1984 Sexuality and the Search for Truth



Sexuality and the Search For Truth in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four


The question of the existence of human nature has been a popular topic in modern literary works. Authors such as Shelly and Freud seem to agree that there is such a thing, however, they disagree on its attributes. Orwell also believes that human nature does exist but he takes it a step further than simply acknowledging its existence. Rather, in 1984 he uses such themes as truth and sexuality to enhance the attributes of human nature. There characteristics, Orwell believes, are insuppressible. Orwell believes that it is innate for humankind to be sexual beings, and to be in pursuit of truth. In the course of 1984, these themes continually appear. It is Orwell’s intention, I believe, to show that in a “utopian” society such as depicted in 1984, it is the undeniable existence of human nature that will cause the downfall of the state.
The reoccurring theme of the search for truth is best depicted as Winston’s unwillingness to accept the Ingsoc tenet of doublethink. Doublethink is the acknowledgment that two contradictory prepositions can both be true simultaneously. Quite obviously the color black can not be both black and white, however, in Oceania under the ruling of Big Brother, truth is mind-dependent and whatever a person believes to be true is then in fact true. This concept is better known to us as general relativism. O’Brien’s character is the embodiment of the Party in 1984. At one point O’Brien tortures Winston in the Ministry of Love until he believes that two plus two equals five. Winston, who is the embodiment of cognitive rationality, refuses to accept that truth can be bent and the Party’s will. O’Brien continues to torture Winston until he finally admits that two plus two will equal whatever the Party wants it to (pp 165-167). Not only is this relativistic, but it also contradicts the correspondence theory of truth. This states that a preposition is true if it corresponds with a fact. In the instance of the Party, they adhere to the pragmatic theory of truth, which states that a preposition is true if it accomplishes your own purposes. In the Party’s case, it accomplishes their goal of brainwashing all of the citizens of the State to its liking. For example, the Party is in control of all records in Oceania. It also controls the minds of the citizens. These records are altered to be whatever the Party wants them to say. Even more so, when these records are altered, one is to forget that the previous record ever existed. The new version is the past, and no different past ever existed. This technique of altering the memory can be learned, and is an avid technique used by the Party for reality control.
Philip Rahv acknowledges in his criticism, “The Unfuture of Utopia,” that O’Brien is the revealer of the Party’s quest for total power. He states that O’Brien does, in fact, embody the Party’s objective truth, but his psychological truth is not revealed. Rahv claims that the “motivation in the psychological economy of the novel remains unclear” (p 315). I, however, believe that Orwell did this intentionally to show that in 1984, there is no such thing as an individual. Only the Party exists. When Winston asks O’Brien in the Ministry of Love if Big Brother exists in the way that he exists, O’Brien replies “You do not exist” (p 172), thus showing that in the utopian society of this novel, there is no individual, entailing no individual psychology. O’Brien is very much stripped of his humanness and completely assimilated into the Party. He has no psychology. He only knows to be true what the party tells him.
Winston writes in his journal that “freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four." This phrase embodies a great theme found in the humanities; that truth is freedom. It is in humankind’s nature to seek truth and no Party can eliminate that innate search. If a force attempts to suppress this inherent desire, it is bound to fail.
The theme of sexuality is also prevalent in 1984. Winston and Julia eventually submit to their natural desires which is not permitted by the Party. It only condones