Winston Smith is the protagonist of 1984. He is the character that the reader most identifies with, and the reader sees the world from his point of view. Winston is a kind of innocent in a world gone wrong, and it is through him that the reader is able to understand and feel the suffering that exists in the totalitarian society of Oceania.
Even Winston's name is suggestive. Winston is taken from Winston Churchill, the exalted leader of wartime England, and Smith is the most common last name in the English language, thus allowing readers to see him as Orwell intended: an ordinary man who makes a valiant effort in extraordinary circumstances. A reader cannot resist identifying with Winston: He is ordinary, yet he finds the strength to try and make his circumstances better. He represents the feelings in every human being, and it is for this reason that a reader hopes that things will change. Orwell characterizes Winston as a complete, sympathetic human being, and in doing so gives the reader a stake in the outcome of the novel.
Because Winston is so real, so common, it is easy for readers to identify with him and to imagine themselves in his place. Perhaps Winston carries even more weight for today's reader, who can imagine the possibility of a society like Winston's, the value of technology over humanity.
Even though Winston's life is replete with misery and pain, Orwell allows him a brief time of happiness and love. During this time, there is hope for Winston, and subsequently, hope for the future. But Orwell makes certain that there is no happy ending. Totalitarianism does not permit such an ending; Winston must be crushed. If Winston were to escape, Orwell's agenda of showing the true nature of totalitarianism would have been lost.
Readers identify so closely with Winston because he has individuality and undying self-determination. Winston embodies the values of a civilized society: democracy, peace, freedom, love, and decency. When Winston is destroyed, these things are destroyed with him, and so goes the reader's faith that these values are undying and a natural part of being human. Winston represents the struggle between good and bad forces, and there is no mistaking where the lines are drawn.
Ultimately, Winston loses his spirit and his humanity, the two characteristics that he fought so hard to keep. Orwell insists that Winston's fate could happen to anyone, and it is for this reason that Orwell destroys Winston in the end, so that the reader may understand Orwell's warning and see that the society of 1984 never come to pass.