Nineteen Eighty-four and Winston
In 1984, George Orwell uses symbolism to illustrate how a totalitarian government that controls the past will rob its citizens of their humanity in both the present and the future, through the coral paperweight. Winston’s purchase of the coral paperweight represents the beginning of his and Julia’s special relationship which he describes as “a beautiful thing… not like any glass he had ever seen” (80-81).
The description of the glass paperweight as “ a beautiful thing” yet “not like any glass he had ever seen” reveals that Winston and Julia’s relationship is something that Winston has never experienced. This text persuades the reader that the friendship between the two will blossom into something beautiful. Upon deeper examination of the paperweight, Winston finds that “there was such a depth to it, and yet it was almost as transparent as air…the glass had been the arch of the sky, enclosing a tiny world with its atmosphere complete” (122), which shows how the paperweight really is like a world within a greater world. Winston notices that the paperweight is “almost as transparent as air”, suggesting the delicacy of their secret lives. However, Winston also sees that “there is such a depth to it”, and the glass itself seems like “a tiny world. ” Winston’s observations lead the reader to believe that although their relationship only exists secretly in the room, there are many levels of trust and bonds between the two.
They control the present in their own hands, as Winston and Julia are free to do as they please in the secrecy of their room. Furthermore, Winston goes to say that “the paperweight was the room that he was in, and the coral was Julia’s life and his own, fixed in a sort of eternity at the heart of the crystal,” which suggests how the paperweight is an exact representation of their relationship and the room they spend their time in. The fact that the coral is fixed in the glass shows the vulnerability and constant instability of their lives together.
Winston has control over the crystal, which shows his control of the present, instead of the Party controlling Winston. However, when Julia and Winston’s room is broken into, “someone [picks] up the glass paperweight from the table and smash[es] it to pieces” (183). This marks the beginning of the deterioration of their relationship, as they are split up when taken to the Ministry of Love. The destruction of the paperweight is both important and a turning point because it represents their relationship, their room and their secret lives.
When the paperweight gets destroyed, the “sort of eternity at the heart of the crystal” (122) that represented their relationship is also destroyed permanently. In addition, the shattering of the crystal illustrates how Winston and Julia no longer have control over their present state. By taking Julia and Winston’s only symbol of the past, the Party firmly re-establishes its control over Winston and Julia, now controlling their past, present, and future.