The first element of the two novels to compare is feminism. In 1984 Julia is much stronger emotionally than Winston is. She automatically takes the lead in every situation, but does not care about political ideologies. She does not care when Winston informs her that the party did not invent aeroplanes, she only has a problem with the party’s political statutes when they are at odds with her own wishes, and intrude upon her life. Although Julia a determined and decisive character, the way Orwell made her completely unimpressed with revolutionary ideals cannot be ignored.
The same can be said of Lenina Crowne in Brave New World. Lenina finds the way Bernard wants to watch the storm terrible, and even starts to cry at being asked to do this with him. The thought of doing something individual, or different from the rest of society in any way alarms and frightens her, and she does not realise why John the Savage is having problems being with her at the end of the novel. She has no interest in doing anything unconventional. However, there is a marked difference between the two characters.
While Julia wants to rebel against the party, Lenina has not the slightest interest in doing anything unordinary or different. Perhaps when Winston commented Julia was ‘only a rebel from the waist down’ Orwell intended this to be a critique on her character. It is interesting that the two authors chose to portray the female leading characters in this way. Both are only interested in sex, so much that they will rebel against the norms of society to get it, Julia against the party and Lenina against the World State (she finds herself increasingly drawn to the strange ways of John at the end of Brave New World).
Perhaps this is a misogynistic stereotype, that the two author’s hated women themselves, or perhaps the flaws in the women’s’ character’s are there to be used as a plot device. Orwell and Huxley needed a leading character that was taken in by the propaganda of the party and the hypnopaedia of the World State to show how radical the principal protagonist’s (Winston and Bernard) rebellion against the political beliefs of the masses is. The societies in which the novels are set are hugely patriarchal: ‘Big Brother’, ‘our Ford’ and ‘Emmanuel Goldstein’ are male.
Counter-balancing the previous point, it has to be noted that both societies try to strip their citizens of their sexual identity, freemartins being created to stop women reproducing in Brave New World, (a basic instinct for many women), and the party forbade it’s women members to wear make-up at all, dressing them, male and female alike in blue overalls. If it was the purpose of the dictators to strip them of their sexual status then how can it be patriarchal because all the people used as symbols of the party/world state are male? This loss of identity does not simply stop with the stripping of gender.
It becomes a theme for both novels. In 1984 the overalls, banning make-up and the order to call everybody, be they male or female ‘Comrade’ all contributed to the dehumanisation of the people. This is similar in Brave New World where the ‘everyone belongs to everyone else’ chant repeated for years of hypnopaedia contributes to the hive effect that Bernard calls ‘a cell in the social body’. Signs of individuality were heavily criticised, anything abnormal, even the ‘ too hairy chest’ that Benito Hoover has is seen as being unwanted by Lenina.
The fact that Bernard is much smaller than the usual alpha male means he is snubbed by society for being different. The same happens with Helmholtz Watson whom people are suspicious of for ‘Just a little too able’. You must belong to the hive in appearance, behaviour, beliefs and thoughts. In both novels stepping out of these lines was disastrous, in Brave New World for independently thinking you were transported off to some far-off outpost on an island somewhere (they did not know this was actually a blessing), and in 1984 you were arrested by the ‘thought police’.
Even your emotions must be regulated by the state in 1984 the only emotion approved of was hate. All others were channelled into hate and used productively for the party, e. g. the two minutes hate. In Brave New World the drug soma was used as successful mind control, using hypnopaedia to teach people that ‘a gram is better than a damn’ since they were children, they were able to substitute true happiness for soma, which in fact (if you took it as instructed) stopped you feeling anything altogether. The sex emotion was also regulated.
In 1984 they lecture the female children from the age of 16 upwards that sex is a ‘ a slightly disgusting minor operation’ and through organisations like the ‘junior anti sex league’ they preached this to young adults too. Sex was only to happen to produce children for service to the party. Eventually the process of having children was to be eliminated completely and a new process of artificial insemination was to be introduced, just like in Brave New World. Aldous Huxley completely eliminated the process of sex to produce children in his novel, and turned it into a completely pleasurable act.
Children are encouraged from an early age to engage in erotic play, and females (who are not freemartins) are shown a Malthusian (contraceptive) drill to stop natural reproduction. The totalitarian governments do not permit love between any couples, in BNW you are encouraged to be promiscuous and sleep with as many people as possible. The opposite is true in 1984, where the sex instinct is to be quashed completely if possible, and if not should be free of all enjoyment. This control over the sexual lives of the World State Citizens in BNW would not be possible if it were not for science.
Orwell did not infuse his novel with as much science but the telescreen is an astounding prophecy on the use of wireless technology. Visual information can now be sent over mobile telephone networks, and videophones can be used, something which Orwell cannot possible have known at the time. Science has made it completely unnecessary for women to produce children at all in BNW; eggs are simply harvested from women and used, (as predicted will soon happen in 1984) for artificial insemination. The children mature in bottles and are brought up in an institution.