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UTOPIA/DYSTOPIA - ORWELL > 1984 Part 3 : ENDING SPOILERS

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Traveller (moontravlr) | 2455 comments Mod
For discussion of Part three of George Orwell's 1984.


Saski (sissah) | 399 comments Our command is "Thou art." (205)

I am suddenly reminded of Stranger in a Strange Land.


Saski (sissah) | 399 comments I'm confused

"The German Nazis...pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time,"

Perhaps I am misremembering my history but wasn't the Nazi plan to rule for a thousand years?


Derek (derek_broughton) That was certainly always Hitler's plan ("The Thousand Year Reich") but I do recall some claim that they originally seized power only to prevent the communists from doing the same.


Traveller (moontravlr) | 2455 comments Mod
I'm still not completely done with the loong "The Book" snooze. Been doing all kinds of other things as an excuse but i suppose i cannot cheat and must... read.. every... single... word.. of it. :(


Saski (sissah) | 399 comments I often switch back and forth from podcast to book. Having just listened to this: http://www.npr.org/blogs/parallels/20...

I read the following: Power is in inflicting pain and humiliation. Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing. (214)

Yes, sadly, there are some things Orwell got exactly right.


Traveller (moontravlr) | 2455 comments Mod
Nobody got any comments at all on Orwell's ideas in "The Book" in thread 2? :(


message 8: by Saski (last edited Feb 02, 2015 04:27AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Saski (sissah) | 399 comments Between nodding with sleep and nodding with "yes that sounds about right, damn it", I was glad just to get through 'the book'.

You've done a great job though. Helped me wake up. :P


Traveller (moontravlr) | 2455 comments Mod
Darnit, don't tell me I'm wading through all of that alone!

You guys better give me a medal or sumfin'.


Karin | 52 comments Traveller wrote: "Darnit, don't tell me I'm wading through all of that alone!

You guys better give me a medal or sumfin'."


Hehe Thanks for taking a hit for the team by wading through it ;) Yesterday was the Superbowl, and I'm off to work now, but I plan to comment later today. I must say, I'm feeling slightly disillusioned with 1984 as we near the end. I don't hate it--I just don't love it as much as I thought I would.


Derek (derek_broughton) Traveller wrote: "Darnit, don't tell me I'm wading through all of that alone!

You guys better give me a medal or sumfin'."


Honest, I plan to finish today! I had to get through a monster-size book to get it back to the library today.


Traveller (moontravlr) | 2455 comments Mod
No, I meant on thread 2.

Here: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/... There's about 10 comments there and still coming. :P


Karin | 52 comments Ruth wrote: "Our command is "Thou art." (205)

I am suddenly reminded of Stranger in a Strange Land."


I haven't read Stranger in a Strange Land, but it's on my looonng list of books I want to read.

But the reference reminds me of several images in the 1984. The first, is the woman and child in the propaganda film. The second is when Winston remembers his mother throwing a protective arm around his sister. And the third, is when O'Brian "protectively" hugs Winston after a torture session, and Winston seems to love O'Brian. These successive images suggest to me that O'Brian has effectively usurped the life-giving "mother" role. In other words, the government has taken on a seemingly maternal role: provider, life-giver, and protector. Maybe a stretch?

While Orwell argues that the government in 1984 wants to take over the family, ironically, some of the most totalitarian regimes, including those under Hitler, Stalin, & Franco, and present day Iran were/are all strongly pro-family, right?


Karin | 52 comments Some of the descriptions of the people in the holding cell with Winston in Part III section 1 are pretty disgusting; he uses words such as "common place," "mean-looking," "grim," "enormous wreck of a woman." Orwell doesn't seem to have a high regard for the human race in general. Even his hero, Winston, is unappealing and ultimately fails. I wonder if Orwell blames society for giving up their humanity and individuality?


message 15: by Derek (last edited Feb 03, 2015 07:53AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Derek (derek_broughton) Karin wrote: "In other words, the government has taken on a seemingly maternal role: provider, life-giver, and protector. Maybe a stretch?"

Not at all. I just wrote something related in the Part 2 thread, about co-opting sex, and he writes there: "They had played a similar trick with the instinct of parenthood. The family could not actually be abolished, and, indeed, people were encouraged to be fond of their children, in the almost the old-fashioned way." So, yes, the government wants to take over the parental roles, while still encouraging families. I'd say that Orwell is suggesting that totalitarian regimes' emphasis on family is just the first step on the way to Big Brother. Which makes me feel even worse about my current government...


message 16: by Traveller (last edited Feb 03, 2015 11:13AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Traveller (moontravlr) | 2455 comments Mod
I'm still busy getting through the torture bits, but thought it might be topical that many almost medieval forms of torture are still practiced today.

This is not a very academic site or list that I'm linking to, but I know all of those methods cited to be true, verifiable from other sources:
http://listverse.com/2013/10/19/10-gr...

