1984 as a Love Story
Table of Contents
Clandestine love-story as one of the themes of “1984”
In 1984, Orwell introduces love story of Winston and Julia as one of the themes of the novel. In many ways the story strikes us as a reworking of the same experience described in Keep the Aspidistra Flying, though here embellished with digressions on the Party’s ban on all sexual relationships based on love. Nor is Julia herself very interesting as a character. She is not a realized human being, but some sort of representative of femininity. (“With Julia, everything came back to her own sexuality.”) However, the triteness of the characterization of Julia and indeed of the whole love situation is no great defect in the novel. For Orwell’s emphasis is not upon the love-story as such but rather upon the history of a human consciousness as it seeks expansion and enrichment, a general process of which is the love experience is but a part. And, if Orwell is not altogether successful at relating a story of love, he does succeed in his attempt to evoke the experience and sensation of love as a part and phase of his hero’s mind.
Winston falls in love with Julia
Winston falls in love with Julia, a girl working in another department of the Ministry of Truth. It is secret because illegal, and illegal because the Party cannot allow the creation of intimate worlds outside its own world of mass emotions. Marriage has to be accepted as an unfortunately still necessary institution, but mutual physical love, whether inside or outside marriage, is regarded as a crime. Richard Rees considers that one of Orwell’s limitations was a lack of interest in psychology, and it is certainly true that he was too concerned with the concrete world to explore Proustian labyrinths of the mind for their own sake. But he had always been fascinated by the private reasons for public attitudes, what made people martyrs or pacifists or socialists, or why dogmatic extremists were able so easily to switch to other extremes. There is a terrible logic in the policy which makes the love affair of Winston and Julia criminal Julia explains why the Party cannot tolerate it:
“When you make love you’re using up energy and afterwards you feel happy and don’t give a damn for anything. They can’t bear you to feel like that. They want you to be bursting with energy all the time. All this marching up and down and cheering and waving flags is simply sex gone sour. If you’re happy inside yourself, why should you get excited about Big Brother and the Two Minutes Hate and all the rest of their bloody rot?”
Winston first meets Julia in his dream
Before Winston first spoke to Julia, Winston had dreamt about Julia. In that dream she had come walking towards him across a field and with a single movement torn off her clothes and flung them aside. It was not desire that Winston felt, but admiration for a gesture which “with its grace and carelessness seemed to annihilate a whole culture.” Winston, we are told, woke up with the word Shakespeare on his lips. This is less surprising when we remember that Shakespeare, for Orwell, is above all associated with enjoyment of the process of life” for which the Party has no place in its scheme.
The various stages of the love-affair
Winston’s return to health begins with Julia’s declaration of love for him and with the surge of feeling within him that impels him to the adventure of meeting her. The sense of nervous desire which possesses Winston at the time of their first meeting in the countryside is finely managed. And so is the feeling of abandonment to experience that marks the next phase of their relationship. This in turn is followed by a new stage in which “a deep tenderness, such as he had not felt for her before, suddenly took hold of him.” “He wished that they were a married couple of ten years’ standing.” “He wished above all that they had some place where they could be alone together without feeling for the obligation to make love every time they met.” The desire for permanence in part induces Winston to take the risk of renting the room above Mr. Charrington’s shop; though that action is also motivated by some complex feelings that are represented by and conveyed in terms of the paperweight. The paperweight in its delicate colour and texture is a counterpart of the peculiar feeling which the relationship with Julia now signifies for Winston. And, finally, when one day they are listening to an old working woman’s song, the Thought Police bursts into the room above the shop and seizes them.
The Two lovers plan a conspiracy against the Party
“The two lovers plan a conspiracy against the Party because they believe that it is rotten under the surface. In fact, Winston regards his love as a mighty blow against the Party whose motive is to destroy sex instinct because it creates a private world. It is Winston’s love for Julia that is the final test of his revolt. His love and revolt become identical. For Winston, love is a means of becoming himself; and it is, in essence a political act. Thus, as he feels it, “their embrace had been a battle, the climax a victory. It was a blow struck against the Party. It was a political act.” He believes in the authenticity of the animal instincts which would perhaps demolish the citadel of totalitarianism. We may note what he says to Julia in the following scene:
“Listen! The more men you’ve had, the more I love you. Do you understand that?”
