What is ownlife in 1984?

Expert Answers

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

In 1984, "ownlife" is the word for solitude. It means wanting to do your own thing, separate from communal Party activities. As the novel explains, every moment a Party member is not working, sleeping, or eating, he or she is supposed to be involved in a communal activity. For a Party member, even taking a walk alone is suspect. The government considers it dangerous, odd, and individualistic to be by oneself.

In our world, "ownlife," which implies living your own life on your own terms, is a positive way of being, one many people aspire to. But in Oceania it is a borderline illegal activity, the kind of behavior that can get a person noticed and in trouble with the Thought Police. Therefore, when Winston decides to wander around London by himself on a warm April evening rather than go the "Centre" and drink gin with other Party members, it is no wonder he thinks about "ownlife" and the risky path he is taking.

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

In Oceania, Party members are required to attend community functions and volunteer their free time at the Community Centre, where attendance is carefully tracked. In principle, a Party member is expected to have no free time. Big Brother wishes for Party members to always be at work or taking part in some kind of communal recreation when they are not eating or sleeping. Winston Smith mentions that any indication of solitude is slightly dangerous. In Newspeak, the term for individualism and eccentricity is called OWNLIFE. If a Party member were to continually miss communal functions or even be caught roaming the streets by themselves, they could be arrested and charged with OWNLIFE. It is important to remember that in Oceania, individuality does not exist, and citizens' lives are solely dedicated to Big Brother. Winston Smith knows that his actions are dangerous and must be careful to avoid being accused of OWNLIFE.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team