As the novel progresses, it turns out that Mr. Charrington is more than meets the eye, and his true nature and purpose become increasingly clear. He eventually turns Julia and Winston over to the Thought Police, relishing the fact that he’s been able to so carefully watch and betray them.
Who is Mr. Charrington?
Mr. Charrington is a minor, though important, character in George Orwell’s novel 1984. He is an older man who runs the antique shop where Winston and Julia meet to have sex and discuss the Party.
He provides them with a secure hiding place and privacy. They can meet there for a few hours at a time and discuss the Brotherhood, rebellion, the Ministry of Truth, and any alternative perspective to that which the Party supports. Mr. Charrington has a mysterious air about him, as he never reveals his true identity.
Mr. Charrington’s physical appearance is portrayed as old, with a skull-like face, wrinkles, thick glasses, thin white hair, and pale blue eyes. He speaks with a soft voice that often seems to express hidden emotions.
Mr. Charrington’s job is to manage the antique shop in the Proles’ quarter of Oceania, where he sells various items such as sugar tongs and old china cups. He also acts as a landlord, renting out the room above the shop to Winston and Julia (which is legally not supposed to do and which Winston thinks means he’s opposed to the Party’s oppression). He also sells Winston the glass paperweight that he loves and feels is a very valuable thing.
The novel paints him in a rather ambiguous light. When visiting Mr. Charrington’s shop, Winston mostly thinks he is a kind old man who is on his side, he is often suspicious of Mr. Charrington due to his strange behavior and mysterious past.
Ultimately, however, it is revealed that he is indeed an agent of the Thought Police, who was sent to spy on Winston and Julia’s affair.
Mr. Charrington expresses a few different, contrasting character traits. These include:
- Deceitful: He displays a great deal of kindness throughout the novel, such as when he offers to rent Winston and Julia a room in his house to have their affair without judgment. But, this kindness is turned on its head later in the novel when readers find out that he’s been working against Winston and Julia the whole time.
- Quiet: Mr. Charrington is a very quiet and reserved man. He speaks rarely, and when he does, it is usually in a gentle, polite manner.
- Respectful: Mr. Charrington always seems to show respect to Winston and Julia, even when he figures out that they are having an affair. He never raises his voice or speaks harshly.
- Wistful: Mr. Charrington often has a faraway look in his eyes, as if he is pining for something that he cannot have.
- Knowledgeable: Mr. Charrington is very knowledgeable about history and culture and often speaks about them in an educated and respectful manner.
Mr. Charrington is the owner of a shop that sells antiques and knick-knacks in the prole quarter of what used to be London. While this is his official job, it turns out that he is also a member of the Thought Police, who secretly watch citizens for signs of thought crime.
Charrington is an effective agent of the Party because of his age and friendly demeanor. He appears as a kind, elderly man.
He hides his true intentions, however, and is ultimately revealed to be an agent of the Party when he alerts the Thought Police to Winston and Julia’s activities, and they’re caught with Goldstein’s book. He serves as an example of how even seemingly harmless people can be under the control of the Party.
Here are a few important quotes about Mr. Charrington in 1984:
[He] was a widower aged sixty-three and had inhabited this shop for thirty years. […]All the while that they were talking, the half-remembered rhyme kept running through Winston’s head. Oranges and lemons say the bells of St Clement’s, You owe me three farthings, say the bells of St Martin’s!
The rhyme mentioned in these lines turns up again later on in the book when Smith is thinking about the images in the rented room. It’s also a good example of the way that Mr. Charrington seems to be living in the past. This is something that appeals to Winston.
As he had foreseen, Mr. Charrington had made no difficulty about letting the room. He was obviously glad of the few dollars that it would bring him. Nor did he seem shocked or become offensively knowing when it was made clear that Winston wanted the room for the purpose of a love-affair.
Here, readers see Mr. Charrington’s reaction to the revelation that Winston is going to be using the room above the shop to meet Julia. He doesn’t care at all, something that feels far more nefarious after it turns out that he’s been watching them the whole time and reports them to the Thought Police.
Why did Winston trust Mr. Charrington?
Winston Smith chose to trust Mr. Charrington because the man asked him no questions, was kind to him, and told him stories about the past. He also owned an antique shop that sold items that Party members were forbidden from owning.
Who did Mr. Charrington turn out to be?
Mr. Charrington turned out to be a member of the Thought Police. Rather than being a kindly old man, as Winston thought, he was watching Winston and Julia have an affair and reporting their activities to the Thought Police.
Is Mr. Charrington an antagonist in 1984?
Mr. Charrington is a complicated antagonist in George Orwell’s novel 1984. His ominous presence creates a sense of foreboding for protagonist Winston Smith and the readers alike. He symbolizes the powerful inner circle of the oppressive regime in 1984, existing to maintain and perpetuate the subjugation of the people.
What does Mr. Charrington’s shop represent in 1984?
Mr. Charrington’s shop in 1984 is symbolic of a quiet haven in the dystopian society of Oceania and is a symbol of the Party itself. His shop is musty and worn, in a contrast to the modern, sterile facade of the rest of society, where individuals are constantly under surveillance and stripped of individual liberties.