Physical Jerks 1984

What are Physical Jerks in the book 1984?

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In George Orwell's futuristic dystopian society, the Physical Jerks are a daily part of the lives of Oceania's citizenry.  The ubiquitous telescreens that enable the Party to both propagandize to and monitor the citizenry broadcasts every morning, at 7:18, a mandatory exercise program.  Nineteen-Eighty-Four , of course, depicts...

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In George Orwell's futuristic dystopian society, the Physical Jerks are a daily part of the lives of Oceania's citizenry.  The ubiquitous telescreens that enable the Party to both propagandize to and monitor the citizenry broadcasts every morning, at 7:18, a mandatory exercise program.  Nineteen-Eighty-Four, of course, depicts a totalitarian society in which the government controls every action and attempts to dictate every thought on the part of each individual.  Its apparatus of control knows no limits.  The constant propagandizing and the manipulation of terminology for the benefit of the Party are integral parts of that apparatus.  The physical conditioning of citizens, however, is not neglected, and the Physical Jerks serves as the regime's instrument for ensuring that all members of society are in the proper state of condition.  As Orwell's main protagonist, Winston, arises each morning, he is greeted by the harshness of the broadcast's dictates:

Thirty to forty group!’ yapped a piercing female voice. ’ Thirty to forty group! Take your places, please. Thirties to forties!’ Winston sprang to attention in front of the telescreen, upon which the image of a youngish woman, scrawny but muscular, dressed in tunic and gym-shoes, had already appeared. ’Arms bending and stretching!’ she rapped out. ’Take your time by me. One, two, three, four! One, two, three, four! Come on, comrades, put a bit of life into it! One, two, three four! One two, three, four! . . .’  

Orwell's fictional society is one of absolute subservience to the will of the Party.  The Physical Jerks are but one component of the Party's strategy for total control.

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The Physical Jerks are a daily form of rudimentary exercise forced upon members of the Outer Party. It is equivalent to the calisthenics that physical education classes generally have students do. Every morning, the telescreen comes on and a person leads citizens through a series of stretches and light exercises. Because the telescreens are capable of broadcasting and watching, the effort of each citizen can be monitored.  

Suddenly, a voice from the telescreen interrupts him, yelling out his name and identification number and urging him to "bend lower." Feigning interest and determination, Winston complies, and succeeds in touching his toes for the first time in many years.

The Party sells the idea of mandatory exercise to the citizens by telling them the government wants to prevent weight problems, but the Party is interested in more than the general health of the population. The Physical Jerks are another way the Party displays its absolute power over the people. It is another form of repression and control. This time, though, the control is over people's physical states. The general propaganda is mental control, and the Physical Jerks is physical control. Both allow the Party to maintain total control.  

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Each Outer Party member in Oceania is on a very tight schedule. These schedules make it possible for the Inner Party and Big Brother to have almost total control over the Outer Party members. Oceania fills the day with community activities and work. Each morning, every party member rises at the same hour. The telescreens blast everyone awake and in order to get everyone moving they perform calisthenic exercises like stretches called Physical Jerks. Winston's group, the forties, are led by a very masculine woman. In the beginning of the novel Winston finds the morning routine painful because of an ulcer in his leg. He cannot even bend over and touch his toes and the leader finds this unacceptable at his age. As Winston's mind opens up when he embarks on the affair with Julia he finds that the ulcer almost completely goes away and the jerks are not as irritating or difficult for him to perform.

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