Larissa and her feminist hat continue to be unimpressed.

Alternatively titled: Live blogging Nineteen Eighty-Four

“He did not feel any temptation to tell lies to her.  It was even a sort of love-offering to start off by telling the worst.

“‘I hated the sight of you,’ he said.  ‘I wanted to rape you and then murder you afterwards.  Two weeks ago I thought seriously of smashing your head in with a cobblestone. If you really want to know, I imagined that you had something to do with the Thought Police.’

“The girl laughed delightedly, evidently taking this as a tribute to the excellence of her disguise.”

 

Ho ho! Rape, murder, jolly good fun.

Delightful, even.

And so romantic.

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11 comments

  1. david · August 11, 2010

    (bear in mind it’s been many years since I read 1984 in jr high)

    I’m sure you understand Julia’s point: she is pleased to have fooled him into thinking she was something he hated and that she was able to provoke that (however unsuitable) reaction, because she wants to subvert the authority of the state. She is laughing not at the revelation of what he wanted to do to her, but at her pleasure in the fact that she could fool someone so well (and if she could fool Winston so well, she must be able to fool the rest of the unthinking populace even better). She hates the state more than she cares for herself, but is a fatalist: she knows she will be caught and is taking advantage of what she can do now, and she is the true hero of the book. Whereas Winston is revealed to be just an ordinary man.

    Winston finds her disregard for the state alluring and exciting, and she obviously has crap taste in men (hey ho). Their romance is about human connection outside the boundaries of permissibility, and outside of the party structure (contrast this with his marriage to Katherine).

    There has been a great deal of discussion about misogyny in 1984, and it certainly is written in a way that doesn’t lend itself (or the narrator) sympathetically toward modern understandings of feminism. I think the instances you mentioned at first (during the Two Minutes’ Hate) are meant to be an illustration of Winston’s growing fear and hatred, and a woman was a convenient, real object toward which he could direct his hate, and it demonstrates not just his feelings of weakness against the state but perhaps also his perceived power over another individual. He is asserting, to himself, through his fantasy, that he still has strength and hasn’t been completely destroyed and/or emasculated, and this is probably a fantasy he has every day. Perhaps this is clumsy, but I rather think it simply is meant to show Winston as a rather pathetic, frustrated man. Once you learn more about Julia, you can find this episode to be alternately encouraging (stronger Julia & weaker Winston scenario) or further disgusting (Julia is defined by her affairs with men and as a pornographer, she is cheap and tawdry). The reader can decide what to think of her.

    Women in 1984 are a big part of the story, though. The three women in Winston’s life basically drive all of the events and development in his character: his understanding of his place in society (his mother), his understanding of the party (his wife), and his understanding of humanity/emotion (Julia).

    But then I haven’t read it in a long long time so here’s something easier:

    Winston drank some gin
    Julia wore a red sash
    Big Brother did watch

    • Larissa · August 11, 2010

      I should state this perhaps more emphatically.

      I know all of this.

      Putting conventional interpretations of the text that dismiss its misogyny aside, though…

      close readings of the text incite me to rage.

    • Larissa · August 11, 2010

      But, also, I know she wasn’t delighted that Winston wanted to rape and kill her.

      I was hoping to illustrate how the textual moves of the author carry a lot of unintentional meaning and weight.

  2. david · August 11, 2010

    Certainly we can agree that the unintended meaning and weight behind the textual moves of the author were something that Orwell probably didn’t even think about (and it’s something relatively few authors think of, now), and it’s a product of its time and wocka wocka wocka. And this is the beauty of literature–it can be forever re-examined. It’s one of life’s necessary frustrations. There are certainly some places, as you’ve pointed out, where Orwell has written things that rightly merit further examination and reflection, but I don’t necessarily think they deserve such immediate contempt.

    And I don’t think the “conventional” interpretations (whatever they are) dismiss its misogyny (in fact I find that misogyny features greatly in criticism of Orwell). My own reading of 1984 doesn’t dismiss any of its inadequacies, perhaps I see them as justifiable in the context of character development and so on (which is not to say I necessarily approve of them), or I just accept them–that is part of the pleasure of books that provoke thought: they aren’t always pleasurable. Perhaps you are reading it through a prism that I, as an agreed feminist, understand, but one through which I cannot view it with sincerity. It simply doesn’t evoke the same response, close reading or otherwise, in me, in much the same way that I can intellectually understand but still disagree with a number of the criticisms of pornography by Andrea Dworkin (not that I’m necessarily equating your critique of Orwell with Dworkin’s work).

