In his revolutionary novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell presents a dystopian world firmly controlled through class segregation, mass surveillance, and prominent censorship. However, Orwell gives the main characters, and the readers hope, partly embodied in the love story between Winston Smith and Julia. Throughout the plot, their relationship evolves parallel to the extent of rebellion that Winston manifests to the oppressive authorities. This essay discusses the following: how the relationship between Winston and Julia develops; how language is used to highlight the love storyline further; how Orwell ties their bond’s progression to the larger image of resistance.
The first open face-to-face interaction between the two characters happens when Winston is still unsure of Julia’s intentions. He picks up bluebells with ‘a vague Idea that he would like to have a bunch of flowers to offer to the girl’. This passage shows Winston wanting to believe in the romantic outcome. However, he is still wary of Julia, to which he confesses after the first shared kiss: ‘I imagined that you had something to do with the Thought Police. In addition to the paranoia that equates to survival, Winston’s thinks that since Julia is so ‘young and fresh and healthy,’ in no way she could love him. He is a 38-year-old man with a wife whose appearance is no longer youthful. Through Winston’s confession, Orwell begins connecting emotions of love with thoughts against the regime.
The parallel Orwell draws between the characters’ romantic attraction and desire strengthens after Julia’s response. In response to Winston’s concerns, she replies: ‘It was something… In your face. I thought I’d take a chance. I’m good at spotting people who don’t belong. As soon as I saw you I knew you were against them.’ Julia loves Winston, not for appearance or wealth – she is unapologetically attracted to other free-thinkers. Winston reflects on the nature of the sexual desire and its connection to freedom: ‘The sexual act, successfully performed, was rebellion. Desire was thoughtcrime.’ The more descriptions of regime horrors the author paints, the more believable such attraction becomes.
The overall tone Nineteen Eighty-Four creates is gloomy and rather dark, intending to convey the miseries of the totalitarian regime. The use of sensory overload through descriptions of excessive noise and foul smells underlines the anguish that the protagonist experiences. Thus, a change in tone allows some scenes to stand out. When Julia meets Winston in the secret room they rented, time almost stops, and the tone and pace of the novel are warmer and slower.
He wondered vaguely whether in the abolished past it had been a normal experience to lie in bed like this, in the cool of a summer evening, a man and a woman with no clothes on, making love when they chose, talking of what they chose, not feeling any compulsion to get up, simply lying there and listening to peaceful sounds outside.’
All normal experiences in the ‘previous’ life are novel and special to Winston, which he reflects on, peacefully lying next to Julia. The contrast this serene scene creates with the rest of the story highlights the preciousness of love and their time together.
Comparably to how the development of romantic relationships parallels the development of the rebellion spirit, the image of relationships betrayal simultaneously represents the protagonist’s submission to the regime. Perhaps ironically, one of the government entities in the book is the Ministry of Love, ‘which maintained law and order.’ One of the Ministry of Love rooms, namely room 101, is the interpretation of a torture chamber, where prisoners were sent to face their deepest fears. Winston finally breaks down in that room after facing a rat cage, his biggest fear, frantically shouting out: ‘Do it to Julia! 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!’8 Julia was the one that he had promised never to betray; at that moment, he submits to Big Brother. At that moment, Winston sees no distinction between love and rebellion – he rejects both.
To conclude, Nineteen Eighty-Four uses unconventional methods of developing a love storyline but creates a convincing and poignant story. Winston and Julia fall in love as an act of rebellion against Big Brother. Through linguistic devices, changes in the story tone, and direct comparison, Orwell draws the parallel between love and ‘thoughtcrime.’ Their passion culminates in parallel with the story of the fight against the regime, creating a natural connection in the eyes of readers and making their love story ultimately convincing.
Orwell, G., Animal Farm, Burmese Days, A Clergyman’s Daughter, Coming Up for Air, Keep the Aspidistra Flying, Nineteen Eighty-Four: Complete & Unabridged. Centennial edn., New York, William Heinemann Inc, 1980.