I am doing a Marxist critique of George Orwell's 1984; any ideas on how I should organize the paper and what I should focus on?

The following paper was written by a student at the University of Virginia. The student had to write a paper on any topic he or she chose. The only requirement was that it be at least three pages long, typed, and include a reference page with five sources. The student's name is: Matt Hines He is an English major and plans to graduate in May 2009. He is double majoring in History and Political Science. He has taken classes from several professors including Drs. James McPherson, Jay Tolson, Eric Foner, Michael Dawson, and Ken Knoke as well as with Thomas Buckley and Steve Phillips in the UVA Honors Program.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Several aspects of Marxism seem relevant to 1984. Marx saw all of history as a struggle between the classes, culminating in the workers of the world uniting and creating a stateless, classless society in which the people owned the means of production and shared the profits to create a...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Several aspects of Marxism seem relevant to 1984. Marx saw all of history as a struggle between the classes, culminating in the workers of the world uniting and creating a stateless, classless society in which the people owned the means of production and shared the profits to create a society of plenty for everyone.

Clearly, Oceania is very far from the ideal socialist state as envisioned in Marx. It is essentially a fascist state, if we define fascism as a form of government with a supreme leader and his small group of followers having close to total power, a lack of democratic institutions, no freedom of speech, and a powerful secret police force dedicated to crushing dissent, all aimed at keeping the country in constant state of war-readiness.

If Marxists saw fascism as embodying, in the words of critic Irving Howe, "a final decayed form of capitalism," we might look at how, through a Marxist lens, the inner Party props up its power: is it through promoting worship of Big Brother, propaganda, and terror? Why, from a Marxist point of view, does Oceania tolerate such a large population of seemingly unemployed or under-employed proles? Is it to have a surplus labor pool to keep labor costs down? If Marxists understood the lowest class of society as the group that would rise up and take power, is Winston right in believing the proles are the hope for the future?

I would suggest looking at Party propaganda and the proles through a Marxist lens as a starting point.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Marxist literary criticism tends to look at a piece of literature as a piece of evidence that tells us about the times in which they are written.  So they would ask what it is about Orwell's time and place and especially his class that made him write the book in the way he did.

I would think that a Marxist would say that the book does not reflect the reality of class struggle.  There is no sign of class conflict based on economic class -- you do not have the workers struggling against the owners of the factories.

Instead, the book is only concerned with bourgeois ideals of love and freedom.  To me, a Marxist would say that these concerns are irrelevant.  They would say that Orwell was clearly not concerned with the more important things in life.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team