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Barron's Booknotes-1984 by George Orwell-Free Book Notes
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The minor characters in 1984 are not so much people as sign- carriers bearing Orwell's message. Everybody stands for something.


Winston's neighbors are drawn from the World War II days of the Hitler Youth when children were junior party members and so fired up by Nazism that they would even turn in their parents for speaking against the party. The Parsons children are on the lookout for Thoughtcrime. Their mother is scared to death of them. The father is the stereotypical dumb, zealous Party member who loves decorating the neighborhood for Hate Week and adores Big Brother. Watch what happens to him in Part Three, when the kids finally turn him in.


The sweet old proprietor of the second-hand shop where Winston hides out loves antiques and talks about the old days in heartwarming tones. His antiques are not what they seem to be, and neither is Mr. Charrington. He is in fact a powerful member of the Thought Police and part of O'Brien's elaborate plot to snare Winston.


This great big lady has SYMBOL written all over her. Winston sees her as emblem of the hope for the future. She is like a brood mare standing out there doing her laundry, with her heavy, veined legs and her overblown female apparatus ready to drop babies to populate the future. The problem is that Orwell never explains how his uneducated and mindless proles can ever get their act together to make a revolution. Is this problem accidental, or is it one of the author's ironies, designed to sharpen his warning?


This shadow figure appears only in Winston's dreams and memories. She stands for better days, for the past, and in a funny way for Winston's guilt. He survived; she didn't.


This Party member is too intelligent for his own good-another type. He is preparing a "Newspeak" dictionary, and he tells Winston-and us-that once the national vocabulary has been narrowed to a few hundred words, people won't be able to do or think bad things because they won't have words for them. Naturally he is purged.


Here's another type-the Trotsky of Oceania. Like the Russian revolutionary leader, he has been purged and has become a Party enemy. Some writers say Goldstein's book, which is quoted at length in Part Two, is a parody of political writings of the time, including a book by Leon Trotsky, a Russian revolutionary leader who had been purged. For Winston, Goldstein is the symbol of opposition to the Party-until he discovers who really wrote the book.


Only the proles remember the past because nobody bothered to rewrite their history. This old drunk remembers, all right, but the bits are useless to Winston because all the old man can think about is his twitchy bladder and various shortages because he is "like the ant, which can see small objects and not large ones."


Three revolutionary leaders purged from the new Party. Only Winston remembers them.

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