Comparing Societal Marxism in the Text 1984 and Play Pygmalion Through Character Karl Marx believed that every society had different economic classes, that the people are divided into, depending on their economic status; the ones who are in control are generally those with the most power, economically. This hierarchy leads to the creation of false consciousness and class consciousness. Those who control the power in any society are known as the bourgeoisie, and they obtain that social hierarchy by oppressing the lower-class individuals, who, in the Marxist Lens, are known as the proletariats. The two texts being compared are, the novel 1984 by George Orwell and the play, by George Bernard Shaw, known as Pygmalion. Orwell, in 1984, represents dictatorship as the main type of rule in England, where the lower working class happen to compose most of the population; these proletariat are mostly unaware of the conditions that they have been placed in. In Pygmalion, Shaw depicts a young woman who yearns to transgress the oppression of being a proletariat and become a bourgeoisie. Compared to the play Pygmalion, the characters in the novel 1984 better represent the Marxist lenses of false consciousness and class consciousness.
Compared to Pygmalion, the book 1984 better describes the term class consciousness, which is evident when we recall the group of individuals, known as the Proles, are introduced. In the book, we see the country being ruled by a dictatorship. The bourgeoisie control the society; the proletariats, the majority of the population are systematically and economically oppressed by the ruling party. Winston verified this claim when he said, “If there is any hope it must lie in the Proles, because only there, in those swarming disregarded masses, 85 percent of the population of Oceania, could create the force to destroy the party” (Orwell 73). This quote expresses the fact that if the Proles joined together, they can overthrow the ruling party and their dictatorial ways.
This is similar to the incident in Egypt where the oppressed civilians became class conscious and overthrew the government, “I knew even if I had to die, or even if my kids had to die, I should come and fight with the people; you have to sacrifice to get something great.” (Fadel 2011). Both points exaggerate the fact the Proles were victimized by the bourgeoisie and are blind to their power to rise and cause a rebellion against the ruling party. The capabilities of the Proles are kept hidden from them, but if they gain consciousness of their potential, they can surely over throw the government.
The situation of the Proles is an excellent example of how class consciousness is used in society and how the proletariats are ruled over by the bourgeoisie On the other hand, the play Pygmalion doesn’t display class consciousness as strong, as in 1984, as evident through the character Eliza Doolittle. Eliza Doolittle happens to be apart of the lower class. She was initially denied a decent education of English and wasn’t able to speak as well; this is an ideal representation of how someone can be oppressed by class. When Eliza is first introduced she could only say, “There’s menners f’ yer! Te-oo banches o voylets trod into the mad.
” (Shaw 9) Eliza’s lack of linguistic skills originates from her low social class and how “Children from low-income families hear as many as 30 million fewer words by the age of 4 that their higher-income peers.” (Carter 2013) Class consciousness is a direct cause of Eliza’s inability to talk fluently and her lack of vocabulary. This, as expressed earlier, is due to Eliza being apart of the lower class; she does not have the same oppurtunities to receive a decent education as someone in an upper class. This justifies her poor speech at the beginning of the play, and excites the story when Eliza was given the education she wanted and was able to speak more fluently. False consciousness occurs when a group of individuals are satisfied with their lot in life and are indirectly persuaded to believe in one thing while the truth is something different.
Near the end of the novel, 1984, Winston’s, and the way he acts, transforms due to false consciousness. The false consciousness in Winston was generated by his persecutor, using painful methods. Winston was forced to believe whatever O’Brian, the torturer, said, “And if the Party says that is not four but five then how many?” “Four” (Orwell 255) After that point, Winston eventually began to accept that ‘four plus four is five’, due to the pain and torture he was put through. Winston constantly thought and wrote the statement ‘four plus four equals five’. This could be considered as, what is called, memory amplification. “This process tends to involve the subject remembering more trauma than they actually experienced.” (strange/Takarangi 2016). Winston’s traumatized state, caused by O’Brian, led his mind falsely recreate the traumatic events, different from how it actually occurred.
This rethinking of the traumatic event, cause Winston to bring about its own sense of false consciousness. The event is in his memory forever, and therefore he begins to believe the statement, even though it’s false. Winston inevitably changes; his mind and what he believes in, all because of his newly reformed state of mind, creating false consciousness. Finally, the character Eliza displays false consciousness in the play Pygmalion.
Even though Henry was using Eliza as an object in a bet, Eliza seemed to believe that Henry was trying to help her throughout most of the story. Eliza eventually realizes that she held false belief in Henry; the trust she had in Henry blinded her from his true nature. When Eliza realized this, she stated, “What a fool I was not to think of it before! You can’t take away the knowledge you gave me. You said I had a finer ear than you.” (Shaw 82) Eliza was taken advantage of, by Henry, when she was intent on learning how to speak: “in every sensory moment, we are absolutely flooded with input, much of which is irrelevant”. (Schenkein 2016) Eliza was focused on achieving the ability to speak fluently that she unconsciously disregarded anything that would cause her to realize the true nature of her situation; until of course she began to lose focus and gained insight on Henry’s intent to satisfy his own personal needs. This caused Eliza to leave, as she knew that she didn’t need the help of Henry to survive, and that she will be fine on her own. Eliza’s overcame the sense of false conscious.
While on the other hand, Winston had fallen victim to false consciousness with little to no way out. Compares to the play Pygmalion, the novel 1984 better portrays the Marxist ideologies of economic oppression and false consciousness. The oppression of the Proles, to reduce the likelihood of a revolution, and the tormenting that forced Winston to accept the O’Brian’s view, is a much stronger representation of Marxism than Eliza’s lack of linguistic ability and her initial inability to understand that she was betrayed by Henry. Karl Marx preached that people are naturally divided by where they stand in society regarding their economic status, which in turn creates class consciousness.
Marx also believed that with power comes control over the proletariat, where they are kept under a blanket of false consciousness. It is true that Marxist ideologies were the creation of the 19th-century communist era, but most of the ideas still apply to the present era and can, indirectly, connect the present to the past.