The term hero is one that has different meaning for different people. In a traditional literary sense, hero is most often associated with the designation, epic hero. An epic hero typically exhibits traits that common people do not. Winston Smith, the protagonist, in the George Orwell novel 1984, exhibits many of the typically accepted epic hero traits. Living under the control of a totalitarian regime, where even thoughts are monitored, Winston Smith feels compelled to be a man of action against his oppressors in ways that will surely end poorly. In the dystopian setting of Oceania, readers travel Winton’s journey with him, sharing his triumphs and his failures until the surprising conclusion of the story is reached.
“Big Brother Is Watching You” (2). This phrase is often seen posted around Oceania, inside apartment buildings and even on street poles. There are telescreens at every tune and in every residence streaming government propaganda and monitoring citizens twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. The thought police can be heard hovering, over- head in helicopters, creating an unescapable feeling of total panic that one had better think about every single action that is made for fear of punishment. Oceania and everyone and thing in it was tightly controlled.
Winston Smith was a low ranking member of this regime that controlled Oceania, the Party, as they called themselves. The Party becomes the antagonist early on in Winston’s story. Centered in The Ministry of Truth building, the Party is rewriting history, implementing a new language, Newspeak, and regulating even sex among citizens. Winston Smith does not agree with what is happening, he has a difficult time doing his job as one of the people wh...
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...g Brother in a shower of tears, he is reintegrated. Our hero has failed to achieve his goal.
In short, the protagonist of 1984, most certainly exhibits many of the qualities of an epic hero. He displays courage, values honor, battles demons (The Party), is a man of action, invites problems, encounters a woman who tempts him, and makes a decent into darkness. Winston Smith is a hero by Orwell’s definition: he is also a hero by epic hero standards. While he did not attain his goal of change, he did in fact live his life with uncommon courage and valor and those attributes are admirable in any person, and in 1984 they are most admirable in Winston Smith. The life of Winston Smith, in Oceana, takes the reader on an odyssey of emotion, has the reader rooting for Winston and Julie and in the end provides a way to understand that it was predestined to end badly.
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