Of course, medieval tortures were indeed pretty bad, I'll look for a list of those, but in the meantime, there is this list too: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_...

Reading through the first part of Winston's imprisonment, i was strongly reminded of a passage from Italho Calvino's novel The Path to the Spiders' Nests, which has fascist Italy as its setting; when the protagonist, a boy of about 12 or 13 is imprisoned; (for political reasons) the narrator remarks:

Nowadays there are very few ordinary criminals, for no one bothers about thieves; those there have past sentences to serve and are too old to ask to be called up and get them remitted. The political prisoners can be distinguished by the bruises on their faces and by their awkward movements on bones broken during interrogation.


Saski (sissah) | 399 comments Traveller wrote: "Nowadays there are very few ordinary criminals, for no one bothers about thieves;"

Which reminded me of the Turkish film Yol where the 'ordinary prisoners' (i.e., thieves and murderers) are permitted a pass for the holidays to visit their families, but political prisoners never are.


message 18: by Traveller (last edited Feb 03, 2015 12:45PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Traveller (moontravlr) | 2455 comments Mod
Karin wrote: "Some of the descriptions of the people in the holding cell with Winston in Part III section 1 are pretty disgusting; he uses words such as "common place," "mean-looking," "grim," "enormous wreck of..."

Hmm, though i think i prefer his realism to books and films where the characters are all totally beyond the reach of the normal person, just like a set off Hollywood with plastic people with their plastic faces, bodies teeth and hair. Also, of course the book was written in the 1940's. (And they're being tortured, ha ha.)

I mostly seem to remember from British films from that period - people really looked ... well, sort of old before their time, and asymmetrical and so forth.

Okay, i know this is later than the forties, but kind of in this way:




Karin | 52 comments Traveller, I love your example! It made me laugh! David Tomlinson and Angela Lansbury do look a little ...asymmetrical. Ha! I

You're probably right. Though I think it's still possible to describe even people who are being tortured with a little more sympathy than Orwell did. I wonder if he is a bit of a misanthrope?

I have a couple of sick kiddos, but I want to comment on some other things later.


Traveller (moontravlr) | 2455 comments Mod
This sounds familiar, doesn't it?

‘No!’ exclaimed O’Brien. His voice had changed extraordinarily, and his face had suddenly become both stern and animated. ‘No! Not merely to extract your confession, nor to punish you. Shall I tell you why we have brought you here? To cure you! To make you sane! Will you understand, Winston, that no one whom we bring to this place ever leaves our hands uncured? We are not interested in those stupid crimes that you have committed. The Party is not interested in the overt act: the thought is all we care about. We do not merely destroy our enemies, we change them.

In our world, it tends to be called "Rehabilitation". ;)

..and yeah, the interesting phenomenon of how the tortured starts to "love" its torturer.

Also, interesting in view of a lot of discussion that have been going on around BDSM, sparked by the imminent release of the film 50 Shades of Grey which is about this kind of complete control of one person by another person, and where the control and "punishment" by the dominator is received 'gratefully' by the submissive, who, once successfully subjugated, does not have to take responsibility for being an individual with opinions and responsibilities anymore.


message 21: by Traveller (last edited Feb 04, 2015 02:10AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Traveller (moontravlr) | 2455 comments Mod
Besides the interesting psychological aspects of what Big Brother does to people, I think Orwell also raises a few epistemological and metaphysical issues.

‘Does Big Brother exist?’ ‘Of course he exists. The Party exists. Big Brother is the embodiment of the Party.’ ‘Does he exist in the same way as I exist?’ ‘You do not exist,’ said O’Brien. Once again the sense of helplessness assailed him. He knew, or he could imagine, the arguments which proved his own non-existence; but they were nonsense, they were only a play on words. Did not the statement, ‘You do not exist’, contain a logical absurdity? But what use was it to say so? His mind shrivelled as he thought of the unanswerable, mad arguments with which O’Brien would demolish him. ‘I think I exist,’ he said wearily. ‘I am conscious of my own identity. I was born, and I shall die. I have arms and legs. I occupy a particular point in space. No other solid object can occupy the same point simultaneously. In that sense, does Big Brother exist?’


Traveller (moontravlr) | 2455 comments Mod
And of course, the bottom line;

The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power. [..]We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means, it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.


message 23: by Traveller (last edited Feb 04, 2015 04:06AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Traveller (moontravlr) | 2455 comments Mod
This almost seems to have a ring of truth to it:
“Freedom is Slavery.” Has it ever occurred to you that it is reversible? Slavery is freedom. Alone – free – the human being is always defeated. It must be so, because every human being is doomed to die, which is the greatest of all failures. But if he can make complete, utter submission, if he can escape from his identity, if he can merge himself in the Party so that he is the Party, then he is all-powerful and immortal. The second thing for you to realise is that power is power over human beings. Over the body – but, above all, over the mind.


Traveller (moontravlr) | 2455 comments Mod
Hmm, and here he must surely be addressing fundmentalist arguments against scientific knowledge:

‘But the world itself is only a speck of dust. And man is tiny – helpless! How long has he been in existence? For millions of years the earth was uninhabited.’ ‘Nonsense. The earth is as old as we are, no older. How could it be older? Nothing exists except through human consciousness.’ ‘But the rocks are full of the bones of extinct animals – mammoths and mastodons and enormous reptiles which lived here long before man was ever heard of.’ ‘Have you ever seen those bones, Winston? Of course not. Nineteenth-century biologists invented them. Before man there was nothing. After man, if he could come to an end, there would be nothing. Outside man there is nothing.’ ‘But the whole universe is outside us. Look at the stars! Some of them are a million light-years away. They are out of our reach for ever.’ ‘What are the stars?’ said O’Brien indifferently. ‘They are bits of fire a few kilometres away. We could reach them if we wanted to. Or we could blot them out. The earth is the centre of the universe. The sun and the stars go round it.’ Winston made another convulsive movement. This time he did not say anything. O’Brien continued as though answering a spoken objection: ‘For certain purposes, of course, that is not true. When we navigate the ocean, or when we predict an eclipse, we often find it convenient to assume that the earth goes round the sun and that the stars are millions upon millions of kilometres away. But what of it? Do you suppose it is beyond us to produce a dual system of astronomy? The stars can be near or distant, according as we need them. Do you suppose our mathematicians are unequal to that? Have you forgotten doublethink?’

In fact, I think Orwell addresses fundamentalism as much as he addresses totalitarianism.


message 25: by Traveller (last edited Feb 04, 2015 05:01AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Traveller (moontravlr) | 2455 comments Mod
..and sadly, from whatever I have been able to read about contemporary China, they have come pretty close by now to Orwell's nightmare dystopia:

"‘‘How does one man assert his power over another, Winston?’ Winston thought. ‘By making him suffer,’ he said. ‘Exactly. By making him suffer. Obedience is not enough. Unless he is suffering, how can you be sure that he is obeying your will and not his own? Power is in inflicting pain and humiliation. Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing. Do you begin to see, then, what kind of world we are creating? It is the exact opposite of the stupid hedonistic Utopias that the old reformers imagined. A world of fear and treachery and torment, a world of trampling and being trampled upon, a world which will grow not less but more merciless as it refines itself. Progress in our world will be progress towards more pain. The old civilisations claimed that they were founded on love or justice. Ours is founded upon hatred. In our world there will be no emotions except fear, rage, triumph and self-abasement. Everything else we shall destroy – everything. Already we are breaking down the habits of thought which have survived from before the Revolution. We have cut the links between child and parent, and between man and man, and between man and woman. No one dares trust a wife or a child or a friend any longer.


Traveller (moontravlr) | 2455 comments Mod
You know, i don't understand why he doesn't just cheat them of having control of his life and over his death by committing suicide. I mean, that would take the power away from them, wouldn't it?

But okay, I'm still at the part before he goes to room 101, I'm not at the end yet, so please give me a mo to get there...


Saski (sissah) | 399 comments At least while he is in prison, I don't think he has access to the means, let alone the energy.


Karin | 52 comments I think so, too, Ruth, but I also think that if he really wanted to, he would find a way. He might just not be brave enough. He hopes someone will slip him a razor blade, but I think he knows that's not going to happen. I've been a little underwhelmed with Winston throughout the book. I'm surprised he put up as much of a fight as he did while being tortured.

Thanks for the great quotes, traveller! So many great ideas to think about!


Derek (derek_broughton) Traveller wrote: "You know, i don't understand why he doesn't just cheat them of having control of his life and over his death by committing suicide. I mean, that would take the power away from them, wouldn't it?
..."


Even while dreaming of the possible arrival of a razor blade, he admits that he probably wouldn't use it. But Winston has never really been a rebel. Sure, when O'Brien is inducting him into the Brotherhood, he agrees to perform all sorts of acts of terrorism, but that's because he thinks he's found something to belong to, now. When that turns out to be a sham, he jumps at the chance to be properly rehabilitated—to actually believe in the Party.


message 30: by Traveller (last edited Feb 04, 2015 09:23AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Traveller (moontravlr) | 2455 comments Mod
I'm finally done, yaye!

And as I reached the end, I felt very puzzled that I had not come across something that proves the novel to be shockingly sexist. And i did read every word... could my edition possibly be an abridged one? Can somebody please point out what I obviously missed? :S

Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime) wrote: "
Even while dreaming of the possible arrival of a razor blade, he admits that he probably wouldn't use it. But Winston has never really been a rebel. Sure, when O'Brien is inducting him into the Brotherhood, he agrees to perform all sorts of acts of terrorism, but that's because he thinks he's found something to belong to, now. When that turns out to be a sham, he jumps at the chance to be properly rehabilitated—to actually believe in the Party. .."


Yes, as I neared the end, I thought to myself that that spark of recognition that he and O' Brien had shared, was that Winston obviously had it in him to love the Party, and that he therefore didn't need to be killed.

At first I thought it was going to be different to We, and at a point, i thought they were going to require him to kill Julia and that he would do it. Seems that the thought was enough.

This ending was sad to me, but I tell you, I cried in We, and found We and its ending more emotionally wrenching. I think We had been more poetically written, and also, of course, the love interest in We -did- defy the party and was totally a different kettle of fish from Julia in that she was part of the resistance from the very start and had recruited the protagonist for the resistance. ...to me We had more of the classical tradegy in it, with a classic love triangle an all.

We ended with a bang and 1984 with a whimper. :(


Traveller (moontravlr) | 2455 comments Mod
Re the sexism, in fact, I found it to be quite the contrary, but I'll have to wait until I get back to my notes before i can post the quote that made me feel that way.


Traveller (moontravlr) | 2455 comments Mod
..but in the meantime, (using my mobile, so I apologize for typposs) I have re-read both of Mr Berlatsky's puzzling articles here: http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainm...

and
http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainm...

Well! So it appears that Mr Berlatsky is saying that 1984 is a bad book because it isn't a love story? Have I got that part right?


message 33: by Traveller (last edited Feb 04, 2015 01:43PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Traveller (moontravlr) | 2455 comments Mod
Oh, and here are the bits why i think Orwell is actually the opposite of a misogynist:

If there was hope, it lay in the proles! Without having read to the end of the book, he knew that that must be Goldstein’s final message. The future belonged to the proles. And could he be sure that when their time came the world they constructed would not be just as alien to him, Winston Smith, as the world of the Party? Yes, because at the least it would be a world of sanity. Where there is equality there can be sanity. Sooner or later it would happen, strength would change into consciousness. The proles were immortal, you could not doubt it when you looked at that valiant figure in the yard. In the end their awakening would come. And until that happened, though it might be a thousand years, they would stay alive against all the odds, like birds, passing on from body to body the vitality which the Party did not share and could not kill.

That "valiant figure" he is talking about, is the woman in the yard hanging up the laundry. He used a woman as his symbol of indestructibility and strength and vitality and hope.

He even mentions that he has "reverence" for her:

"She had had her momentary flowering, a year, perhaps, of wildrose beauty, and then she had suddenly swollen like a fertilised fruit and grown hard and red and coarse, and then her life had been laundering, scrubbing, darning, cooking, sweeping, polishing, mending, scrubbing, laundering, first for children, then for grandchildren, over thirty unbroken years. At the end of it she was still singing. The mystical reverence that he felt for her was somehow mixed up with the aspect of the pale, cloudless sky, stretching away behind the chimney pots into interminable distances. It was curious to think that the sky was the same for everybody, in Eurasia or Eastasia as well as here. And the people under the sky were also very much the same – everywhere, all over the world, hundreds of thousands of millions of people just like this, people ignorant of one another’s existence, held apart by walls of hatred and lies, and yet almost exactly the same...

Yeah, sure, like Karin mentioned, he does seem to idealize motherhood, but what is so very wrong with that? I know some women hate the idea that we are designed to be mothers, but after all, that is our biological destiny as far as the continuation of the species is concerned, whether we like it or not...

(And there are men who are actually envious of women being able to have children, so ....)


message 34: by Derek (last edited Feb 04, 2015 12:55PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Derek (derek_broughton) Traveller wrote: "We ended with a bang and 1984 with a whimper. :( "

Well, I always figured Eliot probably had that right.

Possibly one reason why this novel has always stuck in my mind is that it's quite possibly the first book I ever read that presented a completely depressing future without actually being nihilistic. There's no apocalypse, just the slow end of civilization.

Berlatsky's an ignoramus, apparently arguing with ignoramusses. Kristen Stewart obviously didn't read the same book I did (and surely not as many times as I have). 1984 can't be a "love story" because neither Julia nor Winston have a clue how to love. But Berlatsky's no better: Julia's "just a stereotypical Manic Pixie Dream Girl.¹" Right... except that even if you concede that, then Orwell must have invented the stereotype, 'coz it certainly didn't exist before him. But I don't agree, anyway—there's nothing manic about her. Julia is simply a lost soul. She feels a need to rebel against the Party, but she can't even understand what she's rebelling against. So she rebels by doing the only thing she's certain the Party doesn't want her to do: have sex. Berlatsky can't even be certain "that she betrays Winston immediately". O'Brien didn't say that, and neither did Julia. Even if we take O'Brien's word for it, all we know is that she betrayed Winston before Winston betrayed her.

And none of that means "Eric Blair.. did, in fact, believe in love." Perhaps he did, but it's irrelevant to this story.

