In George Orwell's 1984, Winston and Julia go to the forest and find an area Winston thinks of as the "Golden Country," an allusion to one of his previous dreams. In that scene, what is the water symbolic of?
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In chapters 3 and 10 of George Orwell's dystopian novel 1984, in both Winston's recurring dream about the landscape he dubs the Golden Country and his first romantic encounter with Julia in the clearing in the woods, a stream runs out of sight where freshwater fish called dace swim under willow trees. The flowing water of the stream can certainly be symbolic of many things.
Water can be seen as a purifying agent because water is essential for healthy life. Drinking and bathing are both ways of cleansing the body. As a purifying agent, in many cultures, water is seen as being symbolic of salvation. In addition, since water is so critical for life, the body itself being composed of 60% of water, water is also a source of life. Since it is a source of life, in many cultures, water is also seen as being symbolic of fertility.
One thing very fascinating about the stream is that it is out of sight in both Winston's recurring dream and in his real-life encounter with Julia, as we see when Julia observes the following in answer to his question:
That's right, there is a stream. It's at the edge of the next field, actually. There are fish in it, great big ones. You can watch them lying in the pools under the willow trees, waving their tails. (p. 70)
Hence, if water is symbolizing purity and salvation, Orwell is keeping the stream out of sight to show that for both Winston and Julia, for their entire society, the purification of their minds and souls, their salvation, is nowhere in sight. They are too oppressed by their totalitarian society to have healthy minds and souls and have no way to escape their oppression; escape would be equal to salvation in their case.
The bountiful presence of fish in the stream hidden from sight also shows that Orwell is using the stream to symbolize fertility as well as salvation. If the stream was not a healthy, fertile place, the fish would not be present. The fertility of the stream parallels with Winston and Julia's sexual activity, which defies the party. Hence, their sexual act is their way of fighting against their oppression, their way of reaching their salvation, yet, sadly, it's only a temporary salvation. True salvation is out of sight.
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