“I hate purity, I hate goodness!
I don’t want any virtue to exist anywhere.
I want everyone to be corrupt to the bones.”
“Well then, I ought to suit you, dear. I’m corrupt to bones.”
That is what he wants to hear, not merely the love of one person, but the animal instinct, the simple undifferentiated desire: that is the force that would tear the Party to pieces. This scene illustrates the new discovery of the beauty of love between man and woman. The primeval quality of the two lovers’ lovemaking links them with nature, the past, and the proles. In fact, regimentation in matters of love is nothing but the extension of totalitarian tendencies to the holy regions of human consciousness, while free and unconditional love symbolizes liberation of the human psyche. Being tied down to a single person in emotional life is nothing short of being loyal to Big Brother. Winston reflects that there was a direct intimate connection between chastity and political orthodoxy.” Therefore, the real purpose of the Party is not only to prevent men and women from forming loyalties, but also to remove all pleasure from the sexual act through such organizations as the Junior Anti-Sex League which advocates complete celibacy for both sexes of marriage in Oceania is to beget children for the service of the party: and sexual intercourse is no more than a slightly disgusting minor operation. Any society which imposes a ban on personal experience must sooner or later inhibit and distort the sexual instinct.”
A totalitarian State cannot tolerate attachments between men and women
The fact is that a totalitarian State cannot tolerate attachment between men and women: it cannot allow the creation of private worlds outside its own world of collective emotions. The government of Oceania distorts Freud’s theory of the relationship between sexual sublimation and civilization and adapts it to its own requirements. The tremendous sexual energy is channeled in the service of the totalitarian society. Julia says
“When you make love you’re using up energy; and afterwards you feel happy and don’t give a damn for anything. They cannot bear you to feel like that. They want you to be bursting with energy all the time. All this marching up and down and cheering and waving flags is simply sex gone sour. If you’re happy inside yourself, why should you get excited about Big Brother…?”
The nature of Winston and Julia’s love-affair
Winston’s and Julia’s revolt is primarily sexual, a most appropriate metaphor of the individual’s search for the primary self in a totally mechanical and non-personal environment. But their love-making, in the last analysis, has little to do with the higher human emotions or even ordinary sensual pleasure: “In the old days, Winston thought, a man looked at a girl’s body and saw that it was desirable, and that was the end of the story. But you could not have pure love or pure lust nowadays. No emotion was pure, because everything was mixed up with fear and hatred. Their embrace had been a battle, the climax a victory. It was a blose against the Party. It was a political act.” Sexual intercourse for them is a drive to recover the biological sell, the animal self, which radically opposes the party’s requirement of total impersonality. So their physical act recreates at least the tension between self and society. It is not really a human expression but simple copulation, which is nevertheless perfect rebellion, being non-rational, against pure mind. Winston rejoices therefore in Julia’s animosity:
“His heart leapt. Scores of times she had done it: he wished it had been hundreds, thou sands. Anything that hinted at corruption always filled him with a wild hope.”
The link of their love with Nature, the past, and the proles
The primeval quality in their love-making links them with Nature, the past, and the proles. Their meetings occur either in the country or in the secret room overlooking the proles’ housing area and in full view of the washerwoman, a figure of gross fertility. For a time, then, they are able to create a separate World, symbolized by the paperweight which Winston has purchased from Mr. Charrington. Winston tells Julia that the paperweight is a little chunk of history that they’ve forgotten to alter.” Then he looks deeply into it and the thought occurs to him: “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.” Ironically, of course, their world is crystal, fragile, and transparent, but still, for those moments, an individual one. Underneath, both of them know that it is temporary but they prefer the uncertainty to the Party of self-destruction:
“In reality there was no escape. Even the one plan that was practicable, suicide, they had no intention of carrying out. To hang on from day to-day and from week to week, spinning out the present that had no future, seemed an unconquerable instinct.”