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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 4) (14+)

How do Orwell and Huxley present gender in 'Brave New World' and '1984'? (Part 4) (14+)

In ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ the most prevalent ‘lover’ character is Julia. Orwell mainly uses Julia as a device to depict the novels theme of sexuality. On meeting her, Orwell has Winston notice ‘a narrow scarlet sash, emblem of the Junior Anti-Sex League, was wound several times round the waist of her overalls, just tightly enough to bring out the shapeliness of her hips’. The colour ‘scarlet’ implies danger, and also sexuality – sexuality that is inflicted on Julia by Winston by the description of the ‘shapeliness of her hips’. The fact that the sash that sexualises her represents something as desexualised as the ‘Junior Anti-Sex League’(an organisation that grounds itself in the real-life Hitler Youth) is presented as subordinate information, which lessens the impact of the deep irony on the reader. However, that irony is still present. Here, Orwell seems to inadvertently inflict the male gaze on Julia. The relationship between Julia and masculinity is further explored in Winston’s hallucination during the ‘Two Minutes Hate’. A sexually repressed Winston pictures how he would ‘flog (Julia) to death with a rubber truncheon’ would ‘tie her naked to a stake and shoot her full of arrows like Saint Sebastian’ and ‘ravish her and cut her throat at the point of climax’. Although the language used is purposely over-aggressive and violent, some of the language Orwell chooses falls in the semantic field of ‘BDSM’ – a movement that ‘first gained momentum in the 1940s’[1]. The idea of ‘flog(ing)’ Julia, of ‘t(ying) her naked to a stake’, and of ‘ravish(ing) her’ clearly depicts Winston dominating Julia sexually, and of her being passive. The reader also is made aware that this ‘passive female’ narrative isn’t just depicted in Winston’s dream – when he and Julia first make love, Julia’s body ‘seemed to melt to his’, and ‘wherever his hands moved was all as yielding as water’. The verbs ‘yield’ and ‘melt’ both imply a giving way to external pressure then a coerced changing of state - a passivity of a more practical nature, in which the external pressure is Winston. The word ‘water’ also implies this practical passivity, as water is liquid and can be made to be any shape. It also implies simplicity, and translucence – Winston has the power to see through Julia, she is not complex or opaque.  The idea of a sexually dominant male, and his sexually passive, ‘yielding’ partner isn’t progressive and isn’t feminist – it enforces hegemonic masculinity and misogyny.


However, in deciding to present the theme of sexuality in his novel, Orwell inadvertently addresses one of the ultimate feminine paradoxes – how does one appear both sexless and sexual at the same time?  James Phelan states that ‘Winston’s wife, Katherine, is perhaps Orwell’s example of deadened and dirtied female sex’[2]. This statement would be supported by the descriptions of Katherine throughout the novel.


[1]‘ Common BDSM myths: It's not a new fad, it's not violent and not everyone who partakes is psychologically maladjusted’ by Debra Soh, The Independent

[2] ‘Character, Progression and Thematism in 1894’ by James Phelan

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