1984 and Love

by , 2004

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 for it to just go away. Eventually, she "ceased to be a painful memory and became merely a distasteful one" (110). When Katharine's memory becomes "distasteful" it is actually an improvement over the pain that it used to cause. Winston's marriage brings him nothing but agony because the Party has so successfully taken love out of marriage.

The Party is also able to destroy love outside of marriage such as that between Winston and Julia. Their relationship begins as hatred, blooms into a fulfilling love, and then is transformed into indifference. The entire progression of their feelings towards each other is manufactured by the Party. During their first unrecorded meeting, Winston offers a "love offering" (100) by telling Julia what his feelings were before they met: "I hated the sight of you... I wanted to rape you and then murder you afterwards" (101). The mask that Julia put on to fool the authorities into thinking that she was a good citizen also fooled Winston. As a result, he hated her for conforming so whole-heartedly like his wife did. But after he realizes that was just a facade that she put on to fool others, Winston falls completely in love with her. They take enormous risks to be together first in the countryside and then in an apartment rented from a prole. When the couple is questioned by O'Brien before their acceptance into the Brotherhood, they quickly agree to commit a whole list of atrocities including to "throw sulfuric acid in a child's face," to "commit murder," and even to "commit suicide" (142) if doing so would help destroy the Party but they refuse to separate from each other. Julia responds with a quick a decisive "No!" (143) when O'Brien asks if they are willing to separate and, even though it takes him a while to deliberate on an answer, Winston also says that he will not separate from Julia even for the sake of the Brotherhood. The love that is displayed here is so strong that they are not willing to let it go for the Brotherhood even though they are willing to commit murder, suicide, and the maiming of children for the same cause. The only reason that this love was allowed to bloom was that O'Brien was cultivating the two, especially Winston, as opponents that he could crush later. If the Party had not waited to intervene, it would have been able to crush Winston and Julia's love before it ever became so strong.

Even though their love was seemingly so sound, it was eventually crushed by the tortures within the Ministry of Love. The tortures within Room 101 are so intense that he screams to O'Brien, "Do it to Julia! Not me! Julia! I don't care what you do to her. Tear her face off, strip her to the bones. Not me! Julia! Not me!" (236). In this exclamation, O'Brien realizes that his defeat of Winston is complete. Winston has been crushed so totally that he would rather have Julia than him go through further torture. In this moment, all love for Julia is destroyed because, as she says later, "after that, you don't feel the same towards the other person any longer" (240). By forcing them to betray each other, the Party destroys the love between Winston and Julia. The love between them is so completely shattered that Winston's "flesh froze with horror at the thought" (239) of having sex with Julia after they had been released from the Ministry of Love. The Party orchestrated the entire love relationship between Winston and Julia and allowed the love to develop only so that it could be crushed.

In the absence of normal love between men and women, a strange love between the tortured Winston and his torturer, O'Brien, develops. In the novel's first mention of O'Brien, we are told that Winston "felt deeply drawn to him" because "he had the appearance of being a person that you could talk to if somehow you could cheat the telescreen and get him alone" (13). Before they ever speak to each other, there is an attraction between the two. In fact, Winston has dreams in which O'Brien speaks to him. We are told that "[t]here was a link of understanding between them, more important than affection or partisanship" (25). Winston assumes this "link of understanding" to be friendship and continues to think about, and even dedicates his diary to, O'Brien, as an "an interminable letter which no one would ever read, but which was addressed to a particular person" (69). Even in a society where writing a diary has no consequences, dedicating it to someone shows a serious affection. In Oceania, where writing a diary could be punished by death, Winston's dedication of his diary to O'Brien shows a deep love. Winston continues his rebellious behavior when he travels to O'Brien's house in an attempt to join the Brotherhood. The mere act of visiting O'Brien's house is enough to get Winston arrested, but he goes through with it because his attraction to O'Brien is so strong that he feels he must be a friend. Later, after Winston has been arrested, O'Brien enters the cell and says that Winston had always known that O'Brien was on the Party's side. We are told, "Yes, he saw now, he had always known it" (197). Winston knew subconsciously all along that O'Brien was not on his side but was so attracted to him that he followed him anyway.

During the torture that follows, O'Brien becomes a sort of protector in Winston's mind. He hears O'Brien's voice in his sleep, "'Don't worry, Winston; you are in my keeping. For seven years I have watched over you" (201). Even though he knows that O'Brien is the reason that he was arrested in the first place and that he is the one who is responsible for continuing his torture, Winston still feels affection towards him. This affection is not broken even after weeks of torture: "The peculiar reverence for O'Brien, which nothing seemed able to destroy, flooded Winston's heart again" (225) in the midst of another torture session. While Winston should be full of hatred towards O'Brien, his torturer, he is full of love instead. Even when O'Brien exposes Winston to rats, the thing he fears most, in Room 101, Winston keeps loving him. Instead of hating O'Brien, Winston begins to hate Julia. The void of normal love in Oceania is filled with this strange love between the tortured and his torturer.

The only love that is sanctioned by the Party is the love between its members and Big Brother. In the absence of any normal love among individuals, the Party hopes to develop an unconditional love for itself and, more specifically, its leader within each one of its members. George Orwell's entire novel is, in a sense, Winston's journey on the way to loving Big Brother. Everything that happens leads up to the final line: "He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother" (245). The control of the Party is so strong that there was never any real alternative to Winston eventually loving Big Brother. Throughout his seven year cultivation as an enemy and then his long tortures in the Ministry of Love, Winston was slowly moving towards this final love of Big Brother. The Party knows that the only way Winston could love Big Brother unconditionally is if every other sort of natural love is destroyed. The Party dooms Winston's marriage to fail and then destroys his love relationship with Julia allowing only a twisted love for his torturer O'Brien to remain. At the conclusion of his long struggle in 1984, nothing is left within Winston except for love for Big Brother. Every form of natural love within Winston is removed successfully by the Party and replaced with a desperate love for his torturer and Big Brother.

Work Cited

Orwell, George. 1984. New York: Signet Classic, 1950. Buy a copy. »