Forms of isolation
Isolation may take many forms for example medical isolation where an unhealthy individual gets separated from the rest of the healthy group to prevent an acute prevalence of the disease. However, in the novels, 1984 by George Orwell and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, the form of isolation presented is social isolation where an individual is in a state of lack of contact with the society. Although social isolation brings about loneliness, the two terms differ since loneliness is only a reflection of a temporary state of lack of contact while social isolation is a concept embedded in the moral fabric of society to continuously alienate individuals. These individuals may receive social alienation on the basis of age, gender, race, class, and religion. This article, therefore, aims to exemplify the instances of social isolation in the novels 1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale using direct quotes to show how the theme of isolation manifests in these two novels. This article also explores the different approaches taken to portray social isolation in each novel thereby giving a detailed insight into the development of the theme of social isolation.
On the one hand, in 1984 by George Orwell, the futuristic government presented which is referred to as “The Party” and which is a powerful and dictatorial administration, isolates the people of Oceania. The people of Oceania face isolation from the rest of society making them feel marginalized, lonely and left out. The primary factor on which this futuristic government leverages to effectively execute its social isolation plan is the vulnerability of a society where the inhabitants are strangers to each other and the development of team spirit is not as advanced as other nations. With the lack of solidarity in society then the Party finds it easy to manipulate, incite, and dominate the society. From this example, it is, therefore, valid to conclude that a society with a shaky union is more likely to face social isolation than a community where members are in harmony and can merge together to fight for their own rights. 1984 shows how people in Oceania lacked friends as an illustration of the impact of social isolation in society. Orwell states that “You did not have friends nowadays, you had comrades” (Orwell 48). With comrades, one can only spend time and only achieve a limited companionship. Strong and everlasting friendships among the people of Oceania failed to exist anymore. People with nobody to turn to for consolation or even consolation, lack companions with whom they can share their thoughts, ideas, and problems. Therefore, by manipulating society to cause the people of Oceania to lack friends from the rest of society is an excellent illustration of the theme of social isolation in the novel 1984.
Furthermore, the Party continues to show social isolation by manipulating the past and changing history. There are significant alterations to historical facts every day; Winston has to perform these changes at the Ministry. There is no longer any revelation of the truth to the citizens. The citizens, therefore, do not have information on the events at the Ministry, lack an understanding of the current inventions and surprisingly do not even know what year it is. Orwell states that “A sense of complete helplessness had descended upon him. To begin with, he did not know with any certainty that this was the year 1984.” (Orwell 7). It is this act of taking away an individual’s memories that adds to the degree of social isolation that the citizens of Oceania face. The Party, therefore, becomes successful in isolating them from the rest of society and disorganizing their lives though processes and disrupting their history.
The Party deprives the citizens of love and eroticism. These two variables are essential in life and serve as agents of connection between people. The Party does not prohibit having children and having a baby is almost a duty to the government. However, the issue of having children has to fall outside the concept of love and sexual attraction. The government has even crafted and funded Anti-Sex Leagues whose mandate is to children and teenagers that sex is immoral, dirty and bad. It is this deprivation of love and eroticism that contributes to the phenomenon of social isolation of the citizens. There is the imposition of laws that render their connection and networks obsolete. They are made to see and believe in the possibility of having children not being a function of love and sex.
Also, the Party is responsible for separating families from their loved ones. There is a significant rise in the number of disappearances in the country. People get taken aware from society and are never returned. Individuals disappear under mysterious circumstances every day. Families are isolated from their missing loved ones and the missing persons are in isolation from their families. For example, Orwell states that Winston initially had a happy family; wife (Katherine), parents and a sister. However, presently, Winston is lonely and is not even aware of the welfare of his family members. The government goes an extra mile than just taking family members away; changing their mindset and manipulating them. An excellent example of this action of manipulation is the change in behavior of the kids of Oceania. These kids worship the governance of the Party and frequent the Anti-Sex Leagues and become mean aids. Also, it is common for such ids to denounce their parents and entire families and incline their loyalty towards the Thought Police. Therefore the government is successful in executing its social isolation plan by alienating specific individuals in society and manipulating them to fit their selfish agendas.
On the other hand, in The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, women are the victims of a governance system that marginalizes women and which disregards the dignity of the female gender. For example, in Gilead, it is legal for men to control women. It is also legal for men to politicize the bodies of fertile women. Although the human population in North America is having a significant drop due to the increasing number of infertile men and women, in Gilead the women are overburdened with bearing the reasons behind infertility and are considered to be the only cause for this phenomenon of a reduced population. Even in matters that require the combined effort of all genders, such as birth rates women are seen to face isolation by being overburdened with finding ways to improve the population without the involvement of their male counterparts.
Governance in Gilead
Furthermore, the governance in Gilead stems from the literal interpretation of the Bible. Thus women are to be considered material belongings of and subordinate to the male figures of the family such as their fathers and husbands. Women, therefore, are to come second in command and their power and ideas are to remain unsaid as long there are male figures present. Besides, women are prohibited from doing any activities or developing initiatives that could possibly grant them power within the context of their homes or even independence in the country. It is for this purpose of this isolation between these male and female genders that the government has disallowed voting in any kind of elections, holding positions of employment, accessing education, possessing any form of wealth and money, and many other restrictions. It is these restrictions that were to sideline women from the normal activities of men making them incapable of participation in matters of the nation. Therefore, in The Handmaid’s Tale, there is also an excellent reference to the theme of social isolation especially on the basis of gender.
Moreover, Atwood states that “The Republic of Gilead, said Aunt Lydia, knows no bounds. Gilead is within you” (HT 5.2). From such quotes, it is possible to conclude that there is no potential approach with which one can work around the present societal bounds of women. The systems put in place to alienate women from the rest of society were so resolute that this condition of social isolation could remain for a long time. The governance system leans towards pushing the laws of the land to isolate women from the rest of society.
Deprivation of love
Just as in 1984 by George Orwell, The Handmaid’s Tale also manifests the deprivation of love and eroticism from society. The creators of the society in The Handmaid’s Tale want sex, an act the reason which handmaids are born, is a transaction devoid of feelings. The fundamental pillars that connect society and make the relationships between male and female important have been isolated to widen the gap between the social status of men versus that of women, The creators of this system are particularly interested in alienating specific women from enjoying their rights of enjoying love and eroticism. For example, the commander wants to have a relationship with Offred that is free from love. The relationship is supposed to be devoid of passion in this dystopian nation. By depriving the fundamental pillars of society that bind members together and sidelining women in society then there arises a sense of loneliness from these acts and restrictions of social isolation.
In conclusion, these two novels: 1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale, are accurate references for the exemplification of the theme of social isolation and serve as excellent pieces that cite the way in which specific individuals or groups of individuals experience alienation from the rest of society. Also, these novels show how governance systems can deprive the fundamental pillars of connection in society rendering the society devoid of building blocks in everyday relationships.
Atwood, Margaret. The handmaid’s tale. Vol. 301. Everyman’s Library Classics &, 2006.
Orwell, George. “New York: Signet Classic.” (1984):
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