Winston and Julia
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Winston Smith and Julia, the protagonists from George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, were brought together by their hate of the society in which they lived. Their relationship, which budded throughout the middle third of the novel, brought to light many interesting contrasts between the rebels. They were equal opposites, with different skills, priorities and tactics. Because of this, they complemented each other and learned from each other, which served to strengthen and prolong their relationship. Unfortunately, they also had tragic flaws which shortened their lives and prolonged their pain.
First of all, the characters were from two separate generations, which forged their unique personalities. Winston had been raised in an age before the Party seized power, and knew vaguely what life was like before its dominion. For example, he knew that airplanes were around long before Big Brother. What he seemed to recall with the greatest detail were childhood memories of his baby sister and mother in the clutches of starvation. He remembered that although the child was certainly going to die, his mother still clutched her lovingly. These memories of private love and loyalty are what helped Winston to identify with the proles, to conclude that “the proles had stayed human” (136). Julia, on the other hand, was born under the dominion of the party, much later than Winston.
Knowing nothing but their doctrines, she could not conceive of a world different from Oceania. For example, in her impressionable childhood, she had been taught crimestop, which, as Goldstein’s book explained, included the power to become “bored or repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction” (175). Certainly this had happened to Julia, since Winston’s talk of politics repelled her and sometimes literally put her to sleep.
Furthermore, the couple differed in their world views, and thus in their motives for rebelling. Winston’s mind was in the future. He held insistently upon a hope that the proles would revolt and defeat the Party. As he wrote in his journal, “if there is hope, it lies in the proles” (60). He was the more intellectual of the two; he had a much deeper understanding of the Party’s tactics and dwelled on them constantly. Thus, Goldstein’s book fascinated him. Even though it had “not actually told him anything that he did not know” (179), he saw it as a great work. He took comfort in its wisdom and admired the way it elegantly put forth his jumbled ideas in an organized fashion. It invigorated his hope in a proletarian revolution. He considered himself a dead man. He wrote, “Thoughtcrime does not entail death; thoughtcrime IS death” (27). Julia, however, was not concerned with politics and was, for the most part, not angry at the Party’s tactics. Unlike Winston, “she did not feel the abyss opening beneath her feet at the thought of lies becoming truths” (128).
The Party’s control of reality was just the way of life for Julia and her generation, so it did not worry her. Julia’s main concern was with her carnal pleasures, her human nature. Her mind was in the present. She said quite frankly to Winston, “I’m not interested in the next generation, dear. I’m interested in us” (129). Her outrage was not at Party doctrine, but at the Party’s insistence upon ruining her fun. When Winston said they were the dead, her first reply was, “We’re not dead yet” (113). At great risk, she provided Inner Party food and other luxuries to Winston and herself, and she initiated sex. If these desires had been under discipline, it is conceivable that nothing else would have stirred rebellion in her. Indeed, O’Brien described her as “a perfect conversion, a textbook case” (214). Half the work of integrating her into society had already been done by her upbringing.
Finally, the two contrasted each other in their strengths and weaknesses. Winston was very paranoid and cautious. He paid great attention to detail. For example, in order to see if his diary would be discovered, he “picked up an identifiable grain of whitish dust and deposited it on the corner of the cover” (27). Also, whenever he took a risk, such as moving into Mr. Charrington’s shop, his heart would scream, “Folly, folly, folly” (115)! Winston still took these risks, acting against his own warnings, probably because he had already accepted himself as a dead man and was squeezing as much as he could out of the life he had left. Winston’s greatest weakness, his tragic flaw, even, was his inability to read faces, or to hide his own. For example, Winston had the wrong impression of Julia. She “gave him the impression of being more dangerous than most” (12), even though she was actually attracted to him. The dual skills of hiding and reading faces were very important because “to wear an improper expression on your face … was itself a punishable offense” (54). The Newspeak word for this was facecrime. In this way, trying to rebel agaist Big Brother was like a game of poker.
Winston had committed facecrime at the very beginning by revealing himself to O’Brien in a moment of eye contact. According to Winston, “it was as though … the thoughts were flowing from one into the other through their eyes” (18). Unfortunately, he had the wrong impression of O’Brien, thinking that O’Brien was a rebel on the inside, like himself. He held what was “perhaps not even a belief, merely a hope – that O’Brien’s political orthodoxy was not perfect” (13). This mistake condemned him to torture in the Ministry of Love. Also, it is apparent what caused Winston to read O’Brien the wrong way: hope, his other tragic flaw. Wishing so adamantly for a society of liberty and being so eager to help bring it about, he convinced himself that O’Brien was a friend. Julia had a different set of strengths. For example, she apparently could read faces. As she said to Winston, “It was something in your face.
I’m good at spotting people who don’t belong” (102). Her greatest weakness, however, was her trust in Winston. Being a skillful face-reader herself, she apparently assumed Winston was as well: “She was used to judging people by their faces, and it seemed natural to her that Winston should believe O’Brien to be trustworthy on the strength of a single flash of the eyes” (126). Julia should have argued that Winston was completely wrong about her after a glance, so he was not necessarily correct about O’Brien. Nonetheless, she followed Winston into O’Brien’s trap obediently. Another case of Julia giving in to Winston was during their last night together, just before they discovered they were being watched. Winston said they were the dead, and this time Julia echoed him: “We are the dead” (182). When he had said this to her earlier, she disagreed, urging him to seize the day. Winston had made a defeatist out of her.
In conclusion, although Winston and Julia’s private rebellion was doomed for failure, it was a light in a dark and mad world. Their contrasts provided some comic relief from the grim sameness of the people around them. To O’Brien, their unique personalities were nothing more than challenges to overcome, cases to which to tailor the reintegration ritual. To a reader who is shocked by the world of 1984, their differences were normal, and the stamping out of their personalities was a tragedy.
Orwell, George. 1984. New York: Signet, 1981.