed of himself” (163). Therefore, Winston has nightmares about his egotistical behavior until he begins seeing Julia when he is empowered to begin coming to terms with his childhood. He thought before that he murdered his mother by his self-centered naivety but they realizes, after telling his story to Julia, that personal loving connections humanize people: “What mattered were individual relationships” (165). As his mother loved him, Winston understands that the love he shares with Julia is of the utmost importance to his strength and welfare. Also, Winston and Julia’s bond is embodied and represented by the glass paperweight Winston buys from Charrington; the piece of coral inside may be tiny but it represents a slight faith in their future (Gottlieb 78). Winston’s mental power rests in the bond he develops and shares with Julia because it frees him from his shameful history.
In addition to his new-found emotional and mental happiness, Winston is strengthened to begin actively and aggressively seeking ways to rebel against the Party. After their first sexual encounter in the countryside, Winston’s thoughts are affected and changed into ones of insurgence. He believes their love is political in nature as well as an attack criticizing the strict Party restrictions: “Their embrace has been a battle, the climax a victory. It was a blow struck against the Party” (Orwell 126). Julia replaces Katherine and is the novel’s hero in the sense that she defies strict Party rules and frees them both from the unemotional relationships the Party promotes (Baruch 50, 51, 55). As well as this, Winston believes that their passion can annihilate the Party (1984 239). He rents the room above Charrington’s shop and wishes at times that he could marry Julia or that they were a couple of many years, illustrating his want to have a permanent amorous relationship with Julia. Furthermore, Julia urges Winston on in his powerful desires to join a rebellion versus the Party and does not restrain his enthusiasm. Winston believes O’Brien, another Ministry member, is part of a secret revolt so he takes Julia with him to O’Brien’s apartment one night where he reveals that Julia and he are thought-criminals and adulterers who want to join the rebellion: “We want to join it and work for it” (Orwell 170). O’Brien explains the clandestine faction the Brotherhood to an excited Winston and Julia and promises to get Emmanuel Goldstein’s book to them. When Winston obtains the book, he is eager to read it, but Julia is not as interested in the rebellion. However, she encourages him and refuses to hurt his feelings and strength even though she is falling asleep while he reads to her. Julia tells him to continue reading when he asks her if she is still awake and covers her indifference by calling him love, supporting his rebellious side (Reilly 69). Julia emboldens Winston’s rebellious nature by making him feel seditious and supporting his decision to join the Brotherhood, and this causes Winston to be strong and confident.
Therefore, when Winston and Julia are finally caught in their relationship and seized by the Party, he maintains his emotional strength by remaining true to Julia. After being trapped with Julia by the Thought Police in Charrington’s room, Winston is taken to the Ministry of Love where the torture he undergoes cannot weaken his devotion to Julia or his passionate mentality. O’Brien uses a machine that causes pain to torture and train Winston’s mind to believe want the Party wants him to; Winston even begins to see five fingers even though O’Brien is holding up four because O’Brien tells him 2+2=5. He thinks that what he considered as true because are now fictitious and imaginary notions: “He remembered remembering contrary things, but those were false memories, produces of self-deception” (Orwell 277). Despite his intellectual brainwashing, Winston tells O’Brien he is unable to betray Julia, proving his persistent loyalty to her despite the suffering and pain he undergoes. Eventually, one day he becomes delirious in his cell and dreams of the Golden Country and Julia’s presence within him: “In that moment he has loved her far more than he had ever done when they were together and free” (Orwell 280). He believes that as long as he loves Julia and remains faithful to her, he is a human individual (Gottlieb 78). O’Brien comes to his cell and tells Winston he is unsuccessful emotionally because his love for Julia and his disdain for Big Brother are unacceptable, this Winston is ordered and taken away to the dreaded Room 101 to complete the last step in his treatment. Up to this point, Winston remained strong in the Ministry of Love by maintaining his fidelity to Julia and their relationship.
Ultimately, O’Brien unnerves Winston and forces him into betrayal, stripping his individualism and strength. In Room 101, he is forced to face his deepest and darkest fear – rats and to choose between Julia and the rats. O’Brien states that Winston has no choice but to give in to Party control because rats are intolerable to him. Winston is overcome with fear as the carnivorous rats get close to his face and his power to resist the Party slowly diminishes. Finally, he yells for his punishment to be transferred to Julia; Winston betrays Julia’s love and his rebellious side for his own life and well-being. Overall, this results in his vulnerability, loss of emotions towards Julia, and complete dedication to the Party: “I don’t care what you do to her. Tear her face off, strip her to the bones.” (Orwell 286). With this denial of love comes the loss of humanity, inner heart, and emotions of fidelity (Gottlieb 79). Subsequently, because of Winston’s loss of strength, his encounter with Julia after leaving the Ministry of Love is standoffish and awkward. They pass each other in the Park one day in March and have an unfeeling reunion: “She walked obliquely away across the grass as though trying to get rid of him” (Orwell 291). Winston is revolted by the thought of sex with her and Julia’s body seems rigid and unresponsive to his touch. They both confess to betraying the other and never see each other after this; their meeting shows their loss of emotion and strength to rebel. Winston is left powerless without the capacity to love Julia or resist the Party after the torture he undergoes in the Ministry of Love.
In George Orwell’s novel 1984, Winston Smith’s mental and emotional strength comes from the companionship and dedication he shares with Julia. At first he is a frail man who is discouraged that he cannot be with the dark-haired girl. Later on, Julia initiates a loving affair with Winston and empowers him to be rebellious and seek ways to fight the Party’s power. Eventually, the couple is found out and pulled apart, leaving Winston defenseless and vulnerable to Party control. Winston Smith is strong when Julia is by his side since she encourages him on in his seditious thoughts, but without her loyalty Winston is helpless.
Baruch, Elaine Hoffman. “The Golden Country: Sex and Love in 1984”. . Ed. Irving Howe. 7th ed. 24 vols. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1983. 47-56.
Gottlieb, Erika. . Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 1992.
“1984 (by George Orwell)” . Ed. Deborah A. Stanley. Detroit: Gale Group, 1999. 237-246.
Orwell, George. . New York: First Signet Classic, 1949.
Reilly, Patrick. . Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1989.
Strachey, John. “The Strangled Cry”. . Ed. Samuel Hynes. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc. 1971. 54-61.
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Attention all punks, misfits, and anyone else who has ever felt held down by the Man—1984 is all about rebellion. Believe it or not, the story shares the same general plot arc with the timeless children's classic, "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie." Seriously. Just like the cookie leads the mouse down a path of increasingly complicated tasks and actions, Winston's diary sets him on a trajectory to all out rebellion against the Party. The diary allows him a place to unleash all his rebellious thoughts, which gives him the confidence to fall in love with Julia, which in turn leads him to become concerned with grand-scale, organized resistance to the Party’s rule. It all culminates with him joining the Brotherhood. Julia, on the other hand, contents herself with private acts of rebellion by engaging in sex and wearing makeup. The takeaway? Winston and Julia are not content with conforming to the Party’s rule or principles, even though the Party devotes substantial resources to detecting rebellion and subversion. You know what they say, "If you give an oppressed man a diary..."
Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.
As exemplified by the fact that the Party’s impossible doctrines drive Winston and Julia to engage in rebellious acts, an overly oppressive state power often causes rebellion by giving its constituents the very causes for rebellion. This is the Party’s fatal flaw.
Winston and Julia’s love for each other is a more dangerous form of rebellion than their sexual relations are.