1984 Character List and Analysis

January 9, 2024

1984 characters list main

If you’re about to start reading 1984, this article will introduce the main characters of George Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece. The main characters include Winston Smith, his lover Julia, and O’Brien, the Inner Party member who tortures Winston into betraying everything he loves. Minor characters include Mr. Charrington, a member of the Thought Police who rents a room to Winston, as well as Winston’s colleagues – Parsons, Ampleforth, and Syme. Continue on for our full 1984 character lists.

1984 Characters – Full Character List 

Winston Smith 

The central character of George Orwell’s 1984, Winston Smith works in the records department of the Ministry of Truth altering media to correspond with the Party’s ever-changing historical narrative. Winston is a low-level Party member who has begun to doubt the validity of state ideology. When the reader first encounters Winston, he has just begun keeping a diary. For an individual to trust his own thoughts instead of Party propaganda is an unpardonable offense. Though he knows it likely means his eventual imprisonment and torture, Winston longs for individual expression at odds with the omnipresent surveillance and authoritarian state violence.

Winston’s job gives him a privileged view of the historical machinations of the Party. As a worker in the Records Department, Winston sees firsthand how the Party endlessly changes the historical record to align with its current political goals. In the words of Big Brother, “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” Winston knows the Party lies – he has seen concrete evidence. In the face of the Party’s blatant lies, Winston struggles to reassert the authority of his own observations. Winston desperately wants his own experience of the external world to matter.

1984 Characters (Continued) 

Winston eventually meets and starts a relationship with Julia. As their feelings deepen, they see their relationship as a form of resistance against a Party that tries to eliminate love and sexual pleasure. Risking their lives, Winston rents a small room in the prole section of London for him and Julia to be alone. Winston and Julia differ in their belief in the possibility of revolution. Julia merely wants small acts of rebellion in their personal lives. She wants to carve out some small measure of happiness together. In marked contrast, Winston goes looking for “The Brotherhood,” a shadowy revolutionary organization. In spite of their efforts to keep their relationship secret, they are eventually found out, imprisoned, and tortured.

Until the very last chapter of the novel, Winston holds fast to the belief that though the Party might be able to make you confess to anything, they cannot change your fundamental beliefs. In other words, the Thought Police might be able to torture you, but they can’t alter what you fundamentally believe. This optimism is crushed when the Party turns Winston into an enthusiastic supporter of Big Brother. Winston’s fate is a cautionary example of the power of authoritarian violence on the individual.

Julia / The Dark-Haired Girl

Julia is the girl Winston meets and falls in love with. She works on one of the novel-writing machines in the fiction department. Winston notices her looking at him around the office and worries she’s a member of the Thought Police. After Winston’s second trip to Mr. Charrington’s shop, he sees her walking down the street. Terrified that he will be arrested, he returns home. Four days later, Winston sees her walking down the hallway at work. She trips and falls to the ground. Though Winston fears that she is a member of the thought police, he helps her to her feet nonetheless. As he helps her up, she slips a small piece of paper into his hand. Winston is shocked, but manages to keep his composure. Five minutes later, he surreptitiously glances at the piece of paper – on it is written “I LOVE YOU.”

1984 Characters (Continued) 

Their relationship develops quickly. At first, they meet in out-of-the-way locations, but as their relationship deepens, Winston decides to rent a small room from Mr. Charrington where they can spend time. As Winston gets to know Julia, he discovers that she has no interest in any organized resistance to the Party. In contrast to Winston’s indignation, Julia finds the ideology of the Party laughable. On the one hand, Julia’s apathy leads her to disregard everything the Party says.

On the other hand, she has absolutely no interest in what is “really” truthful. While Winston is appalled, he understands that this is what allows Julia to stay sane in the face of the violence and surveillance of the Party. Of these people, he thinks, “They simply swallowed everything, and what they swallowed did them no harm, because it left no residue behind, just as a grain of corn will pass undigested through the body of a bird.”

1984 Characters (Continued) 

Julia presents a different strategy of survival in Orwell’s dystopia. While Winston is obsessed with the existential and structural ramifications of the Party’s methods and ideology, Julia is interested in carving out some small space for individual feeling and pleasure. Winston jokes to Julia that she “is only a rebel from the waist downwards.” While this might be read as a critique, there is a logic to Julia’s strategy. In the face of the Party’s omnipotence, Julia focuses her energy on the love she has for Winston. When Winston thinks of the past, he thinks about the people’s loyalty to each other. He thinks, “They were governed by private loyalties which they did not question.” Julia’s loyalty to Winston would seem to align with this ideal. I can’t help but wonder if they might have survived (at least a bit longer) if Winston hadn’t pursued organized resistance to the Party.


[Spoiler alert] O’Brien is the representative of state violence and authoritarianism in Orwell’s 1984. Winston first encounters O’Brien at one of the daily Two Minutes Hate in the records department. Winston feels immediately drawn to him. Something in O’Brien’s demeanor suggests to Winston “that [his] political orthodoxy was not perfect.” At the end of the Two Minutes Hate, O’Brien and Winston share a brief glance that makes Winston believe that O’Brien hates the Party as well.

O’Brien had long had a special significance in Winston’s psyche. Winston believes that the voice of O’Brien spoke to him seven years before in a dream. In this dream, O’Brien says, “We shall meet in the place where there is no darkness.” Winston believes that the “place where there is no darkness” is positive. At the beginning of the novel, it represents, “the imagined future, which one would never see, but which, by foreknowledge, one could mystically share in.”

1984 Characters (Continued) 

All this leads Winston to trust O’Brien too much. When O’Brien invites him to come by his house to ostensibly receive the newest version of the Newspeak dictionary, Winston believes that this is his entry into the Brotherhood. A few days later, Winston and Julia have been arrested and O’Brien reveals himself as a member of the Thought Police. O’Brien tortures Winston for weeks (months?) with the aim, not of confession, but of complete transformation. Ultimately, the “place where there is no darkness” turns out to be Winston’s prison cell.

1984 Character List – Minor Characters 

Mr. Charrington

When we first meet Mr. Charrington, he seems the mere owner of the junk shop where Winston buys his diary. By the end of the book, it is revealed that Mr. Charrington is a member of the Thought Police. Winston returns to Mr. Charrington’s shop and buys a piece of coral in glass that serves as a symbol of the idyllic past. Believing Mr. Charrington to be a harmless prole shopkeeper, Winston rents the room above the shop so that he can meet with Julia. While the room seems to have no telescreen, the Thought Police record everything Winston and Julia say in the room.

1984 Character List (Continued)


Parsons is Winston’s neighbor. He lives across the hall with his wife and two children. An unthinking, fervent supporter of Big Brother, Parsons represents the enthusiastic ignorance of the rank-and-file Party members. Given Parsons’s support for the Party, Winston is shocked when they end up in the same holding cell in the Ministry of Love. It turns out that Parsons’s daughter supposedly heard him say “Down with Big Brother” in his sleep and reported him. In the context of the novel, Parsons’s fate shows that even the most ardent defenders of an authoritarian regime are likely to be caught up in state surveillance.


A “mild, ineffectual, dreamy creature,” Ampleforth works in the Records department with Winston. His job is to rewrite “ideologically offensive” poems into “definitive versions” for anthologies. The text doesn’t provide much background information about Ampleforth, but there is nothing to suggest that he isn’t a loyal Party member. Winston is surprised when he meets Ampleforth in the holding cell in the Ministry of Love. Ampleforth suspects that his particular thoughtcrime was to allow the word “God” to remain at the end of a line of a Kipling poem he was revising. Ampleforth explains indignantly that there was simply no other rhyme – his hands were tied by the limitations of the English language. In the context of the novel, Ampleforth’s punishment illustrates that no other loyalty – even aesthetic – is permissible under authoritarianism.

1984 Character List (Continued)


Another of Winston’s colleagues in the Records Department, Syme is an expert on Newspeak. The text describes Syme “venomously orthodox” – though in “an intellectual way.” Considering Syme’s orthodoxy, it’s puzzling when Winston thinks that “One of these days…Syme will be vaporized.” (Winston is correct – Syme is vaporized a few weeks later.) Winston’s statement follows Syme’s declaration that “Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.” According to Winston, this shows that “[Syme] is too intelligent…sees too clearly and speaks too plainly.” As I read it, Syme’s crime is his dedication to Newspeak as an intellectual exercise rather than as an ideological necessity. Ultimately, what dooms Syme is “discretion, aloofness, a sort of saving stupidity.”

1984 Character List – Additional Resources

In conclusion, we hope you enjoyed our 1984 characters. You may also find the following blogs to be of interest: