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Ella Tournes

Ella Tournes


Total Article : 45

About Me:Sixth form student currently studying English Literature, Drama and Theatre Studies, Classical Civilisation and History.

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How do Orwell and Huxley present gender in 'Brave New World' and '1984'? (Part 2)

How do Orwell and Huxley present gender in 'Brave New World' and '1984'? (Part 2)

Fragmented, elliptical syntax is repeated in the Controller’s mocking of ‘the mother’ – ‘My baby, my mother, my only, my love’. This fast-paced use of language combines to project a perspective of motherhood that is extreme, and ‘other’, as well as disgusting and inhumane. However, this arguably does not project the views of Huxley himself, as he is depicting this view of parents specifically in a dystopic manner. This would be the case, if Huxley’s focus was not specifically on mothers, and therefore on women. When analysing the effects of the word ‘mother’ Huxley states that '’Father’ was not so much obscene as – with its connotation of something at once remove from the loathsomeness and moral obliquity of child-bearing – merely gross, a scatological rather than pornographic propriety’. The word ‘scatological’ bears connotations of light obscenity, whereas the word ‘pornographic’ implies dirtiness, a higher sense of vulgarity and sexualisation. Male parenting is only lightly obscene and slightly removed – female parenting is dirty, vulgar and disgusting. This, although obviously amplified to the extreme, may project Huxley’s own feelings about women’s relationship to the physical nature of motherhood.


In ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’, Winston’s mother is not a ‘real’ character for the reader to engage with– she is used by Orwell as a device to symbolise the past. Whenever she is presented throughout the novel, it is through Winston’s memory or his dreams (her introduction is simply ‘Winston was dreaming of his mother’). The omniscience of the narrator never reaches her because she is always portrayed through Winston, thus creating a barrier between her character and the reader. She isn’t given a name throughout the novel – she is only referred to as ‘his (Winston’s) mother’. The fact that she is only identified in relation to Winston shows her role only as an accessory - she only serves to embellish his characterisation.  This, again, distances her from the reader. The fact that Orwell forces the reader to disengage from the character of Winston’s mother gives her a lack of individual identity; she represents an archetypal mother of the past, rather than a specific woman who is also a mother. Orwell describes Winston’s mother as a ‘tall, statuesque, rather silent woman with slow movement and magnificent fair hair’. The words ‘tall’ ‘statuesque’ and ‘magnificent’ make it clear that Orwell is attempting to elevate her in some way. He also directly juxtaposes her appearance with that of Julia – Winston’s mother has ‘fair hair’ where Julia has ‘thick, dark hair’; she is ‘rather silent’ which contrasts to descriptions of Julia’s speech as ‘coarse’ and ‘prosaic’. The elevation of Winston’s mother over Julia has led critics like Alan Kennedy to argue that ‘in 1984 we do indeed have a version of what Freud called the Oedipus complex in action’[1]. I disagree with this, however - Orwell describes Winston’s mother as ‘(possessing) a kind of nobility, a kind of purity’. The words ‘nobility’ and ‘purity’ don’t bear sexual connotations – Winston isn’t sexually attracted to his mother, he just elevated her almost to the extreme of apotheosis. 



[1] ‘Inversion of Form: Deconstructing Nineteen Eighty-Four’ by Alan Kennedy



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