Winston the Dog

1984

Animals are copious species generally viewed in the eyes of a human as inferior and lacking intelligence. Winston, the main character and victim in 1984, appears just as that from his contemptible torture. George Orwell uses syntax and diction to make Winston the victim of a faceless assailant by arranging his grammar in a incorrect manner and never specifically explaining the faceless assailant in detail.

The character Winston suffers from great amounts of abuse from this faceless assailant that Orwell chooses to remain ambiguous by giving them a lack of description. Orwell remains focussed on establishing well-formed sentences and phrases that describe how the assailant tortures Winston and not describing the assailant itself. “Always there were five or six men in black uniforms at him simultaneously. Sometimes it was fists, sometimes it was truncheons, sometimes it was steel rods, sometimes it was boots. There were times when he rolled about the floor, as shameless as an animal, writhing his body this way and that in an endless, hopeless effort to dodge the kick and simply inviting more kicks, in his ribs, in his belly, on his elbows, on his shins, in his groin, in his testicles, on the bone at the base of his spine.” (240). In this quote, Orwell makes it apparent that Winston is indeed being tortured treacherously, but the torturer remains quite the ambiguity. The most specific description of this assailant is in the first sentence of the quote where Orwell described them as being copious in number and wearing a black uniform. The color black symbolizes a sinister quality while also serving as a being mysterious. From this short description, Orwell uses ambiguous diction to describe these faceless assailants as being harsh and even more mysterious.

In the place of refraining from going into profuse amounts of detail in Winston’s attackers, Orwell chooses to keep the detail on Winston’s behalf, describing his torture and his pain to keep the assailant faceless. In the second and third sentence, there is specific detail and description of the torture Winston suffers through. Orwell even uses parallel structure to stress the detail of the torture on Winston instead of any detail about the attacker. He uses parallel structure in many others areas as well. “He confessed to the assassination of the eminent Party members, the distribution of seditious pamphlets embezzlement of public funds, sale of military secrets, sabotage of every kind. He confessed that he had been a spy in the pay of Eastasian government as far back as 1968.” (242). By repeating the same ways to start the sentence, he stresses the copious convictions Winston has not committed but has confessed to anyway. This amplifies the vile treatment he is suffering through. Not only does Orwell focus on ambiguity description of Winston and parallel structure, but he also focusses on incorrect grammar by leaving out conjunctions in sentences that use listing.

By leaving out conjunctions, Orwell stresses the heinousness of Winston’s prolific torture. In two of the sentences in the above quotes respectively, (“Sometimes it was fists, sometimes it was truncheons, sometimes it was steel rods, sometimes it was boots.” and “He confessed to the assassination of the eminent Party members, the distribution of seditious pamphlets embezzlement of public funds, sale of military secrets, sabotage of every kind.”) Orwell deliberately leaves out the conduction “and”. Once he leaves out this conjunction, the sentence seems to be more unorganized and choppy. It thus seems to the reader that Winston’s torture is even more profuse and exaggerated. In the first sentence, it seems that the tools that were used to beat him were so numerous that his torture is all the more heinous that it would be if using the conjunction. The same is applied for the second sentence. By not using a conjunction, the number of convictions he confesses to seems even larger.

George Orwell uses diction and syntax to make Winston seem like the epitome of an innocent victim while making the assailant appear as faceless by keeping their details scarce. Orwell thus establishes sentences with parallel structure and incorrect grammar that amplify this innocent victim and faceless assailant. Through all of the ways Orwell makes Winston seem like the object of prey, it ultimately appears as though Winston is abused as animal in part of a clinical experiment, intensifying the ambiguity and power that is the Big Brother.

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