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Role of the proles        

                                                                        V. S. Mss 13            27.9.12

The proles in George Orwells “1984” can be associated with proletarians or “working-class” in real life. My aim I hope to achieve with this essay is to compare the proles, pictured in this book with the real “proletarians” in society. Also I’ll try to analyse their role in the system of “1984”.

First it makes sense to define proletarians in general.Therefor we have to do a flashback in history. The origins of this description are during the industrial revolution. Those people had to give up their rural existence and moved to the cities, where they found work in one of the numerous factories.

Mostly they couldn’t manage to reach a higher class, by earning more money, because they were just some cheap workers without education and without any chance. They were modern slaves of the industry, unable to demonstrate in a right way. If someone didn’t work hard enough he got replaced. Practically a proletarian had too much to die, but too less to live. And I’m not only talking about male workers, child-labour and female workers under the same hard or even worse conditions were also common.

Karl Marx used to say that proletarians are a section of the population whose only contribution to society are their descendants. Their only way to earn money is to “sell” their work.

I found a matching quotation:

The proletarians of the world have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Working men of all countries, unite! - Marx, Engels: The Communist Manifesto


Even if nowadys this word is not often used in our parlance, it’s still a current theme. Orwell proves this! In his story the working class of Oceania accounts for 85% of population. The society of Oceania is divided into 3 classes: inner party, outer party and proles. Even though the proles are essential for the system of Oceania, because their task is to gain ressources, they receive insufficient education and medical care.

From a political point of view it’s important to keep them unconscious of their own strenght. Their only political feeling is supposed to be primitive patriotism, so they accept the hard working conditions. The life of a random prole should consist of breeding, working and finaly dying. In the case that some proles start to evolve a bigger intellect, the Thought police placed agents to be sure that they get vaporized before they get the chance to start a riot or chase any kind of problems.

So it should be impossible for a prole to rise into a higher class. Thus their sole function is called reproduction. All around Oceania are certain realms where they live kind of separated.

The partys slogan is: ”Proles and animals are free”. This is a contrast to the permanent supervision of the party-members. The party employes many people who vouch for creating meaningless songs and novels for the proles. Another discraprency can be seen in the fact that members of the party are watched nearly everywhere they go by telescreens.

There is no prole-house with any telescreen! Proles do not wear a uniform, can use cosmetics, they also have free sex lives, uninterrupted by the Party, and divorce is permitted. Though it is nominally forbidden for Outer Party members like Winston to trade with proles, but all do it because they are the only source for certain minor necessities mentioned in the novel, like razorblades.

Winston Smith, the protagonist buys things like an empty book to write down his real thoughts or a paperweight at a proles-store. So he and later Julia commit a thought crime with the help of the proles. Of course the proles do not help them actively, but Winston carries a wild hope to defeat the system. At the end of the novel they turn out to be incapable of such an act.

But we don’t know the future. Maybe, if there existed a second novel, it would deal with big brother fearing the proles, because it failed suppressing them. But that’s only my personal imagination.

To come back to the novel, Winston estimates that indeed they are kept like animals proles remained human, because they preserve the essence of life, human emotions and even “Oldspeak”. According to that another role of them is to show criticism for the communistic system in general.

For me they also indicate those people who fall behind or drop out in our achievement-oriented society. They voluntary accept a lack of technology in order to gain more living quality and to get rid of their mental shackles.

After all I still do not understand why Orwell describes the proles like some retarded and limited human beeings. Of course it serves showing the discraprency between the “progressive” party-members and the antiquated, “dumb” workers. But for me it’s not realistic at all that so many people live in such mental poverty.

In a nutshell you can compare the situation in the novel with the global market. Just look at the leading industrial states! Without the poverty of developing countries, we could not buy cheap clothes, who were made from poor workers for 1$ per hour. You don’t need much imagination or fantasy to realize that the system can be compared with the Industrial nations and the proles with the least-developed-countries of the world.

Without those imbalance the rich industrial countries would fall into another crisis. But at the current state the rich get more rich and the poor ones worse.

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