“There Goes My Hero” A Study Of Winston Smith As A Tragic Hero In Orwell’s 1984

1154 words - 5 pages

To determine the status of someone as a hero, it is first necessary to define a hero. For the purposes of this essay, a hero will be defined as someone who sets out to do something that impacts the world for the greater good of mankind. Aristotle defines a tragic hero as a man of an elevated social stature who falls from his position through the effect of a tragic flaw or hamartia. Consequently, we will alter Aristotle’s definition for the purposes of our discussion. Therefore, we will define a tragic hero as someone who sets out to do something that impacts the world for the greater good of mankind and fails due to his own hamartia. Winston Smith certainly falls into this mold.
What must first be established is the fact that Winston does set out to do something for the good of humanity. Winston’s rebellion against the Party does not stem from anything ignorant, immoral, or egocentric. It can not be argued that Winston misunderstands the Party and is therefore led to false conclusion of their motives. In fact, Orwell clearly states that Winston’s job requires him to be very knowledgeable about the Party. Winston’s particular job left a Party member with “nothing to guide [him] except [his] knowledge of the principles of Ingsoc. Winston was good at this kind of thing” (43) Similarly, Winston’s rebellion does not stem from a place of immorality. Orwell says as much when he comments that their affair was not an act of lust. Instead, he points out, “It was a Political Act” (126). This is a stark contrast to Julia who is, as Winston puts it, “only a rebel from the waist down” (156). Finally, Winston’s rebellion is not a selfish act. When conversing with Julia about their relationship, Winston states that his hatred for the Party stems from a desire for future generations to have knowledge. “I don’t imagine we can change anything in our own lifetime. But one can imagine little knots of resistance springing up here and there… so that the next generation can carry on where we leave off” (155). Julia, who again represents a more common rebel, responds by saying that she is “not interested in the next generation, dear. I’m interested in us” (156). Winston feels freedom and relief in his throwing off of the Party. In fact, it physically alters him. He gains weight, his varicose ulcer subsides, his coughing fits are greatly diminished. He even comments that “the process of life ceased to be intolerable” (150). Winston found a better life outside of the confines of the Party. He had challenged the status quo and found something better because of it. He strove to spread that challenge to others, this is truly a heroic goal.
The second thing that must be established for Winston to qualify as an Aristotelian tragic hero is the fact that he possesses a single hamartia that leads to his downfall. The question then clearly becomes, what one flaw led to Winston’s demise. The shallow answer is very obvious. Winston’s hamartia is his...

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