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How are female-oriented literary tropes subverted in 1984?

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lolaleon | Student, Undergraduate | Valedictorian

Posted December 23, 2012 at 6:42 PM via web

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How are female-oriented literary tropes subverted in 1984?

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 23, 2012 at 8:14 PM (Answer #1)

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During the 1940s, when George Orwell was writing 1984, the common roles for women in fiction were those of victims, love interests, or objects to be fought over and won. In the rare cases where women were protagonists or central characters, they tended to reactive characters rather than proactive characters, centered entirely around the men in their lives. 1984 subverts this by allowing the women in Winston's life to be the major source of his rebellious instincts; he unconsciously wishes to be loved as his mother loved him, and to love another, but the very concept of love has been eradicated. In his wife, Katherine, Winston sees the antithesis of love; she is entirely motivated by loyalty to the Party, and Winston is repelled. In his lover Julia, Winston finds motivation in passion; he realizes that his own human emotion is entirely antithetical to Big Brother and the Party.

In the old days, he thought, a man looked at a girl's body and saw that it was desirable, and that was the end of the story. But you could not have pure love or pure lust nowadays. No emotion was pure, because everything was mixed up with fear and hatred.
(Orwell, 1984, msxnet.org)

In this manner, the women in Winston's life are the most important people in the book; they spur him to rebel and to become an individual. Instead of victims, these women are motivators, creating the circumstances that mold Winston's mind. He misses his mother and wishes that the Party had not taken her, and he wishes that he was not forced to marry Katherine because he desires physical and emotional intimacy. Winston finds love in Julia,  but that is destroyed by the Party and in the end their shared, propagandized disdain is one of the things that tips Winston over the edge of loving Big Brother. 

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