What is the effect of poverty on the self-esteem of the proles in 1984?

Poverty does not negatively affect the self-esteem of the proles. Since the proles are extremely ignorant, lack self-consciousness, and have no one to envy, they never identify or question their poverty. Everyone in Oceania, including Outer Party members, lives in poverty, which is something that is simply expected and ubiquitous in the totalitarian state.

Expert Answers

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

In Orwell's classic novel 1984 , the proles are the oppressed working-class proletariat that makes up the vast majority of Oceania's population. The proles are portrayed as poor, incompetent people who are primarily concerned with playing the lottery, consuming mindless entertainment, and engaging in senseless, insignificant activities. The Party...

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

In Orwell's classic novel 1984, the proles are the oppressed working-class proletariat that makes up the vast majority of Oceania's population. The proles are portrayed as poor, incompetent people who are primarily concerned with playing the lottery, consuming mindless entertainment, and engaging in senseless, insignificant activities. The Party does not even consider proles individuals, and their slogan reads "Proles and animals are free." Despite their ignorance and ineptitude, the proles are depicted as relatively carefree beings who do not fear Big Brother or his agents. There are several scenes that even portray proles as comfortable, enthusiastic people, and Winston genuinely believes that hope "lies in the proles."

Although the proles live in poverty, they openly demonstrate a high level of self-esteem through self-expression. After reading Goldstein's secret book, Winston looks out the window and witnesses an overweight prole woman singing to herself while hanging laundry. He recognizes a certain grace and dignity in the woman, which gives him confidence that they will one day overcome the Party. There are also scenes that depict proles fighting in the streets, engaging in prostitution, and expressing their displeasure in public. Their lack of self-awareness and self-consciousness is obvious, which is one reason their lower-class status does not affect their esteem.

In addition to their lack of self-consciousness, virtually everyone in Oceania is poor, including Party members like Winston. Big Brother has purposely manufactured an ongoing economic crisis to lower the standards of living and make citizens' lives difficult. Essentially, the proles have no one to envy, lack the self-consciousness to understand their poverty, and are relatively comfortable experiencing their insignificant lives. The concept of poverty is difficult to grasp in a society where everyone suffers. Considering the fact that proles have significantly more freedom than Party members, they mind their own business, openly express themselves without concern, and have a relatively high level of self-esteem.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on