wingedbeast ([personal profile] wingedbeast) wrote2017-06-12 01:46 am
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1984 Deconstruction: Part 23 A Confusing Kink

Here we have another short chapter and even one where we can move quickly past the first bit. Winston rents that one room he thought about earlier and worries more... because that's what Winston does, now, worry.

From inside, his room, he hears a woman, working on some laundry, singing a song. With that, we get a bit more (absence of) color on the nation of Oceana.

The tune had been haunting London for weeks past. It was one of countless similar songs published for the benefit of the proles by a sub-section of the Music Department. The words of these songs were composed without any human intervention whatever on an instrument known as a versificator. But the woman sang so tunefully as to turn the dreadful rubbish into an almost pleasant sound.

There's a quick bit in which Julia informs Winston that they can't meet for "the usual reason. It's started early this time." Winston quickly cycles through feeling angry at being denied something he needs to remembering that this is a biological reaity to wishing that they had been married for ten years (perhaps, in part, so that he would be more intimately familiar with, and able to provide appropriate support, these kinds of issues). It's not much to note but, judging this on the curve you need to apply to Winston, this is pretty good social and emotional maturity.

Then, we move on to the bit that has me interested and, quite frankly, confused.

First, what has me interested, the nature of Winston and Julia's relationship. She brings him stuff, stuff she gets on the black market. All of this stuff is... well, it's quite nice. She brings real sugar, real jam, a loaf of white bread, milk, real coffee and real tea. It's a reminder that these things are indulgences that we don't fully appreciate.

Well, I, personally, don't like coffee. But, I resign myself to a world where other people do.

'It's all Inner Party stuff. There's nothing those swine don't have, nothing. But of course waiters and servants and people pinch things, and-look, I got a little packet of tea as well.'

Julia remains the better rebel. She knows how to make the connections, where to buy the things, and how the whole system works. Being that the proles are left, largely, to themselves (manipulated only through media and a light thought-police touch), I imagine that there's an underground market wherein nobody knows both the suppliers and the customers. Understanding the basic concept is easily enough done. But, nobody taking part in such an economy wants the thought-police to easily connect all the parts. Middlemen are a survival tool.

That all goes to mean that Julia can't just be so lucky as to know the prole who serves as butler to an Inner Party member who gets coffee with sugar every morning and enjoys tea with jam on toast at every around-about-sixteen-hundred. That's not only an unstable source, but also a higher risk than organized crime.

In a way, Julia has become the breadwinner in their pairing. She's the one who takes him on the dates (so to speak). She's the one footing the bill (except for this room). And, Winston is more or less passive in this. If it works for them, so be it. Though, I would advise that Winston start bringing some of his own skills into the mix.

But, we're coming closer to the point where I get confused. In a moment, Julia has a surprise for Winston, one that requires that he turn his back on her for three minutes.

He turned round, and for a second almost failed to recognize her. What he had actually expected was to see her naked. But she was not naked. The transformation that had happened was much more surprising that that. She had painted her face.

I'm not confused yet. Makeup isn't random. Some of our beauty standards in the west are... strange. There's a case to be made that some of our beauty standards for women are based in the look of a fresh corpse... pale and made-up, unmoving, not marred by, you know, being a living being that sweats. That's not all of it, though.

There's also the case to be made that makeup is used (by whomever chooses) to better cue for health, fertility, and arousal among other things.

All that goes to say that nobody's going to begrudge Julia for liking to feel more attractive and that this isn't what confuses me. Neither is that she wears perfume.

No, what confuses me is... this...

And do you know what I'm going to do next? I'm going to get hold of a real woman's frock from somewhere and wear it instead of these bloody trousers. I'll wear silk stockings and high-heeled shoes! In this room I'm going to be a woman, not a Party comrade.

Now, I'm not one to kink-shame. If that's what gives her some level of satisfaction, then she should be free to enjoy it. In fact, I would say the same for Winston. But, I do confess some confusion.

How did Julia get the idea into her head that being a woman required these things or involved them at all?

The makeup is one thing. The prole women have makeup and probably don't restrict it to prostitutes. But, high-heeled shoes are either expensive or easily destroyed. And, where the Party members enforce gender-neutral clothing, I have to imagine that proles, if only out of a need to save money, don't necessarily go in for that on the regular. And silk stockings?

Remember, Julia was born after the Revolution, after the Party had dominated all media to the point that, if they don't like it, it's just not something that comes up. There's no reason for the proles not to internalize the enforced gender equality of the Party, at least no reason for them not to be closer than this.

And yet, Julia seems to identify her place as feminine and domestic. Again, if that gives her satisfaction, more power to her. But, I have to wonder why, especially when she's the natural rebel that she is.

The obvious answer isn't the in-world answer I would prefer. That obvious answer is that Orwell, like many a man of the time, kind of thought of this silk-stockings and makeup and doing the cleaning as the stuff of woman and didn't really think through the influence of culture on that perception.

Ana Mardoll, in her deconstruction of the Narnia series, frequently finds C.S. Lewis making the assumption that the food, look, fashion, etc. of his culture are superior to all others... seemingly just because Lewis, himself, likes them better. I think that's what we're seeing, here. That makes it difficult to come up with a good in-universe (or "Watsonian") reason. Because the culture is so different and because Orwell is, at best, unaware of the influence of his own culture, we're left to come up with a reason why, absent obvious culture, she would have this sense.

It isn't that she's seen old movies. I don't doubt that there is an underground appreciation of media from before the Revolution. One part rebellion and one part the longing for another (highly romanticized) time. But, that isn't her interest. Her interest is in breaking the rules and getting away with it.

Winston's the one with the interest in the past. I've talked about that interest and how it doesn't seem to be his actual interest. He hasn't taken the effort to put anything together about the past. He just thinks that its very existence as something that can't actually be rewritten is a fine middle finger to the Party. So, it's not like he has any pictures to show her. He has that paperweight to show her.

Confusion remains.

By the way, it's here, Nook e-book page 144, where Winston's fear of rats is identified. For those who know the story, this means that Orwell has started to think about the end. If this were to be remade into a movie, today, or a series by whoever wants copy Hulu's success with The Handmaid's Tale, that fear would need to be established much earlier.

Here we are, halfway through the book, and this quick bit of character development is thrown in there.

Still, another thought occurs to me. For all that Winston hated his wife, Katherine, he seems to take a great satisfaction in Julia stepping away from what he knows of her and moving closer to what he knows of Katherine... That... probably also says more about Orwell than Winston.