English department, fu jen catholic university


Active Women Julia and Clarisse



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Active Women Julia and Clarisse
Indeed, to reiterate Cixous’ argument, activity is always associated with the man, and passivity with the woman. However, in order for the male protagonist to take on an active role in both novels, there must exist a relatively more active female character that inspires the protagonist. As Laura Mulvey argues in Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema what counts is what the heroine provokes, or rather what she represents. She is the one, or rather the love or fear she inspires in the hero, or else the concern he feels for her, who makes him act the way he does (19). Though Mulvey’s argument is largely concerned with film analysis, the role of the heroine can be applied in the analysis of active women in both novels such that they are able to regain their personal leisure spaces and act as catalysts to trigger the protagonists rebellion.


10 Chen In
Nineteen Eighty-Four
​, activity is seen through the character Julia, Winston’s lover who, unlike Katharine, remains consistently present within the novel. On the surface, Julia appears to be a Party member devoted to her duties, as she is a member of the Junior
Anti-Sex League an organization that advocated complete celibacy for both sexes (Orwell
65). However, Julia defies the Party’s means of anti-leisure through secretly having sexual intercourse with multiple men, using her work in the Junior Anti-Sex League as camouflage (129), allowing her to deceive the Party and therefore regain her personal leisure space. For this reason, the sexual relationship between Julia and Winston is not merely about mutual desire in a society where physical attraction is prohibited Their embrace had been a battle, the climax a victory. It was a blow struck against the Party. It was apolitical act (126). In comparing sexual intercourse to battle, Orwell reveals the raw, chaotic nature of their relationship, which is in itself symbolic of their rebellion. Though Winston already secretly hates the Party, it is through meeting and connecting with Julia that he comes to act on his rebellious instincts. In
Fahrenheit 451
​, activity is seen through the character Clarisse, Montag’s neighbor who approaches and strikes a conversation with Montag from the beginning of the novel, and it is their communication with one another that slowly pushes Montag to the point of rebellion. Unlike Winston, Montag is portrayed as a regular individual satisfied with the workings of his society his satisfaction in his life as a fireman is expressed in the first sentence of the novel It was a pleasure to burn (Bradbury 1). However, Montag’s change in how he perceives their society becomes evident by his second interaction with Clarisse: He felt his body divide itself into a hotness and a coldness, a softness and a hardness, a trembling and a not trembling, the two halves grinding one upon the other (21). Whereas Julia regains her personal leisure space through freely engaging in sexual acts, Clarisse does so through thinking crazy thoughts (7) and having intellectual exchanges with both Montag


11 Chen and her family. Hence, the imagined contrasting conditions of Montag’s body unveils a moment of psychological struggle, the friction of the polar opposites hotness/coldness and softness/hardness a chemical reaction that deconstructs Montag’s crumbling understanding of his society, catalyzing his impending rebellion. Whilst Katharine and Mildred are both portrayed as emotionally distant, Julia and
Clarisse succeed in developing a connection with the protagonists that ultimately inspires them to rebel Julia through physical and Clarisse through intellectual connection. In both cases, the strength of the protagonists emotional connection with the active women is portrayed through both writers use of light. In Winston’s first interaction with Julia, she is seen coming toward him from the other end of the long, brightly lit corridor (Orwell 105). Similarly, in Montag’s first interaction with Clarisse, Bradbury dwells on her appearance her face has a soft and constant light in it like the strangely comfortable and rare and gently flattering light of the candle (Bradbury 5). Here, light is symbolic of hope, and the writers association of these active female characters to light therefore emphasizes their ability in inspiring the protagonist, instilling in him the possibility of change. However, Julia and Clarisse’s fates within the novels signify that they still remain relatively passive. As Cixous argues, either woman is passive or she does not exist. What is left of her is unthinkable, unthought” (65). Indeed, their activeness is only relevant in inspiring the protagonist, and they are forced to withdraw into the background once they have fulfilled their intended roles. Though Julia initially represents hope,
Nineteen Eighty-Four concludes with Julia and Winston both betraying each other when they are caught and interrogated by O’Brien, a member of the Inner Party. After the interrogation, Winston recounts a moment where he sees Julia once again in the Park and how he has put his arm around her waist only to notice that her waist had stiffened the rigidity and awkwardness of her body made it seem more like stone than flesh (Orwell 291). Here,


12 Chen
Julia’s stiff body mirrors how Katharine’s body has felt to Winston earlier in the novel, an intentional comparison signifying that Julia has become, like Katharine, stripped of her personal leisure space and completely passive to the power of the Party. Similarly, Clarisse’s activeness abruptly comes to an end when she is run over by a car (Bradbury 44) and dies suddenly quite early on in the novel. However, her death is never explicitly portrayed, and is instead only briefly mentioned in a conversation between Mildred and Montag: Her said Mildred in the darkroom. What about her asked Montag. I meant to tell you. Forgot. Forgot Tell me now. What is it I think she’s gone (44) Herein indirectly depicting her death through Mildred, Bradbury eliminates any remaining activity that could be left of Clarisse, wherein Mildred’s forgetfulness and apathetic manner in speaking of her death also pushes Clarisse into a realm of passivity and unimportance,
“unthought” (Cixous 65) of once she has fulfilled her intended role within the novel. Ultimately, though Clarisse is represented as relatively more active than Mildred, and Julia than Katherine, the active female characters are still unable to escape binary oppositions. As active as these female characters are, they are inevitably dictated by the novels plotlines and are still relatively passive to the male protagonists, around whom, and through whose perspectives, the plots unfold. However, even though the active women have to withdraw to the background of death or nonexistence after fulfilling their intended roles as catalysts to trigger the protagonists rebellion, their momentary agency in the novels still embodies what anti-totalitarianism means for the two novels.


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