His second article is ignoramuser! I don't see anything sexist in this book, but even if it was there, it would be like the racism: it's not the author's bias (or if it is, it might explain why he wrote this story but it's still necessary for this story), it's a necessary part of the sort of authoritarian rule that he describes. It was a key feature of all of the Fascist and Communist governments Orwell was familiar with. It's also a key feature of Animal Farm ("Four legs good, too legs bad"), but I don't hear people accusing Orwell of being racist for writing that.

¹"MPDGs are said to help their men without pursuing their own happiness" ( wikipedia ) Well, that doesn't describe Julia at all—Julia's rebellion is all about her own happiness.


message 35: by Traveller (last edited Feb 04, 2015 01:51PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Traveller (moontravlr) | 2455 comments Mod
Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime) wrote: "Traveller wrote: "We ended with a bang and 1984 with a whimper. :( "

Well, I always figured Eliot probably had that right.

Possibly one reason why this novel has always stuck in my mind is that i..."


I agree with all of that except with the "racism" . There is no racism in this book, that I could find. (I suppose i could have missed it... which part is it in, more or less?)

Let me repeat most of a message I had typed on a friend's thread:

I do want to mention that I read and re-read both of that guy's articles (Berlatsky in The Atlantic) and I wonder if he isn't just jumping onto a wagon there to try and earn some attention.

It seems just as silly to me that he is saying the book is sexist because it doesn't have a "lived happily ever after" love story, as saying that The Handmaid's Tale is sexist because it doesn't have a happily ever after love story. I mean, he seems to be completely missing the point of that aspect of the story, which is that during that torture and brainwashing process, people gave up and betrayed what they loved most; the one guy betrayed his family for example; and Julia betrays Winston just as much as he betrays her.

The only 'real' two examples of sexism that i managed to pick up was that that one woman needed a man to fix her kitchen sink, and that Julia put on make-up and wore a dress on the sly.

The only form of racism that i picked up, is that he said the Party would have slaves and "coolies" working for them (the word coolie) but i do think he includes people of all races and i don't know if the word is/was a pejorative, (I looked it up, and not necessarily?http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/coolie ) but he certainly does not seem inherently racist, because he explicitly said that people of all races, Africans, Native Americans and South Americans, Asians, - literally any race can become members of the inner Party (that is leaders of the Party) and he explicity says that it is not based on race or genetic heritage at all but purely on an individual per individual basis.

I must also admit that besides for the blocked sink and the dress and make-up, I honestly could not see Orwell creating stereotypes beside the proletarian woman hanging up her washing - and although he seemed to idealize this woman - i mean, he had her stand as a symbol for the proletariat, as the future hope for the world, and I honestly couldn't fault him too much for seeing her as a cheerful, "valiant figure"...


message 36: by Karin (last edited Feb 04, 2015 02:51PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Karin | 52 comments Traveller wrote: "Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime) wrote: "Traveller wrote: "We ended with a bang and 1984 with a whimper. :( "

Well, I always figured Eliot probably had that right.

Possibly one reason why this nove..."


These are such fascinating issues about feminism in 1984. I'm still thinking them out for myself.

We've discussed before how cunning and confident Julia is, especially compared to the more lackluster Winston. But I wonder if Orwell was arguing that she was "masculinized" by the Party, and that her more "natural" state is to wear makeup and a "real" dress. Does that make sense? In other words, the confidence and otherwise "masculine" traits we find admirable in Julia aren't things Orwell admired in a woman? He admired her more when she was wearing makeup and being a "woman." And he does hint she is not as introspective as Winston--she couldn't even make it through "The Book," which we actually don't blame her--but Orwell probably would.

I also see how the prole woman is a positive figure. She is a symbol of hope, virility, and free expression. But she merely exists as a biological fact of nature untouched by the government. Like Julia, she is not depicted as especially aware of her self or deeply introspective. Sure, she is able to bear children, which is a good, thing, but it seems like that's the most important thing for Winston and Orwell.

I suppose I'm super sensitive of idealizing "motherhood" because I grew up in a religion that seemed to use it against me. In other words, the church said, "you don't need the priesthood because you are a mother, which is more noble, *wink wink." Unfortunately, the church power structure was not set up around the noble powers of motherhood but rather the power of priesthood, so I feel really left out.


Derek (derek_broughton) Traveller wrote: "I agree with all of that except with the "racism" . There is no racism in this book, that I could find. ("

What? It's everywhere. Starting with the film showing the refugees being machine-gunned. The description of Goldstein (which wouldn't have even needed him to be named as a Jew to count as antisemitism). The Eurasian soldiers are always "mongols" (even though the majority of the population would be European [as in Indo-european, not geographic] or Slavic). The Oceanian Party members are indoctrinated from birth to hate anyone who is different, in any way.


