Why does Winston keep a diary in "1984"?


Quick Answer

In "1984," Winston Smith's diary acts as a literary device that permits the author, George Orwell, to carry out much of the necessary exposition that advances the story. It also acts as a metaphor for Winston's ultimately hopeless attempts at rebellion, as it is the only outward act of rebellion the character carries out during the early chapters of the book.

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Full Answer

Winston's own motivation, as a character, for opening the diary is unclear. The work addresses hypothetical readers of the future who, Smith imagines, live in a world where thought is free and two plus two equals four. It is, in essence, a letter from the age of Big Brother to an unimaginable future when thoughtcrime ceases to be a punishable offense.

In his interior monologue, Smith eventually links the opening of the diary to his budding rebellion against the Party, and he reckons it in a sequence of steps that begin with a single involuntary act of thoughtcrime and lead to his later adultery and conspiracy to join the resistance. As a metaphor, the diary finishes the story while Winston is held at the Ministry of Love and is informed that the diary, a stand-in for his hopes for the future, has been burned.

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