“BigBrother Is Watching” is the motto of this hopeless dystopianworld (Oceania) where NineteenEighty-Four set in theoretical morrows.
Oceania, today’s London, ruled bytotalitarian regime and an invisible leader who, is Big Brother, governs thestate. The hierarchical society divided into three classes: The members of theInner Party are at the top of this classification, below them the Party membersand far below proletariats. The InnerParty and the Thought Police have been monitoring the Party members fortwenty-four hours a day, seven days a week; however, proletariats are not soimportant that it is not even worth watching. Oceania has no laws, there aresocial norms, if anyone tries to depart from the Party rules, he or she will bepunished for that.
As it is stated above, Big Brother is watching. George Orwell (1903 – 1950) by writing this hopelessdystopian world, succeeded to criticize totalitarian regimes and his successfuldepictions cannot be denied. However, as in other misogynistic dystopiannovels, the women of Nineteen Eighty-Four are also invisibleand not superior to men. Women are “either sexless automatons orrebels who’ve defied the sex rules of the regime” (Atwood 516). As Daphne Pataihas asserted, this is quite hypocritical: “Orwell assails Big Brother’sdomination of the state but never notices that he is the perfect embodimentof hypertrophied masculinity” (Patai, Despair 88): the narrator never “focuseson male power over females” (Patai, Despair 93). On the opening page of NineteenEighty-Four, the protagonist, Winston Smith is introduced, and the narrator isthe third person, limited omniscient, this is the story of Winston. After a fewpages, Winston’s future love is on the stage but for the time being her name isnot mentioned, yet she is Julia.
When Winston saw Julia for the first time, shedescribed as: He did not know her name, but he knewthat she worked in the Fiction Department. Presumably?—?since he had sometimesseen her with oily hands and carrying a spanner?—?she had some mechanical jobon one of the novel-writing-machines. She was a bold-looking girl, of abouttwenty-seven, with thick dark hair, a freckled face and swift, athleticmovements. A narrow scarlet sash, emblem of the Junior Anti-Sex League, waswound several times round the waist of her overalls, just tightly enough tobring out the shapeliness of her hips. … He disliked nearly all women, andespecially the young and pretty ones. It was always the women, and above allthe young ones, who were the most bigoted adherents of the Party, theswallowers of slogans, the amateur spies and nosers-out of unorthodoxy. Butthis particular girl gave him the impression of being more dangerous than most.
(Orwell 11–2) The narrator is constantly switchingbetween what seem to be facts and Winston’s opinions. This leads to confusion,as Daphne Patai’s interpretation of this passage shows: ‘Orwell here dislodgesthe general comments about Party women so that they are no longer attached toWinston’s point of view but instead take on the form of reliable “facts”‘ (Patai,Mystique 241). But in fact the narrator uses a textual style that simply suggests factuality.
The sentence Patai refers to (‘It was always … unorthodoxy’) is surroundedby Winston’s subjectivity: ‘He disliked’, it says in the sentence before, andit is followed by ‘gave him the impression’. But still, the narrator makes itseem like Winston’s impressions of women are the truth. And these impressionsare misogynistic and two dimensional.The novel’s women described as if allidiots and full of party slogans like Winston’s wife ‘The Human Soundtrack'(Orwell 69), or proletariats, whom he at some point watches ‘disgustedly’ (Orwell73), prostitutes, or self-effacing maternal figures: even when seen positivelywomen are stereotypes (Patai, Despair 88). ‘Women are at the margins’, and’exist mainly as a source of frustration, irritation, or temptation’ (Bail215). And this view is never challenged by the only woman who doesn’t fit quiteinto this narrative: Julia might be different, she is still first and foremostdefined as a female body. Furthermore, the way Orwell names the characters reflecttheir status within the novel. Julia has only a first name; she is aninsignificant female, and Orwell in this respect follows his society’sconvention of considering a woman’s last name a disposable, because changeable,element in an uncertain social identity.
O’Brien, at the opposite pole, hasonly a last name, in typical masculine style. And Winston Smith, halfwaybetween the powerless personal feminine and the powerful impersonal masculine,has a complete name. ( Patai )Orwellstayed in the matter of whether or not to value the woman. Within the novelJulia is mainly anarchical, she is not interested in being a player in the gameof domination; she does no longer take the Two Minute Hate significantly; she sleepseven as Winston reads to her from Goldstein’s book. Her purpose is to get as lotsreal delight as she will out of the oppressive society wherein she revealsherself. Given the limitations the novel offers, this method begins not to looknegative; surely, Julia’s delight-seeking does not harm anybody, and she iswilling to go through big danger for it. Despitethis favorable presentation of Julia and the few other positive portrayals ofwomen in the novel (the single proletariat woman, who endure; the protectiveactions of Winston’s own mother and the mother in the film he sees), most ofthe women in Orwell’s narrative hardly figure except as caricature: they areParty secretaries, Party fanatics, Party wives like Katharine – whom Winstonjudges to be the emptiest person he has ever known – or Mrs.
Parsons; they arewomen’s voices are represented in a consistently negative way: The “piercingfemale voice” of the exercise leader who yaps and barks on the telescreen inthe morning, the “silly feminine voice” that Winston hears in the canteen, thescreeching of the woman on the telescreen when he gets home. Women are notindividuals, as the men are. Women are clearly “other” in the world of 1984 asin Orwell’s own society and Winston relates to them as such.