Derek (derek_broughton) btw, I need a woman to fix my kitchen sink :-) I do electrical work, my wife does the plumbing.

The Handmaid's Tale is indeed sexist: in exactly the same way that I said 1984 has to be racist. It's the nature of the story being told, and tells us nothing about the author. Berlatsky doesn't seem to understand that "write what you know" doesn't necessarily mean "you can't write what you don't know".


Karin | 52 comments Traveller wrote: "I'm still busy getting through the torture bits, but thought it might be topical that many almost medieval forms of torture are still practiced today.

This is not a very academic site or list that..."


Not to digress (especially since I want to comment on Derek's brilliant thoughts) but the theme of torture is interesting.

I wonder why they spent months and months torturing Winston, when O'Brian could have just gone straight to the rats? And honestly, Winston didn't seem THAT important. Why didn't they just "vaporize" him?

Also, I can see Julia giving up quickly because she is more of a survivalist than Winston, but at the end of the book, she did have the big scar on her forehead. Maybe this means she fought harder than I originally thought.


Still, Winston may have loved her more than she loved him because he had lingering feelings for her at the end of the book (he kind of subconsciously followed her while she seemed immediately annoyed by him).


message 40: by Traveller (last edited Feb 05, 2015 12:43AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Traveller (moontravlr) | 2455 comments Mod
Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime) wrote: "Traveller wrote: "I agree with all of that except with the "racism" . There is no racism in this book, that I could find. ("

What? It's everywhere. Starting with the film showing the refugees bein..."


How does that make Orwell or the book racist? To me that whole scene is obviously intended to make the reader feel shocked at how effectively Big Brother manages to fan the audience's hate. In fact, I wonder if he did that specific one as a pastiche on Hitler/Nazis. Yes, we are seeing an example of the PARTY and BIG BROTHER practicing anti-semitism, but Orwell does try and make us hate the Party and Big Brother - to me that was the entire point of the novel.

...and yes, you see the mongol faces of the Eurasians, because they are Chinese and Slavic! It's like you're in China and you see the Caucasian faces of the enemy; the fact that they happen to be the enemy doesn't mean the author is racist - in fact, he goes to specific pains to say:

In principle, membership of these three groups is not hereditary. The child of Inner Party parents is in theory not born into the Inner Party. Admission to either branch of the Party is by examination, taken at the age of sixteen. Nor is there any racial discrimination, or any marked domination of one province by another. Jews, Negroes, South Americans of pure Indian blood are to be found in the highest ranks of the Party, and the administrators of any area are always drawn from the inhabitants of that area. In no part of Oceania do the inhabitants have the feeling that they are a colonial population ruled from a distant capital. Oceania has no capital, and its titular head is a person whose whereabouts nobody knows. Except that English is its chief lingua franca and Newspeak its official language, it is not centralised in any way. Its rulers are not held together by blood-ties but by adherence to a common doctrine.

and also:

It was curious to think that the sky was the same for everybody, in Eurasia or Eastasia as well as here. And the people under the sky were also very much the same – everywhere, all over the world, hundreds of thousands of millions of people just like this, people ignorant of one another’s existence, held apart by walls of hatred and lies, and yet almost exactly the same – people who had never learned to think but who were storing up in their hearts and bellies and muscles the power that would one day overturn the world. If there was hope, it lay in the proles!

Earlier on in the book he also says that people the whole world over are the same, but the governments must try and hide this fact from them otherwise they would not be prepared to fight in these wars.

Nope, I'm sorry. You cannot lay racism at Orwell's door. Not anti-semitism (He goes out of his way to include Jews) nor other kinds of racism. He never mentions any specific race in a humiliating manner on it's own. (Except for the anti-Semitism in the film scene, but that's on purpose, because it's just been WW2 when the book was written, and he wants to pastiche the totalitarians/fascists of that era and shock the reader, right? I certainly felt shocked and repulsed, and Orwell isn't that stupid that he wouldn't have done that on purpose.)

Yes, he might be classist, indeed, in his descriptions of the proles, but classist is not the same as racist or sexist.

Racism means when you hate, humiliate or exclude a particular races or races. I just don't see Orwell doing that. Big Brother does many very bad things, so Big Brother fanning hatred against other countries and nations among the populace, is to show how bad Big Brother is, not due to an inherent racism on Orwell's side.

But Berlatsky didn't even have the gumption to see that Orwell is being classist, so stuck is he on his little racism/sexism bandwagon track that he's stuck on.

Yes, Orwell does accuse people of not thinking, of not being really conscious of how they were manipulated by forces like Hitler, Mussolini and the Bolshevists. But that was true. I used to often break my head trying to get it around how SO MANY people could have supported a man like Hitler.
But those were the days before TV started to assert a more sophisticating influence on your populace. People were a lot more gullible than they are these days. And I think especially pre- the 50's the general populace indeed was a lot less sophisticated at spotting propaganda for what it really was than our modern audiences are, so I admit I can't blame him too much for that even.


message 41: by Traveller (last edited Feb 05, 2015 01:10AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Traveller (moontravlr) | 2455 comments Mod
Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime) wrote: "btw, I need a woman to fix my kitchen sink :-) I do electrical work, my wife does the plumbing...."

