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A Freudian view of society: From George Orwell's 1984


In this novel, the two main characters, Winston and Julia, oppose a party which “seeks power entirely for its own sake” (227). To do so, the party holds omnipotent control “Over the body – but, above all, over the mind” (228). The power over the body (click here to see that in 1984 the body includes the mind) is a power over nature which manifests itself especially in three ways:

  1. in the marginalization of the lower classes, which the novel defines as natural - stupid but genuine - the only real threat for the Party (64)
  2. in the suppression of the sex instinct (62), for it is through sexuality that Winston and Julia protest against the Party
  3. in the obliteration of the feeling of love: according to Winston, “only feelings  matter. If they could make me stop loving you - that would be the real betrayal” (147). And Julia is confident that “It’s the one thing they can’t do” because “they can’t get inside you” (147).

As so often in modern society, we find that Winston and Julia’s betrayal to the party works through the body (2. sex and 3. the feeling of love). In the end, as we know, the party wins over the body by confronting Winston with his worst nightmare: as his face is about to be eaten by rats, he hands over Julia's body: “Do it to Julia! Do it to Julia! Not me! Julia! I don’t care what you do to her. Tear her face off, strip her to the bones. Not me! Julia! Not me!” (247). In this story we thus find an expression of society as threatening the individual - an individual defined as nature - and doing so through its omnipotence and the senselessness of power for the sake of power. This turns society into a metaphysical entity, “merg[ing the individual] in the Party so that he is the Party” (228).

work cited

Orwell, George. Nineteen Eighty-Four. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1954.

daniel.candel@uah.es | ©2008 Daniel Candel Bormann