Tom Parsons

Tom Parsons is a minor character in George Orwell’s classic novel 1984. He is a middle-aged man living in the totalitarian state of Oceania.

The Definitive Glossary for 1984

Tom Parsons is Winston Smith’s neighbor, who Smith does not care for and who is more of an irritant than anything else. Smith sees him as robotic and drone-like, unable to make decisions for himself or have an independent thought.

Who is Tom Parsons? 

Tom is a complex character whose life and relationships are constantly shaped by the dark forces of the government. He lives a quiet life with his wife, Mrs. Parsons, and their two children.

Tom is a loyal citizen of the Party and loves Big Brother. He is typically very trusting and accepting of the Party’s authority. Tom is timid and unassuming; he is someone who follows orders without question and does not have much of an opinion about the world around him. 

When speaking about Parsons’ history and appearance, Orwell writes: 

He was a fattish but active man of paralysing stupidity, a mass of imbecile enthusiasms—one of those completely unquestioning, devoted drudges on whom, more even than on the Thought Police, the stability of the Party depended. At thirty-five he had just been unwillingly evicted from the Youth League, and before graduating into the Youth League he had managed to stay on in the Spies for a year beyond the statutory age.

A few lines later, Orwell adds that Tom was: 

a leading figure on the Sports Committee and all the other committees engaged in organizing community hikes, spontaneous demonstrations, savings campaigns, and voluntary activities generally. He would inform you with quiet pride, between whiffs of his pipe, that he had put in an appearance at the Community Centre every evening for the past four years.


Tom Parsons is a nervous and unlikeable person who works in the Fiction Department of the Ministry of Truth. He is naïve and easily manipulated by the Party, which he blindly believes in. 

His passive nature means he rarely speaks out against authority and readily accepts whatever happens to him. He is loyal to his family but also loyal to the Party, although he does not understand their motives or what they do.

One of the aspects of his personality that comes through clearly is his anxiety. He’s constantly described as sweating, and his home is in a state of disarray, despite being larger than Smith’s. Orwell wrote regarding the Parsons’ home: 

Everything had a battered, trampled-on look, as though the place had just been visited by some large violent animal. Games impedimenta—hockey-sticks, boxing-gloves, a burst football, a pair of sweaty shorts turned inside out—lay all over the floor, and on the table, there was a litter of dirty dishes and dog-eared exercise-books. 


Tom Parsons works in the Ministry of Truth. He is likely responsible for writing, rewriting, and editing newspaper articles and other documents that follow the Party’s line of thought, as Winston Smith is. He also handles the disposal of documents that are deemed to be too sensitive or contradict the party’s line of thought. 

His job is to make sure that the public has only access to approved information, ensuring that Big Brother’s power and control remain absolute.

What Happened to Tom Parsons? 

Throughout the novel, Tom is portrayed as a passive and compliant member of the Party. He follows orders without complaint and does not question Big Brother or the Party’s authority. Despite his loyalty to the Party, Tom’s life takes an unfortunate turn. 

His young daughter, who he trained to love Big Brother and respect the Thought Police as he does, overhears her father saying “Down with Big Brother” in his sleep. She reports him to the Thought Police, unconcerned by the fact that this action could mean her father disappears forever. 

Important Quotes

There are only a few important quotes that involve Tom Parsons in the novel. The author described Parsons at the Ministry of Truth with these words: 

At thirty-five, he was already putting on rolls of fat at neck and waistline, but his movements were brisk and boyish. His whole appearance was that of a little boy grown large […] In visualizing him one saw always a picture of dimpled knees and sleeves rolled back from pudgy forearms. 

Parsons’ sweating is one of the most important and memorable characteristics he exhibits. The author wrote, from Smith’s perspective, that:

Beads of moisture stood out all over his pink face. His powers of sweating were extraordinary. At the Community Centre you could always tell when he had been playing table-tennis by the dampness of the bat handle. 

Here are a few more lines from the same section of the novel, around page 72, in which Parsons and Smith are having a conversation: 

‘Ah, well—what I mean to say, shows the right spirit, doesn’t it? Mischievous little beggars they are, both of them, but talk about keenness! All they think about is the Spies, and the war, of course. D’you know what that little girl of mine did last Saturday […] She got two other girls to go with her, slipped off from the hike, and spent the whole afternoon following a strange man. They kept on his tail for two hours, right through the woods, and then, when they got into Amersham, handed him over to the patrols.’

Parsons is here referring to his two children, a boy and a girl, who he’s trained (quite well) to love and respect Big Brother as much as he does. He’s describing how they act when he’s not around, something that brings out a great deal of pride. 


Who is Tom Parsons in 1984?

Tom Parsons is Winston Smith’s neighbor in his apartment complex. He interacts with Parsons only a few times in the novel, but he does make an impression. He’s married with two kids, a boy, and a girl. The latter turns him into the Thought Police. 

What does Parsons symbolize in 1984?

Parsons symbolizes the average, obedient citizen in Oceania. He’s an interesting foil for Winston Smith, who hates Big Brother and sees people like Parsons as without personality or free will. 

How does Winston feel about Tom Parsons?

Winston thinks Parsons is drone-like, boring, and irritating. He’s a perfect example of the average citizen of Oceania who follows all the rules and feels like there is nothing wrong with the Party.

What did Parsons say in his sleep in 1984?

Parsons is reported to have said “Down with Big Brother” in his sleep. His daughter overheard this and reported him to the Thought Police. 

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