Sly fox gave her the stinky end of the deal. :D I hate stinky drains, so in my case, I'm with Orwell! We need a man to do that! Women have an inborn helplessness when it comes to stinky drains! ROFL

Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime) wrote: "The Handmaid's Tale is indeed sexist: in exactly the same way that I said 1984 has to be racist. It's the nature of the story being told, and tells us nothing about the author. Berlatsky doesn't seem to understand that "write what you know" doesn't necessarily mean "you can't write what you don't know".."

Nooo, Derek, man! we're talking about the traditional meaning of racism and sexism...gngngn. Okay i admit that feminists can't seem to make their minds up as to exactly WHAT sexism is.... I mean, i see myself as one, and yet I hatehatehate some feminist's ideas, so... :(

..but i think it is safe to say that for both racism and sexism, we can use discrimination as a yardstick. Let's look up some definitions (When all else fails, read the rules)

sexism
ˈsɛksɪz(ə)m/
noun
noun: sexism

prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex.

Full Definition of SEXISM
1
: prejudice or discrimination based on sex; especially : discrimination against women
2
: behavior, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex

According to Wikipedia: Sexism or gender discrimination is prejudice or discrimination based on a person's sex or gender.[1] Sexist attitudes may stem from traditional stereotypes of gender roles,[2][3] and may include the belief that a person of one sex is intrinsically superior to a person of the other.[4] Extreme sexism may foster sexual harassment, rape and other forms of sexual violence.

Do you see Orwell do any of the above? (In any overt way - i mean, he could have made O'Brien or Winston a woman, but i bet that would have brought even fiercer accusations of sexism down on his head.) I don't.

============
K, now racism:

racism
ˈreɪsɪz(ə)m/
noun
noun: racism

the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.
"theories of racism"
prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one's own race is superior.

Full Definition of RACISM
1
: a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race
2
: racial prejudice or discrimination

Wikipedia on racism: Racism consists of both prejudice and discrimination based in social perceptions of biological differences between peoples. It often takes the form of social actions, practices or beliefs, or political systems that consider different races to be ranked as inherently superior or inferior to each other, based on presumed shared inheritable traits, abilities, or qualities. It may also hold that members of different races should be treated differently.[1][2][3]

Among the questions about how to define racism are the question of whether to include forms of discrimination that are unintentional, such as making assumptions about preferences or abilities of others based on racial stereotypes, whether to include symbolic or institutionalized forms of discrimination such as the circulation of ethnic stereotypes through the media, and whether to include the socio-political dynamics of social stratification that sometimes have a racial component.

In sociology and psychology, some definitions only include consciously malignant forms of discrimination.[4][5] Some definitions of racism also include discriminatory behaviors and beliefs based on cultural, national, ethnic, caste, or religious stereotypes.[2][6] One view holds that racism is best understood as 'prejudice plus power' because without the support of political or economic power, prejudice would not be able to manifest as a pervasive cultural, institutional or social phenomenon.


Sorry, but I don't see that either.
Robinson Crusoe - now there is a racist novel. I don't see any of that in this novel. Orwell very clearly makes sure to mention that people of all races and cultures from all parts of the world are similar and equal. And that is actually pretty liberal coming from a white Englishman born in 1903.

Oh, and Orwell spoke out against anti-Semitism in RL.


Derek (derek_broughton) Traveller wrote: "Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime) wrote: "Traveller wrote: "I agree with all of that except with the "racism" . There is no racism in this book, that I could find. ("

What? It's everywhere. Starting ..."


I never said the book was racist (though elements of the story have to be), and I've definitely been saying that there are no grounds to accuse Orwell of either racism or sexism. But you said there is no racism in the book, and there clearly is. And all I've said is that to write a book like this, there has to be, because that's always been a feature of this sort of government.


message 43: by Ken (last edited Feb 06, 2015 07:49AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ken (kanthr) | 21 comments Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime) wrote: "That was certainly always Hitler's plan ("The Thousand Year Reich") but I do recall some claim that they originally seized power only to prevent the communists from doing the same."

(On Nazis' reason for usurping power)

This is spot on. The political climate was one in which the new brush fire of communism was spreading all over the world. In societies where modernity was fast replacing feudal hierarchy, the concept of class migration was extremely potent in the underprivileged.

The old regimes in Europe were essentially feudal monarchies in nature. They feared what communism, or the rising capitalism in America, would mean for their society. They'd seen the French Revolution and what happened to their former peers. None of them really trusted the National Socialists, but the Nazis made a very compelling case as being the lesser evil.