    Then again, nothing upsets me more than phones ringing on someone’s desk when they’re not there.

  3. Larissa · August 11, 2010

    Since I’ve done gone finished my higher education, I was hoping to read some of these books that I’d never got around to reading before because my specialism was in a slightly older milieu, certainly not the 20th century. I wasn’t even intending to read 1984 through any particular critical lens, because, after all, I was reading it for pleasure! Hoorah!

    But, seriously, how am I supposed to get behind a story line like this:

    Winston: Hate, hate hate, I HATE HER! Anger! VITRIOL!!! Douchebaggery, etc. etc.

    Julia: “Dear Winston, I love you. Do you love me? Circle Y / N xoxoxo”

    Winston: OMG I want to have sex with her. I think she’ll let me have sex with her. If anything happens to her BODY, I may as well die.

    Julia: I love you!

    Winston: I’m old. And an asshole. And I mostly just want to have sex with you.

    Julia: Doesn’t matter. I still love you!

    It’s stuff like this that makes me realise what the problem is: the book wasn’t written for me. It is so entirely written for the opposite of me. But it fills me with sadness; there are still people for whom this book was written today, people who love it, will defend it vehemently on the internet against absolute strangers.

    So, yeah. I can’t get into the story. And since I’m reading it for pleasure, I feel entitled to write about my reactions to the book in such a flippant manner as on my rather inconsequential blog.

    • david · August 11, 2010

      You’re perfectly entitled to say what you wish about the book–it’s your blog! Write away.

      And I agree, their relationship is pretty unbelievable, but then the whole story is. It certainly doesn’t work in a way to which I can relate, at least, and I think it only really works on a kind of macro level, if you will. I don’t think I really could address the merits of the story, itself (I’m hardly a literary critic), but more the themes it seeks to address and the ways in which it addresses them. I remember finding it a difficult read, myself.

      There are some books that, because they are considered classics, people hold very dear. Many people think of 1984 as a revelatory book, blah blah blah, and they don’t care about any subtext. My father, for example, thinks 1984 and Animal Farm are the two greatest books ever written because he thinks they’re anti-communist, which was arguably not Orwell’s aim. He ignores entirely any part of it with which he disagrees, and just took from it what he wanted (or what his teacher in high school told him). It’s no different from other books, really they’re there for you to make up your own mind about. That’s why you’re reading it now, right, to make up your mind about it?

      That said, I find it difficult to understand what you mean by saying it fills you with sadness that there are still people for whom this book was written today. Do you mean people who would relate with Winston’s negative traits or not see anything bad about them, etc? Or do you just not understand how anyone can take something good from 1984?

      • david · August 11, 2010

        Oh and I agree with your sentiment on the other post that it’s scary that there are people who walk around thinking things like Winston, but what’s worse is that they act on them.

      • Larissa · August 11, 2010

        The former: people who relate with Winston’s negative traits.

        I totally understand the relevance of 1984 as a text. Also, I realise that some people love it, and I don’t begrudge them that.

        All I’m saying is that I most certainly don’t love it, nor am I unafraid to tell other people that I don’t love it.

        But, you’re right. I don’t hate it quite as much as I hate people who let their telephones ring incessantly, people who don’t set up voicemail.

    • Heather · August 11, 2010

      Larissa, I love you. That is all.

      • david · August 11, 2010

        Yeah I figured, but unfortunately there are a *lot* of those people. And I suppose one of the only ways those of us who have fairies and unicorns in our heads and would never hurt a fly can only understand that they exist without having to intimately experience them is through reading about them. Was that a sickening run on sentence or what?

        On a semi-related note, I was listening to an advice podcast yesterday wherein an eighteen year old man was asking for advice on how to deal with his coming to realise that he was a paedophile. Not in the statutorily underage but within a couple years of him way, he was into straight up 9 year olds. Fortunately he understood his predicament and that his desires could never be realised, and I would suggest that the majority of people who identify with/have had the same feelings as Winston understand this themselves. Perhaps some things just can’t be helped, within those people (ie psychologically), but societal rules and what have you manage to force those people to rein in their baser desires.

        But then I’m a misanthrope.

  4. david · August 11, 2010

    And the people who continue to call despite getting no answer are worse. They’re the real sociopaths.

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