1984

Masculinity: Atwood and Orwell 12th Grade

Atwood and Orwell’s differing assessments of masculinity are largely due to their differing narrative voices. Through the eyes of Offred, Atwood constructs a pointed feminist critique of masculinity as a nymphomaniacal and tyrannical animal that can’t be tamed. Conversely Orwell, with his male protagonist, depicts a highly thoughtful and vulnerable man, whose maleness is defined not by his relations with women, but by his relationship with humanity as a whole.

In 1984 Big Brother is the ultimate patriarch. A retrospective fusion of two of the 20th centuries most evil dictators, Hitler and Stalin, he inspires fear and adoration in equal measure from the subservient party members. Yet it is not his maleness, so much as his omniscience that is his fear defining characteristic. He is all-seeing and all-knowing, able to detect the subtlest of thoughtcrime and hence he is feared. In fact it is his gendered nomenclature, the fact he is a “brother”, not a domineering father, which is what makes him so relatable and adorable to the party members. It provides an emotional affinity that is so vital for keeping the party in unity. Compared with the ‘god’ of Gilead, in The Handmaids Tale, Big Brother is so much more real and more present....

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