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A Comparison and Contrast Essay on Lenina Crowne and Julia. Although the settings of the two novels are completely different from each other, the behaviour and reactions of the characters are somewhat similar. After all, they are watched and controlled in both cases: in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, they are conditioned what to think and what to feel; in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, it is the constant fear of the Party what restricts people. The protagonists (Bernard Marx or John the Savage, and Winston Smith) are not content with their life and seek a change in society, and for that reason, they need a female companion – although the women in question have little in common with the ideas expressed by the men.
In Brave New World, the most important female character is called Lenina Crowne. She works at the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, and her caste is most probably Beta, thus she is close to the so-called aristocracy of the society. She is considered to be attractive (she is often called “pneumatic,” which is a great compliment): she could choose anybody as her companion – yet she is attracted to eccentric men. Her first choice in the novel is Bernard who is surrounded by wicked gossips (even by his friends); then she falls for John, another outcast.
Surprisingly, the same pattern can be observed in the case of Julia, the female protagonist of Nineteen Eighty-Four. She has a fairly important job in the Ministry of Truth; she is young and desired by Winston (although she does not know it). Perhaps her declaration of love for Winston is even more astonishing that that of Lenina: not only because he is old and could hardly be called handsome, but because in a world in which personal relationships are strictly forbidden, a piece of paper with the words “I love you” on it equals inevitable demise. As Pittock points out, “Julia’s public life is, indeed, one long pretence,” and it is true: she plays her assigned role perfectly, with much more talent than Winston who constantly engages in suspicious moves.
Despite the similarity in the choice of their lovers, Lenina’s and Julia’s feelings for the protagonists are quite different. Although in the beginning it is a form of rebellion for Julia to “love” Winston, it gradually develops into a complex mixture of empathy, tenderness and understanding. It is worth pointing out that the progression of their affair is the exact opposite of a traditional romance: they start with a sexual encounter – because it is “a blow struck against the Party” (116) -, and only after that come the long conversations between them and Julia’s little manifestations of her womanhood: the dress and the make up. However, considering the upside-down state of Oceania compared to our world, the backward process described above is not outright surprising. As Higdon elaborates on it, Lenina expresses her resistance towards society by not wearing the colours of her caste (but wearing green, the colour of Gammas instead), which is a similar tool of revolt like the dressing-up of Julia.
The “love” felt by Lenina is mostly sexual in nature. She cannot help it: she has been conditioned not to be able to endow the word with a second, more abstract meaning. Even though she understands that the attraction she feels for John (for out of Bernard and John, it is the latter who arouses unexpected emotions in her) is different from everything she has experienced before, she cannot grasp its concept, cannot express it properly. The mutual understanding of the weight of the word “love” which is present between Winston and Julia is completely missing between John and Lenina. As a consequence, Lenina offends John with her response to his confession; thus ruining their possible relationship.
Despite the fact that true emotions of the two women are shown by offering sexual relationship in both novels, the context is different. In the world of sexual promiscuity (which is presented Brave New World), where “everyone belongs to everyone else” (37), it is absolutely imperative not to act virtuously. Moreover, one can be ostracised if trying to stay with the same person for a too long time. Lenina is reminded of this when talking with Fanny and admitting that she has been faithful to Henry Foster for several months:
“‘But seriously,’ she said, ‘I really do think you ought to be careful. It’s such horribly bad form to go on and on like this with one man. At forty, or thirty-five, it wouldn’t be so bad. But at your age, Lenina! No, it really won’t do. And you know how strongly the DHC objects to anything intense or long-drawn. Four months of Henry Foster, without having another man – why, he’d be furious if he knewâ€¦’” (34-35)
It is obvious that the moral values of our age are altered in Brave New World: slogans are taught to every single person, soma is like oxygen for some, and “love” consists solely of sex. In a sense, Lenina indeed has nothing else to offer John than her body, because she is empty, “pneumatic,” full of air inside, even though she tried to be a rebel in the beginning by rejecting the basic ideology of the society, and saying “I hadn’t been feeling very keen on promiscuity lately” (36). (This opposition is completely gone after she has met John.)
The rebellion of Julia in Nineteen Eighty-Four is the exact opposite of Lenina’s: while Lenina – unconsciously – revolts through monogamy, the – conscious – weapon of Julia is the use of her body, because “the basis of the regime’s power in the perverse sublimation of repressed sexuality” (Pittock). In this aspect, Julia can be considered as an active heroine and Lenina a passive one. The difference between them is even more evident regarding their views on society: Julia hates the Party and everything associated with it; Lenina is comfortable with her life and would happily continue with it, were John not to confuse her heart. However, self-centeredness or selfishness is present in the character of Julia, too: they both think only of their own freedom and do not want to be engaged in changing with the whole society like the male protagonists do. Moreover, they cannot imagine that the structure of society could be changed. They both were born into the new regime, and have lived their lives by the rules of it – be it too much freedom (Brave New World) or too little (Nineteen Eighty-Four). For this reason, their imagination is limited: they are not capable to understand the way of thinking of an “outsider” (Winston as an outsider in time and John as an outsider in space), and compared to the male protagonists they are both passive characters; functioning only as catalysts for Winston and Bernard or John.
In conclusion, it is unquestionable that the two heroines play an important role in the character developments of the male protagonists. Without their declarations of love the men would not be able to become active rebels, and thus the story could not progress.
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