The old glass paperweight sold to Winston by Mr. Charrington represents the past. The level of craftsmanship required to make it is no longer achievable, since production standards have dropped and the Party has abolished beauty for its own sake. The tiny fragment of coral embedded in the paperweight represents the fragility of human relationships, particularly the bond between Julia and Winston, which is destroyed by O'Brien as easily and remorselessly as the paperweight is smashed by the Thought Police. The paperweight also symbolizes the room in Mr. Charrington's house that becomes a private sanctuary for the lovers, imagined by Winston as a separate world, frozen in time.
The Glass Paperweight Quotes in 1984
The 1984 quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Glass Paperweight. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one: Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Signet Classics edition of 1984 published in 1961.).
Book 1, Chapter 8 Quotes
What appealed to [Winston] about it was not so much its beauty as the air it seemed to possess of belonging to an age quite different from the present one. The soft, rainwatery glass was not like any glass that he had ever seen. The thing was doubly attractive because of its apparent uselessness, though he could guess that it must once have been intended as a paperweight. It was very heavy in his pocket, but fortunately it did not make much of a bulge. It was a queer thing, even a compromising thing, for a Party member to have in his possession. Anything old, and for that matter anything beautiful, was always vaguely suspect.
Book 2, Chapter 4 Quotes
He turned over towards the light and lay gazing into the glass paperweight. The inexhaustibly interesting thing was not the fragment of coral but the interior of the glass itself. There was such a depth of it, and yet it was almost as transparent as air. It was as though the surface of the glass had been the arch of the sky, enclosing a tiny world with its atmosphere complete. He had the feeling that he could get inside it, and that in fact he was inside it, along with the mahogany bed and the gateleg table and the clock and the steel engraving and the paperweight itself. The paperweight was the room 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.
Book 2, Chapter 5 Quotes
Now that [Winston and Julia] had a secure hiding place, almost a home, it did not even seem a hardship that they could only meet infrequently and for a couple of hours at a time. What mattered was that the room over the junk shop should exist. To know that it was there, inviolate, was almost the same as being in it. The room was a world, a pocket of the past where extinct animals could walk. Mr. Charrington, thought Winston, was another extinct animal.
Book 2, Chapter 10 Quotes
There was another crash. Someone had picked up the glass paperweight from the table and smashed it to pieces on the hearthstone. The fragment of coral, a tiny crinkle of pink like a sugar rosebud from a cake, rolled across the mat. How small, thought Winston, how small it always was!
The Glass Paperweight Symbol Timeline in 1984
The timeline below shows where the symbol The Glass Paperweight appears in 1984. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 1, Chapter 8
Book 2, Chapter 4