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Barron's Booknotes-1984 by George Orwell-Free Book Notes
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JULIA

Unlike Winston, Julia is basically a simple woman, something of a lightweight who loves her man and uses sex for fun as well as for rebellion. She is perfectly willing to accept the overnight changes in Oceania's history and doesn't trouble her pretty head about it. If Big Brother says black is white, fine. If he says two and two make five, no problem. She may not buy the Party line, but it doesn't trouble her. She falls asleep over Winston's reading of the treasured book by Goldstein. Revolutionary doctrine? Zzzzz. The act is enough for her; she doesn't need a rationale.

Orwell draws Winston's love object lovingly. Julia is all woman, sharp and funny as she is attractive, but she may also be a reflection of the author's somewhat limited view of the opposite sex. It might be useful to look at her more carefully. Is she the one-sided creation of a male author?

1. Julia may be lovable precisely because she stands for something forbidden. Perhaps the author thinks sexually active women are for fun, and only mothers are to be looked up to! Do the lovers Winston and Julia have much to talk about? (Read Part Two, I, IV and V before making up your mind.)

2. Perhaps Julia is the practical realist, who knows that doctrine is bunk and that Winston is begging for trouble when he starts asking questions. She is the organizer, who approaches him and sets up a time and place for their meetings. She's the one who points out that they're going to be caught, and that when they are, they will confess and betray everything they care about-except each other. (Look at Part Two, I, III, IV for evidence to support this opinion.)

3. Julia, not Winston, may be the true rebel. When O'Brien asks the couple whether they would betray all their principles to Overthrow Big Brother, it's Julia who says she will never, ever give up Winston. (See Part Two, VIII.)

4. Julia may be a weakling, the cause of Winston's downfall. Without the affair, he may have been able to keep his rebellion a secret. What would have happened if she hadn't tagged along to meet O'Brien? Julia does not lead the Thought Police to Winston, but without her, he would have been harder to catch. When the lovers are captured, it is Julia who betrays Winston right away. When they meet one last time at the end, it is Julia who is thick in the waist and dead in the heart and completely indifferent to him. (Read Part Three, V.)

Julia has many sides. Do they add up to a whole person? You'll have fun deciding.


O'BRIEN

Probably the most interesting thing about O'Brien is that we have only Winston's opinion of him. This burly but sophisticated leader of the Inner Party is supposed to be head of the secret Brotherhood dedicated to the overthrow of Big Brother. In his black coverall, he haunts both Winston's dreams and his waking moments to the very end of the novel.

1. O'Brien may be a kind of super-being. He is certainly Winston's hope for the future as the novel opens. Winston's early reveries and his doglike devotion in Part Two, VIII, support this view. He seems to represent freedom and privilege to the downtrodden Winston. Even when Winston is in prison in Part Three, he is glad to see O'Brien. If the Thought Police are the "bad cops" after Winston's capture, O'Brien is the "good cop" who keeps Winston's confidence even as he destroys him. He's certainly Big Brother's mouthpiece, or preacher, as he explains Party doctrine to Winston in Part Three, II-IV.

2. O'Brien may be rather a super-villain, who maliciously engineers Winston's downfall. After all, he seeks Winston out. He gives him the illegal Goldstein book, and it may be O'Brien's voice Winston hears from the TV set as he is captured at the end of Part Two. It is certainly O'Brien who brainwashes him, and O'Brien who takes Winston to the dreaded Room 101 to complete his "rehabilitation."

3. Maybe O'Brien is a love object. Look again at Winston's doglike devotion at the end of Part Two, when he is caught. "It was starting," he thinks almost joyfully. "It was starting at last!" Look at the way O'Brien brainwashes Winston, from Section II in Part Three to the end. When he enters, Winston is almost reassured. "Don't worry, Winston; you are in my keeping.... I shall save you. I shall make you perfect." Terrified as he is, Winston seems glad. From here to the finish, Winston and O'Brien are engaged in a delicate dance of life and death and, perhaps, love, that ends in Room 101, where Winston is confronted by that which he most fears. The experience changes him completely, and forever.

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