Although she’s only mentioned a few times, Katharine, Winston’s Smith ex-wife, plays a critical role in Smith’s understanding of other women and relationships generally. 

The Definitive Glossary for 1984

Katharine is not an active character in the novel. She’s only referred to in passing and through the lens of Smith’s experience. This means that readers only hear one side of the story of their relationship. Katharine would very likely have a different understanding of why her marriage to Winston Smith didn’t work out. 

Who is Katharine in 1984

Katharine is a minor character in George Orwell’s classic novel 1984. She is the wife of the protagonist, Winston Smith. Despite her passive role in the novel, she’s an important character because she symbolizes the ideal of a model citizen under the oppressive regime of the Party. Katharine is a young woman who is cold and distant from her husband, Winston. 

She has accepted the Party’s propaganda as truth, and as such, she has no interest in freedom or rebelling against Big Brother. She follows the rules of the Party without hesitation or questioning and believes that the Party is always right.

When thinking about her, Winston’s anger toward her comes through in his seeming disregard. For example, these lines from Chapter 6:

Winston was married — had been married, at any rate: probably he still was married, so far as he knew his wife was not dead.

Katharine’s Personality

Katharine is an interesting character in Orwell’s novel 1984. She is introduced as Winston Smith’s wife, but the two are estranged. Katharine is described as an “icy” and “priggish” woman with a “vapid” personality and a general lack of emotion. In the novel, Orwell reveals that Katharine is a product of Party conditioning, having been brought up to conform to the Party’s standards and ideals. 

Katharine’s relationship with Winston was cold and strained. She was a faithful Party member and demanded obedience from Winston, which made him feel isolated and frustrated. She refused to discuss their relationship or express any real emotion, which drove a wedge between them. Here is another good quote from Chapter 6 that depicts how Katharine behaved while they tried to make a child:

As soon as he touched her she seemed to wince and stiffen. To embrace her was like embracing a jointed wooden image. And what was strange was that even when she was clasping him against her he had the feeling that she was simultaneously pushing him away with all her strength. The rigidlty of her muscles managed to convey that impression. She would lie there with shut eyes, neither resisting nor co-operating but submitting. It was extraordinarily embarrassing, and, after a while, horrible. But even then he could have borne living with her if it had been agreed that they should remain celibate. But curiously enough it was Katharine who refused this. 

Throughout the novel, Smith conveys Katharine as rarely showing any emotion or passion in her life. She believes that the Party’s doctrine is absolute truth, and as such, she has accepted it without question. In her mind, she feels no connection to her husband Winston and views their relationship as being purely transactional, with little emotion involved.

Relationship with Winston Smith

Katharine is Winston’s ex-wife, and she plays an important role in the novel 1984. Winston remembers her as a shallow, unemotional woman who was obsessed with Party doctrines and obedience to authority. She was physically attractive, but her lack of emotional depth was a major turn-off for Winston.

Katharine believes that marriage should only be for procreation and views sex as a necessary evil. She never expresses any sort of love or affection towards Winston and is instead very critical and judgmental of him. She also shows disdain for any kind of physical contact, whether it’s hugging or even holding hands. 

Overall, Katharine is a perfect example of a Party wife, someone who is fully devoted to the role that the Party wants women to play in a relationship. This is something that Smith cannot handle and that he projects onto all the women he meets, including Julia (at first, that is).

Winston’s Opinion of Women in 1984

Winston’s opinion of women in 1984 is complicated. He reflects on how women are viewed by society and himself. Through the lens of Big Brother and the Party, women are seen as subservient and inferior to men. They are presented with limited choices and are expected to adhere to a certain set of rules. Big Brother sees women as unimportant and disposable tools for procreation. 

From his own perspective, Winston has a complicated view of women. He admires their beauty but also acknowledges that they can be a source of pain and manipulation. He is drawn to them yet simultaneously mistrusts them and their power to control him. 

In the novel, Winston also expresses admiration for strong, beautiful women like Katharine, who he finds attractive, formidable, and in many ways, unattainable as he’s unable to express himself physically and emotionally with them.

His opinion of women changes significantly in the second part of the novel after he meets and starts a relationship with Julia. She serves, in many ways, as a foil character to Katharine. She’s sexually free and willing to do anything with anyone. The fact that she’s slept with so many men is something that’s attractive to Smith.

He loves her willingness to have sex with him and share her emotions openly. The two can share a common pleasure, something that no other woman that he’s ever met has been able to do.


Who does Winston Smith love in 1984

Winston Smith loves Julia, a young woman who works in the Fiction Department of the Ministry of Truth. He is initially attracted to her rebellious spirit, and they develop a passionate romantic relationship. 

Is Winston Smith sexist?

Winston Smith has internalized many of the sexist beliefs of the society he lives in, though he is also capable of seeing beyond them. His initial perception of women is that they are subservient and cold, but this changes when he meets Julia. 

Why did Winston Smith separate from his wife in 1984?

Winston Smith’s wife, Katharine was unable to fulfill his emotional needs, so he sought love elsewhere (something strictly forbidden by the Party). He was eventually able to find a true connection with Julia which later led to his arrest and torture in the Ministry of Love. 

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