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Sexual repression and its significance in Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four" and Huxley's "Brave New World"

Hausarbeit 2011 16 Seiten

Didaktik - Englisch - Literatur, Werke


Index of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Background

3. Sexual repression and its importance for the existence of the state
3.1 Abolition of the traditional family
3.2 Sexual repression in everyday life
3.3 Sexual repression with regard to the act of sexual intercourse

4. Comparison to our society today

5. Conclusion


1. Introduction

We all live in a society where the fear of the surveillance state is definitely valid. In a wide range of countries all over the world everyday life is monitored by cameras, credit card transactions, satellites or phone tapping to name but a few examples. ‘There are up to 4.2m CCTV[1] cameras in Britain – about one for every 14 people’ according to an BBC News article from 2006. It’s safe to assume that this number increase steadily and is still higher up to the present day. More recently, the social network Facebook[2] hit the headlines in view of the fact that an Austrian law student requested all information the company had on him. He later received a parcel including 800 pages of personal information detailing Facebook events he had responded to, places he had checked-in, IP addresses where he last used the site, and other private details. Most of the user data was actually deleted by the student but still available for the operators of the social network (cf. Cyrus Farivar 30.09.2011).

It’s quite remarkable that these current issues of surveillance and data piracy are similarly picked up on dystopian novels at the beginning of the twentieth century. George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four can be cited as one of the best examples and it sometimes seems that we are not far from Orwell’s world. The populace of his fictional society is monitored by a two-way telescreen in every condition of life. By doing this, The Party has wide influence on its adherent’s behaviour. One of the most significant aspects is thereby the manipulation and repression of human sexuality and its importance for the strong government. This is also true for the work of Aldous Huxley. His dystopian novel Brave New World was published nearly two decades before the origin of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Besides George Orwell, he is another significant English writer of the so-called dystopian fiction and with Brave New World he provided a good basis of comparison to Nineteen Eighty-Four.

This term paper should examine differences and similarities between Huxley’s and Orwell’s visions of the future with focus on the aspect of sexual repression. Besides the comparison, this form of repression will be examined closely in view of its purpose for the existence of both fictional states. Starting from the background, different areas of life will be analysed in the main part before giving a comparison to our society today. In conclusion a review on the topic will be given.

2. Background

In the year 1516 Thomas More published the novel Utopia and, by implication, he laid the foundation for a new literary genre too. Derived from the title of the book the same-named genre arose. A typical feature of utopian fiction is the description of an ideal or superior human society. However, certain utopian works present an unpleasant imaginary futuristic world in which the society is repressed and controlled by the state. These works could be seen as a counterpart to originally utopian literature. The term dystopia or anti-Utopia was created to name this genre as the opposite (cf. Claeys 16). George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, published in 1949, was above all a personal critical attack on totalitarian systems and a warning of what could happen if nobody fought against this form of governing. Orwell lived between the years of 1903-1950 and was influenced and inspired by totalitarian regimes of that period. During his lifetime he had witnessed the flowering of Nazism in Germany and the Soviet Union under Stalinism. Concerning the theme of sexual repression, the dystopian world of Nineteen Eighty-Four contains striking parallels to ideologies of that time (cf. Orwell vi). As one of the best examples, the so-called Anti-Sex League can be quoted. Members of this propaganda organisation regard complete celibacy and reproduction by means of artificial insemination as the only socially acceptable way of life. The government is pushing this way of childbirth as the solely method to expedite the proceedings in the destruction of the traditional family unit. There is even a Junior Anti-Sex League, which campaigned for these guiding principles. It was established by the Party teaching young women sexual orthodoxy in order to reject sex as a pleasurable experience (cf. Orwell 60 f.). Comparing with totalitarian regimes in the twentieth century it has to be said that sexual reproduction was rather encouraged than repressed. However, sexuality and sexual behaviours among the citizens were influenced similar to the way of proceeding described in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Evidently, organisations such as the German Ehrenkreuz der deutschen Mutter or Lebensborn e.V. served as concrete inspiring examples. Primary task was to sting mothers into conceiving and raising many children as possible. Another parallel can be found in the youth organisations in Nineteen Eighty-Four. The Spies and the Youth League function as an organ of the government in order to destroy the natural family bond. They are state-controlled in order to form loyal successive generations (cf. Orwell 62 f.). Presumably, Orwell’s inspiration lay in the German Jungmädelbund respective Bund deutscher Mädel of the Nazi party youth movement. Main goal of these youth organisations was to indoctrinate the offspring and produce obedient housewives who should take care of their bodies so that they could bear as many children as the state needed. Similar organisations serving as source of inspiration can also be found in the Soviet Union under Stalinism. They won’t be mentioned at this point for sake of brevity. Seventeen years lie in between the publications of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four in 1949 and Huxley’s Brave New World in 1932. In contrast to Orwell’s work totally different inspiring sources can be found in Huxley’s dystopian fiction. He lived between the years 1894-1963 and wrote the novel in 1931, thus before the rise of the Nazi regime and Hitler’s takeover in Germany (cf. Huxley vi f.). Although the story is set six hundred years after its date of publication, Huxley is actually commenting on contemporary social conditions and behaviour. This is a typical feature in contrast to the writers of the period after the Two World Wars (cf. Nünning 70 f.). Concerning the theme of sexuality he received inspiration from several travels to the United States of America (cf. Bloom 223). At this period of time there were enormous economic and social changes in and between individual countries. During his stay he kept tabs on incipient stages in the change of moral values, the rise of technology and the new role of women. It seems that he saw some of these progresses as a turn for the worse. Huxley worried about the changing society’s norms and the ease of handling with love and emotions. In his opinion human sexuality turned into consumption whereby real friendship and emotions get lost step-by-step. This is clearly recognisable by an excerpt taken from the foreword of Brave New World. Huxley wrote as follows:

“Nor does the sexual promiscuity of Brave New World seem so very distant. There are already certain American cities in which the number of divorces is equal to the number of marriages. In a few years, no doubt, marriage licences will be sold like dog licences, good for a period of twelve months, with no law against changing dogs or keeping more than one animal at a time.”

(Huxley XXXIII)

With Brave New World he criticised and drew attention to the highly-questionable situation in the society. He transferred these issues into his novel in order to warn of negative trends in view of the future. In his fictional World State human beings were mass-produced similar to automobiles and goods at the time of industrialisation. It was a period when family bonds became more tenuous and everyone pursued for private pleasure. He called attention to this change with an exaggerated description of the abolished traditional family. As a consequence, radical changes in the development of human sexuality can be found.

In summary, it can be stated that the time of origin played an important role for both novels. “What stood between Huxley and the world of Nineteen Eighty-Four was Hitler” (Claeys 125) and therefore totally different inspiring sources can be found. Nevertheless there are many similarities as will become apparent in the following chapters.

3. Sexual repression and its importance for the existence of the state

In the widest sense the term sexuality means to possess or express one’s sexual nature, instinct, or feelings. In addition to that, human sexuality can be described as the awareness of themselves as males or females and to have the capacity for erotic experiences and responses (cf. If a human being is prevented from expressing these main features it is referred to the term sexual repression. The following chapters will give a closer look on the different areas of life and how sexuality is influenced and repressed among the human beings.


[1] Close-Circuit Television

[2] Social networking service, launched in 2004


ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
435 KB
Institution / Hochschule
Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universität Greifswald
George Orwell Aldous Huxley Sexual repression Utopia Dystopia




Titel: Sexual repression and its significance in Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four" and Huxley's "Brave New World"