The most interesting element to me is that the Nazi party masqueraded as a populist movement. It was supposed to be nationalized socialism. A by-the-people of-the-people government to rival the lure of communism, with patriotic pride underpinning it and keeping the government on a straight path. All for the Fatherland, and such. This too was very potent in a country that had recently been built out of myriad lesser states, and had risen to glory, and fallen from it. It harkened a promised era of glory restored, and of lands recovered. The German-ethic groups in Poland and other surrounding, annexed regions would be restored to their German heritage and nationality. The strong association of Wagnerian music with this era is a natural one: The Italians had their Romance (in the classical sense) to look back on as their heritage, and the Germans had their Norse paganism, before their defeat (ironically) by the former Roman Empire, which supplanted local beliefs with Christianity wherever it went in latter decades.

The leaders in Europe, especially in Italy and Germany, found this too good to pass up because it (they assumed) would keep them in power, retain the class structure, but pacify the public under the guise of populist rule. Italy, like Germany, had been built out of various city states. For Italy, the horizon looked like a restored Rome. A nation of wealth and prosperity, especially for the upper class. These leaders saw themselves like their ancient forebears Alexander or Vercingetorix. What the Nazis became famous for, ended up happening via a coup within a coup in which a portion of those elected into the group influenced the means by which the goal would be reached. The initial change was meant to be a temporary alliance, as viewed by the feudal leaders.

Orwell's warnings against extremist government stem not only from his opinions on communism, but on the atrocities and deceits of the other newly-risen political ideals of the 20th century.


Traveller (moontravlr) | 2455 comments Mod
Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime) wrote: "I never said the book was racist (though elements of the story have to be), and I've definitely been saying that there are no grounds to accuse Orwell of either racism or sexism. But you said there is no racism in the book, and there clearly is. And all I've said is that to write a book like this, there has to be, because that's always been a feature of this sort of government. ."

Ohhhhhh! NOW i got ya. Guess you had to spell that out for me... :P *blush*


message 45: by Traveller (last edited Feb 06, 2015 08:11AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Traveller (moontravlr) | 2455 comments Mod
Kenneth wrote: "(On Nazis' reason for usurping power)

This is spot on. The political climate was one in which the new brush fire of communism was spreading all over the world. In societies where modernity was fast replacing feudal hierarchy, the concept of class migration was extremely potent in the underprivileged. .."


True dat all. Have you checked out our background thread and threads one and two, yet? I also mentioned a bit about fascism, though more on the Spanish Civ War etc. :)

What i would add to that, is of course the similarity of Franco's fascists to that of Germany and Italy, which i think personally influenced Orwell some too, since he had personally fought in the Spanish Civ. War against the Fascists for the Republicans.

But there are definitely some parts of the novel, especially when Orwell portrays some orator, that I could, in my mind's eye, see a slogan-shouting Hitler or Mussolini on a podium.


message 46: by Ken (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ken (kanthr) | 21 comments I've not yet looked at the other topics, but I find European 20th century history fascinating, especially how it mirrors present-day America in ways more similar than different.


Traveller (moontravlr) | 2455 comments Mod
Kenneth wrote: "I've not yet looked at the other topics, but I find European 20th century history fascinating, especially how it mirrors present-day America in ways more similar than different."

Hmm, I went through the threads again now, and I see that we did a lot of chattering inbetween, so probably just a very fast skim will do.. :P

But yes, also, the power relations pre-20th century; you know, the lead up to the Russian revolution and to WW1 is just as interesting.

I'm glad to find in you someone interested in history, -and here I thought you were a mere Gene Wolfe fan, as if that's not enough all by itself... ;)


message 48: by Ken (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ken (kanthr) | 21 comments Haha yeah, I love history and folklore too. Which is why I respect Gene's adoration of storytelling.


message 49: by Cecily (last edited Dec 31, 2015 01:01PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Cecily | 260 comments Almost a year late, but I just finished a reread of this for the first time in many years.

One thing that struck me this time, but hadn't before, and doesn't seem to be mentioned here, is the use of dreams. Is there a magical-realist or po-mo aspect, or am I over-analysing? For example, early on, Winston dreams of meeting O’Brien “in the place where there is no darkness”; later mentions are ambiguous as to whether this is coincidence or something else. Also, during interrogation, O'Brien seems to know more of Winston's inner thoughts than is possible with even the best surveillance.

Anyway, I've written a reasonably detailed review here, which mentions that, amongst other things:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


Traveller (moontravlr) | 2455 comments Mod
Thanks for commenting, Cecily, and interesting observation about the dreams. I was so busy taking in other things that I admit to perhaps not focusing on that.

Regarding O'Brien "knowing" , I suspect it is because there is that recognition between himself and O'Brien that is mentioned earlier on in the book. I had assumed that O' Brien is where he is because he is an acute observer of people and has excellent insight into human nature...


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