1984 and Love
George Orwell presents us with an interesting portrayal of love in his novel, 1984. In the nation of Oceania that he writes about, the Party tries desperately to erase love for anything but Big Brother from the lives of its members. In many ways, it is successful in doing so. It causes Winston's marriage with his wife Katharine to be frigid and cold and to end in separation. Even occasional affairs that sneak by the Party's watchful eyes at first, like Winston and Julia's, are eventually stopped and the participants are forced to stop loving each other. Perhaps the strongest love that remains in Oceania is the warped love of tortured towards his torturer. This love is displayed by Winston towards O'Brien and remains strong throughout the novel even when O'Brien tortures Winston to near death. The novel leaves us with the knowledge that Winston finally loves Big Brother. This love is the only love sanctioned by the Party. The Party's attempts to destroy natural love throughout the novel are largely successful and result in the emergence of love that our society would see as unnatural. The Party attempts to remove love from marriages by taking away the pleasure of sex and the intimacy that married couples are normally able to have. The resulting marriages are very cold and often end in separation, which was encouraged by the Party "in cases where there were no children" (57). The first mention of Winston's wife is peculiar: "Winston was married -- had been married, at any rate: probably he still was married, so far as he knew his wife was not dead" (56). Winston seems to neither know nor care whether his wife is alive or dead. Consequently, he does not even know whether or not he is still married. The indifference towards his own marriage here is an indicator of the way that the Party has changed what marriage means. Winston's indifference towards his marriage is further displayed when the narrator tells us that, "[f]or days at a time he was capable of forgetting that he had ever been married" (57). In a society where love still exists in marriage, it would be hard to imagine someone forgetting that they had ever been married. The fact that Winston forgets his wife regularly displays how insignificant marriage became in Oceania after the Party separated love from it. Even while they were still living together, Winston and Katharine's marriage was not happy. Katharine believed that it was their duty to have sex to create a baby for the Party and so she embraced the act as a chore. She would refer to it as "making a baby" and "our duty to the Party" (58) while Winston came to have a "feeling of positive dread when the appointed day [to have sex] came around" (58). Neither member of the union enjoyed the act that joined them together and, consequently, they grew apart and eventually separated. Winston's marriage is a failure to the Party because it produced no children, but it is the Party that creates the lack of attachment between Winston and Katharine. Although the Party wants its members to reproduce, it sees the destruction of love within marriages as more important. One reason for trying to remove love from marriage is so that loyalties among spouses would not become strong than the loyalty between the individuals and Big Brother. In addition, the Party's "real, undeclared purpose was to remove all pleasure from the sexual act" (57). The reason for trying to remove pleasure from sex was to keep the Party members focused on their duties. The Party did not want individuals to be so obsessed with seeking erotic pleasure that they would fail to perform their duties to society loyally. As a result, "[s]exual intercourse was to be looked on as a slightly disgusting minor operation" (57) rather than something enjoyable that individuals would actively seek. This aversion to sex creates hostility within marriages and, as a result, the best that Winston could hope for from his wife's memory after they separated was...
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