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"1984" Characters Analysis

By George Orwell

classics | 237 pages | Published in 1949

Among the seminal texts of the 20th century, Nineteen Eighty-Four is a rare work that grows more haunting as its futuristic purgatory becomes more real. Published in 1949, the book offers political satirist George Orwell's nightmarish vision of a totalitarian, bureaucratic world and one poor stiff's attempt to find individuality. The brilliance of the novel is Orwell's prescience of modern life—the ubiquity of television, the distortion of the language—and his ability to construct such a thorough version of hell. Required reading for students since it was published, it ranks among the most terrifying novels ever written.


Estimated read time: 7 min read

Table of Contents

  1. List of Characters

List of Characters

Character NameRole
Winston SmithProtagonist
Big BrotherAntagonist
JuliaLove Interest
O'BrienInner Party Member
Mr. CharringtonThought Police Informant

Role Identification

In George Orwell's dystopian novel "1984," the characters play pivotal roles in the exploration of themes such as totalitarianism, surveillance, and rebellion. Each character represents a different aspect of the oppressive society and contributes to the development of the story.

Character Descriptions

Winston Smith

Winston Smith is the protagonist of "1984." He is an ordinary citizen living in Oceania, a totalitarian state ruled by the Party. Winston works at the Ministry of Truth, where he alters historical records to match the Party's propaganda. He is described as physically frail and unremarkable in appearance, with a varicose ulcer above his right ankle. Winston possesses a rebellious spirit and a desire for freedom, which leads him to question the Party's control over people's lives.

Big Brother

Big Brother is the antagonist of the novel, although he is never directly present. He is the enigmatic leader of the Party, whose face is displayed on posters with the caption, "Big Brother is watching you." Big Brother represents the Party's omnipresent surveillance and control over its citizens. His image serves as a constant reminder of the Party's power and the consequences of dissent.


Julia is a love interest and fellow rebel who becomes involved in Winston's life. She is described as a young, attractive woman with rebellious tendencies. Julia is a member of the Party but secretly engages in acts of defiance against its oppressive regime. She represents the human desire for personal freedom and pleasure, contrasting with Winston's intellectual pursuit of political freedom.


O'Brien is a prominent member of the Inner Party and serves as a symbol of the Party's authority and manipulation. Initially, he appears to be a friend and ally to Winston and Julia, but it is later revealed that he is an agent of the Thought Police. O'Brien is intelligent, charismatic, and skilled at manipulating others. He plays a crucial role in Winston's conversion and the destruction of his rebellious spirit.

Mr. Charrington

Mr. Charrington is an elderly shopkeeper who rents a room to Winston and Julia for their secret meetings. He appears friendly and harmless, but it is later revealed that he is a member of the Thought Police. Mr. Charrington's true identity exposes the extent of the Party's surveillance, even in seemingly innocent places. He represents the constant threat of betrayal and the impossibility of trust in Oceania.

Character Traits

Character NameTraits
Winston SmithRebellious, Thoughtful, Determined
Big BrotherAuthoritative, Oppressive, Mysterious
JuliaDefiant, Sensual, Impulsive
O'BrienManipulative, Charismatic, Sadistic
Mr. CharringtonDeceptive, Betraying, Cunning

Character Background

Winston Smith

Winston Smith is born and raised in Oceania, where the Party controls every aspect of people's lives. He grew up during the constant warfare and propaganda campaigns of the Party, which shape his skepticism towards the Party's narratives. Winston remembers fragments of a time when people had more freedom, but those memories are fading under the Party's control. He longs for a world where individuality and critical thinking are valued.

Big Brother

The true identity of Big Brother remains unknown throughout the novel, adding to his mystique. It is believed that he may not even exist and is instead a fabricated figurehead created by the Party to maintain control over the population. The Party uses Big Brother's image to instill fear and ensure conformity among citizens.


Little is known about Julia's background, as the focus is primarily on her role in Winston's life. She is rebellious by nature and engages in small acts of defiance against the Party, such as having affairs and participating in forbidden activities. Julia's actions suggest that she has experienced the Party's oppression firsthand and seeks personal freedom.


O'Brien is a high-ranking member of the Inner Party, which grants him privileges and access to information that the majority of citizens do not have. He is a loyal supporter of the Party and its ideology, but he also relishes in the power he holds over individuals like Winston. O'Brien's background and motivation are intentionally left ambiguous, highlighting the Party's ability to shape and manipulate its members.

Mr. Charrington

Mr. Charrington presents himself as an old-fashioned shopkeeper with a nostalgic appreciation for the past. He appears friendly and harmless, gaining Winston's trust. However, his true identity as a member of the Thought Police reveals the extent of the Party's infiltration and surveillance. Mr. Charrington's background remains a mystery, emphasizing the pervasive nature of the Party's control.

Character Arcs

Winston Smith

Winston experiences a significant character arc throughout the novel. Initially, he quietly rebels against the Party's control, secretly documenting his thoughts and engaging in forbidden activities with Julia. However, his journey takes a dark turn when he is captured and tortured by the Party. Winston's spirit is broken, and he ultimately succumbs to the Party's indoctrination. His transformation from a hopeful rebel to a broken shell underscores the Party's overwhelming power.


Julia's character arc is less pronounced than Winston's but still significant. Initially portrayed as a carefree rebel, Julia becomes Winston's ally and lover. However, after their capture, Julia's rebellious spirit is extinguished, and she accepts the Party's control to avoid further punishment. Her transformation highlights the Party's ability to crush individuality and resistance.


O'Brien's character arc is revealed through his interactions with Winston. Initially posing as a fellow rebel, he gains Winston's trust and manipulates him into revealing his true thoughts and feelings. O'Brien's true loyalty to the Party becomes apparent when he leads the torture and re-education of Winston. His character arc showcases the Party's ability to exploit and control even those who appear sympathetic to resistance.


Character NameRelationship
Winston Smith & JuliaForbidden Lovers, Co-conspirators
Winston Smith & O'BrienMentor and Student, Manipulator and Victim
Winston Smith & Big BrotherSymbolic Opposition, Fearful Reverence
Winston Smith & Mr. CharringtonTenant and Landlord, Betrayer and Betrayed
Julia & O'BrienBrief Alliance, Ultimate Betrayal

The relationships between the characters in "1984" are complex and often based on deception and betrayal. Winston and Julia's relationship initially provides them with a sense of hope and connection in a bleak world. However, their love is ultimately shattered by the Party's control. O'Brien's relationship with Winston starts as a mentorship but quickly turns into a sadistic manipulation. Big Brother represents the ultimate opposition to Winston, embodying the Party's power and control. Mr. Charrington's relationship with Winston is one of deceit, as he reveals himself to be an informant for the Thought Police. Julia's alliance with O'Brien is short-lived and ends in her ultimate betrayal.

In conclusion, the characters in George Orwell's "1984" serve as vehicles for exploring the themes of totalitarianism, surveillance, and rebellion. Each character plays a distinct role in the narrative, highlighting different aspects of the Party's control and the human desire for freedom. Winston, Julia, O'Brien, Big Brother, and Mr. Charrington all contribute to the development of the story, their character traits and backgrounds adding depth to the dystopian world Orwell portrays.