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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 5) (14+)

How do Orwell and Huxley present gender in 'Brave New World' and '1984'? (Part 5) (14+)

In 1984, Katherine  is described as having ‘without exception, the most stupid, vulgar, empty mind that he had ever encountered’ – the superlative nature of this phrase makes Winston’s view of Katherine clear. Winston describes embracing her as ‘like embracing a jointed wooden image’ – a simile that implies that Katherine is inanimate, and hard (through the word ‘wooden’). Katherine is also described as ‘white’ ‘frozen’ and ‘frigid’. Her sexuality is seen as cold and unfavourable. Winston says, ‘She would lie there with shut eyes, neither resisting nor co-operating but submitting’. The act of ‘l(ying) there with shut eyes’ reminds one of the phrase ‘Lie down/shut your eyes and think of England’ – supposed advice given to women who had to endure unwanted sexual intercourse (first recorded in Lady Hillingdon’s diary in 1912). This reference shows Orwell’s disdain towards an unpassionate female sexual partner. He also clearly has a disdain for lack of assertion in women’s sexuality and Katherine’s ‘submiss(ion)’ is presented as a negative thing – but, what makes Katherine’s submission, and passivity, any different to Julia’s? Why is one cold and frigid, but one sexually desirable? Orwell doesn’t explain.


At times, Huxley depicts Lenina as the epitome of all that is wrong with the ‘Brave New World’. Jenni Calder argues that Lenina’s role has less importance than Julia’s… her most useful function is to demonstrate the female sex role in the stability system’. I believe that this statement can only be partly supported – I do believe that Lenina’s role is comparatively less important than Julia’s, however, I believe that Huxley does use her as more than a device to simply demonstrate a role. At times, streaks of unexplained rebellion can be seen in Lenina’s behaviour. Throughout the novel, green becomes representative of Lenina – when she gets dressed to meet Henry Foster Huxley describes her jacket, ‘made of bottle-green acetate cloth with green viscose fur’, her ‘green corduroy shorts’, and her ‘bright green’ shoes.  In fact, when Lenina’s character is alluded to at the end of the novel, the reader is meant to recognise her merely by her ‘green velveteen shorts, white shirt and green jockey cap’. The colour green becomes synonymous with Lenina. However, although Lenina’s caste is never mentioned, we assume from the way her and Fanny talk of Bernard, and the way Linda relates to her, that she is an Alpha, or at least a better.  Castes dress according to faction – green is the colour of Gammas. Lenina, when flying with Henry Foster, remarks ‘what a hideous colour khaki is’ and says, ‘My word, I’m glad I’m not a gamma.’ The fact that Huxley has Lenina wear a colour not befitting of her caste is curious, and can be explained one of two ways. Either he consciously crafts Lenina to be different, and she is putting on a front in front of Henry Foster, or the writing is merely inconsistent, and Huxley forgets about Lenina (this is possible, as the novel was only written and published in the space of four months). Either way, the rebellion of Lenina is not explored in the way any of the four major male characters are. Huxley presents curious inconsistencies in her behaviour, but doesn’t explain them before Lenina visits the savagery – after which, her main role in the plot is as the love interest of John the Savage. 


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