In 1984, how are the proles superior to the Party members according to Winston? (Part 2)

Expert Answers

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

Within 1984, Winston Smith assigns all hope for a successful revolution (and for the eventual destruction of the Party's rule) with the proles. There are two key factors that seem to combine in creating this impression. The first is largely a matter of numbers: the proles represent the vast majority of the population (in the beginning of book one, chapter seven, Winston states that they make up eighty-five percent of it). From this perspective, were the proles to ever rise up collectively against the Party, you might expect this entire dystopian picture as Orwell presents it to collapse by weight of numbers.

More importantly, however, when you look at the 1984's brutal picture of suppression and control, you'll actually find that the State devotes far greater energy to the domination of the Outer Party than it does to the proles. As Orwell describes it:

A few agents of the Thought Police moved always among them, spreading false rumors and marking down and eliminating the few individuals who were judged capable of becoming dangerous; but no attempt was made to indoctrinate them with the ideology of the Party. It was not desirable that the proles should have strong political feelings. ... The great majority of proles did not even have telescreens in their homes. Even the civil police interfered with them very little. ... In all questions of morals they were allowed to follow their ancestral code. ... They were beneath suspicion. As the Party slogan put it: "Proles and animals are free." (1984, Book 1, Chapter 7)

In essence, for all that they live in poverty and squalor, the proles are allowed a degree of autonomy, which members of the Outer Party are not given. This is absolutely crucial, given Winston Smith's own background and frustrations as a member of the Outer Party, having seen the ways in which truth is continually rewritten and manipulated and life is lived under surveillance and threat of suppression.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Shortly before their arrest at the end of part II, Winston and Julia are standing side by side in the room above Mr. Charrington's shop, looking down at the prole washerwoman who is always singing and hanging laundry in the courtyard below. As he watches the washerwoman and muses that Party members don't sing that way anymore, Winston thinks that the hope for the future lies with the proles.

The proles are superior to Party members, according to Winston, because the traditional way of life they lead stretches back a thousand years and has never been interfered with: marriage, children, work, and an endless physicality that passes down a way of life based on family and labor. Winston imagines people like the washerwoman spread across the earth. Their society is superior to his, he muses, because it is based on equality and therefore is sane.

In addition, people feel affection and loyalty to one another. Prole children don't spy on parents and turn them in for unorthodoxy. Proles aren't spied on by view screens. The proles, Winston thinks, will survive as they are a thousand years into the future, and when the time comes, rise up and rebel against the oppression of the regime. They have a "vitality," Winston believes, that it is impossible for the Party to kill.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The proles are free to live their lives how they want to, for the most part.  The proles, consisting of nearly 85% of the population, are not part of the party, and are not watched incessantly like party members are, or those that work for the party.  Winston envies that freedom.  He wants to be able to live his life unexamined, and with whomever doing whatever he wants.  He is sick and tired of the constant fear, paranoia, and surveillance.  The proles don't have to worry about that, because the party doesn't worry about them.  They spend most of their lives struggling to work and make ends meet, and the constant warfare that exists in the world keeps their passions and patriotism afire and satisfied.

Winston wonders why the proles don't rise up and rebel against the party, becuase if they did, they would squash the party instantly from sheer numbers alone.  They have, through the fact that they are so large in number, the power to get rid of the thing in life that Winston hates so much:  the party.  He envies that power.  He finds them superior because they have potential, they have freedom, and they have a life that they can live as they choose (in their limited circumstances).  I hope that those thoughts helped; good uck!

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

I believe that the passage you want to look at is towards the end of Part 2, Chapter 7.  In this passage, Winston is thinking about the differences between the proles and the Party members.

The most important conclusion that Winston comes to is that the proles have stayed human while the Party members have not.  The proles still care about individual relationships and their connections with other people.  They have not, as Winston says to himself, become hardened inside.  This makes them superior to the Party members because they still have feelings and emotions where the Party members do not.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial