Wednesday, March 03, 2010

The Feel-Good Family Hit of the Summer!


In my sophomore year in high school I had one picture hanging in my locker. It was a black & white, postcard-sized photo of a skinny English guy behind a mic. Not Simon Le Bon or Sting, but an author. With that archness that comes so naturally to high school students, I'd completed the picture by scrawling in the corner "All the best in the new year, Eric. XXOO." Hardly anybody got it.

I still have the same tattered paperback copy of 1984 I had then, and it occurred to me that I hadn't read it since moving to Indy, so I pulled it out yesterday. It's one of a double-handful of books I generally reread every year or so, but letting it lie fallow an extra couple seasons has me looking at it in a different light yet again.

For some reason, this time 'round the egalitarian socialist Orwell's stifling class consciousness and intellectual snobbery is actually amusing enough to lift the overall tone of the book for me. In the scene where Winston walks past the proles huddled around a newspaper and talking animatedly, only to find that they're arguing over lottery numbers, my mind couldn't help but insert "Oh, Christ! Here comes one o' them Party wankers. Make like we're arguin' over nonsense!" The proles come and go as they please, buy what they can afford, and yet are portrayed as unfeeling animals simply because the author himself couldn't go into a pub or locker room without getting pantsed.

I'm tempted to write a bit of fanfic told from the point of one of the proles seen with the newspaper, having his path brush past poor emo Winston's here and there. God knows that various nameless, faceless proles are used more or less as movable scenery in the book; Winston would never notice if one of the ones in the cell was one of the ones from the pub was one of the ones from the street or the tube. Except they'd never cross paths in Mr. Charrington's junk shop; the reason that place was always empty except for Winston is that every prole on the block knew Charrington was a narc.

21 comments:

Borepatch said...

It's not surprising that nobody seems to have written 1984 from the point of view of the proles, even though this was all the rage in academic circles after Grendel was published.

After all, that would remove the flattering spotlight of attention from the intelligentsia.

Lewis said...

I'll have to go back and reread 1984. Like the Tamster, I do reread, every year (or thereabouts) an Eric Blair book, but in my case it's Homage to Catalonia. It's got it all! Interesting Spaniards, anarchists, evil commies, and a 7mm Mauser in the neck.

TJIC said...

> "All the best in the new year, Eric. XXOO."

LOL!

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

Serndipity! Today there was a dystopian reading list popping up on the intarwebz.

Anonymous said...

Sent a copy of 1984 and A Brave New World to a friend for Christmas.

Gerry

Joanna said...

I read 1984 as a kid and couldn't even figure out what "proles" were supposed to be until years later, when I heard the word "proletariat" in history class.

Of course, I didn't get that John Savage had hanged himself, either.

BobG said...

Personally, I've always thought Orwell was an optimist.

Joanna said...

Personally, I've always thought Orwell was an optimist.

Orwell and Huxley both assumed that there was someone, somewhere, who was in on the whole thing, knew what was going on, saw it for what it was and pulled the strings anyway.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure that's ever really the case.

Jim said...

I've owned dozens of copies of Orwell and given them all away. I figure that's more likely than anything else I've done to get me past St. Peter's SWAT team.

The most gratifying gift was recent. My 14-year-old grandson noticed my paperback of "1984" and told me his English teacher taught "Animal Farm." I was flabbergasted and had to be restrained from making her my sole beneficiary. Then the lad accepted my copy of "1984." And read it. He finds Orwell sensible. There is hope.

The Raving Prophet said...

The future is in the proles because the party elite are too stuck up, elitist, and, well, dumb to do anything about it.

Go ahead and write from the viewpoint of the proles. I have a feeling it would make a good story. IIRC, only the party members were watched all that closely. The proles could (and likely did) get away with murder.

Ed Foster said...

Anybody know who did an old Irish folksong called something like "Fields of Catalonia"?

Most of the Irish Green Shirts and Blue Shirts who went down there fought for Franco, or at least against Godless Communism, but there were enough Dublin Pinkoes in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade to get a couple of really decent songs out of what was otherwise a bad waste of good lives.

Interestingly, the Irish Fascists all went home rather than fight Basques. Their commander told Franco "Why shouldn't they have from Spain what we won from England? They're willing to die for it".

Anyway, it's a real "hair stand on end" kind of song I heard late one night in a pub in Cork, which was odd, since that is where most of the Green Shirt volunteers came from. Hard people those Corkers. Real Tom Barry types.

But a decent song I'd like to get all the lyrics to. Anybody?

theirritablearchitect said...

"I'm tempted to write a bit of fanfic told from the point of one of the proles with the newspaper..."

I'm pretty sure you've told us before that if you ever write fanfic to go ahead and put one in yer noggin', or something similar.

Not that I'd do that, but, just sayin'.

Tam said...

Well, let's not call it fanfic, then. ;)

Joseph said...

Required reading: "Volume PAA-PYX" by Fred Saberhagen. At first, it looks like a standard 1984 imitation but then turns into something different.

Joanna said...

Wowzers. What a head-trip (no pun intended).

zeeke42 said...

I think this is my second favorite 1984 related blog post. The first is: http://bitchyjones.wordpress.com/2009/10/02/kinky-sex-tips/

trebor1415 said...

You ever see my "Orwell/Kafka" bumper stickers I made? That was my comment on the recent election and general trends on govnerning.

I use a thumbnail as my avatar at my LJ if anyone wants a look. (And I still have some for sale if anyone is interested...)

Rob

docjim505 said...

Hate to be contrarian, but there is something in the idea of scorning the "proles" as willfully ignorant slugs who just sort of muddle through life. Consider how many of our fellow Americans know next to nothing about our history, our government, our institutions, or current events outside of sports scores or who got voted off last night. And this ignorance is most assuredly willful. An example: I listened to a caller take Rush to task for lamenting that American college students fail miserably when tested on basic civics; she passionately argued that "they don't need to know that stuff" and "they're more worried about learning how to live life and take care of their families."

So, I DO look down on "proles": "You're an AMERICAN, d*mmit! Our ancestors gave their lives, fortunes and sacred honor to hand you the best form of government on God's footstool, and you have a RESPONSIBILITY to take care of it. Don't you think you ought to put at least a little thought and effort into that???"

Tam said...

I believe we are using "prole" differently.

John B said...

Write it Tam!
I'm sure it'd be better than the last wrist-breaker from -insert Irish extraction History Teacher here-......

Ed Foster said...

John B., That's Scottish/Irish/Welsh mongrel frustrated would-be teacher to my friends;-)