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1984 [Part 1] - Proles

By PiiJr36 | Club of Nines | 21 Nov 2021

They needed only to rise up and shake themselves like a horse shaking off flies.” (p. 69)


By this point in time, many of us are aware of the symbolism behind The Matrix's pills - the red pill allows one to see what the world is and the blue pill maintains the veil of illusion. The choice is always up to the consumer. Some of us would like to know the truth and others would like to live in blissful ignorance.

Where are we going with this? Say freedom loses and tyrants devolve humanity into dystopian shackles. In that case, I elect for the blue pill so long as I can live within the lowest caste of Oceania, among the Proles.

Of course The Party would not want that, it needs its worker-bees to harvest goods for it's military maneuvers against Eurasia and Eastasia. So the worker-bee outer party members are led to believe that “the proles are not human beings” (p. 52) and further dehumanize them with the slogan: “Proles and animals are free” (p. 72). Interesting choice of words, proles are less than human and hold the same status as wild animals yet they are free people who are “allowed to follow their ancestral code” (p. 72) when it comes to morals.

Winston admits they don't know much about the prole class and it there was no reason to “so long as they continued to work and breed, their other activities were without importance” (p. 71). He continues, when the proles are “left to themselves, like cattle turned loose upon the plains of Argentina, they had reverted to a style of life that appeared to be natural to them, a sort of ancestral pattern” (p. 71). Sounds like a pretty sweet deal considering the proles are 100% free range organic au naturale humans. It would be a no brainer to choose their lifestyle instead of the oppressive surveillance Winston suffers under.

There has to be a catch right? Its too good to be true under The Party's regime.

Although it was The Party itself who “liberated the proles from bondage” (p. 70) and who had claimed the proles had been “hideously oppressed by the capitalists [before the Revolution]” (p. 70). The Party insists capitalism was problematic for society and there is no one who can dispute their case. Like all systems, capitalism has problems of its own but we may have noticed a rise of individuals who are quick to point out its flaws and/or outright oppose capitalism. Ironically, most of these individuals live in a capitalistic society and choose to remain within one. The main question here is, are there entities inflating the “greedy capitalist” narrative just as The Party did?

When it came to ruling prole society, The Party decided “they were allowed to follow their ancestral code” (p. 72). What does that mean for the Proles? For starters, “the sexual puritanism of the Party was not imposed upon them. Promiscuity went unpunished; divorce was permitted” (p. 72). We'll go into a little more detail in another post but for now, all we need to now is party members aren't allowed to have sexual relations with each other. So while proles can fornicate like rabbits in the hills, Winston can't get any or he goes right to jail, right away.

People will obviously have trouble living like that so the genius of party machine was “inclined to encourage prostitution, as an outlet for instincts which could not be altogether suppressed” (p. 65) so long as it “only involved the women of a submerged and despised class” (p. 65) or in other words, the female Prole. To make matters worse, “[o]nly the Proles used scent [and] in his mind the smell of it was inextricably mixed up with fornication” (p. 64). These prostitutes could easily “be purchased for a bottle of gin, which the proles were not supposed to drink” (p. 65) and party members had plenty to go around.

Let's recap. It seems that these humans haven't lost their biological programming to seek sex for pleasure and not solely for reproductive mechanisms. The Party decides the Proles can go about their ways and party members were supposed to take a puritan approach. But if the party member simply cannot resist their urges, they can chase the tail of lesser people. It may be a bit difficult for us in today's world to grasp the repulsiveness of having relations with someone of a lower social class. This repulsiveness might be relatable to the meme of how one may feel after they've finished their business and realized what sort of pornography they had used – a slightly disgusted feeling with themselves. With this, we can anticipate Winston having mental conflicts with the involvement of this sexual act. Some where along the lines of knowing wrong but feeling right. To further the temptation, Proles use perfume and we're all well aware of the enchanting pheromone effects of cologne and perfume. Now imagine lower class prostitutes are the only people who smell that desirable and all they ask for is a bottle of cheap gin. Genius mind games from the Party.

Why do you think Proles aren't allow to drink gin? Is it because its synthetic and unnatural to their way of life? Is it a drug?

To further encourage party members to stay away from the Proles, “there would be no public lavatories in a quarter like this” (p. 101) for obvious reasons.

In these quarters, “the civil police interfered with them very little” (p. 71), similar to the autonomous zones that sprang up around the United States. As we can imagine happening in today's world, Orwell describes these areas as “a whole world-within-a-world of thieves, bandits, prostitutes, drug peddlers and racketeers of every description” (p. 72). These criminal activities were allowed to run rampant “since it all happened among the proles themselves” (p. 72) as if they took place in the 'bad parts of town'.

Winston doesn't mention the literacy of the Proles, regardless, “the hunting-down and destruction of books had been done with the same thoroughness in the prole quarters as everywhere else” (p. 97). The Party can't take that risk for reasons that will soon be realized.

Question – does religion follow scripture or does scripture follow religion?

Winston believes that “even religious worship would have been permitted if the proles had shown any sign of needing or wanting it” and adds on, “they were beneath suspicion” (p. 72).

Perhaps the Proles would have continued their worship if they were allowed to maintain their religious texts. However, past societies have been known to practice religion through word of mouth without the need of scripture. The Prole society is godless by choice but it can be speculated that the civilization of Oceania has long lost the concept of God. The disappearance of religion may have come by choice as seen with the Proles or it may have been taken by revoking the permission to worship as implied by Winston.

History has documented regimes revoking these same permissions in their conquests. It is one of the steps that a governmental entity must take if there was any desire to have complete control over a society simply because religion has the ability to unite and organize its followers.

When we look over our shoulder, do we see any instances where limitations were placed on our individual freedom to worship? Perhaps if we took a peak under the veil of safety, we may find the repulsive similarities. Many religious people tend to gravitate towards their sanctuaries when faced with difficult times. Is it wrong to deny them their faith? Is it wrong to allow them to endanger themselves in a place of spiritual power for the comfort that comes with their prayer?

Winston also attaches the Proles being beneath suspicion, assuming the suspicion of an uprising. Now if the Proles had still practiced religion and had arose to a level to which The Party considered 'suspicious', would their worship be revoked?

As we continue, we discover that a “great majority of proles did not even have telescreens in their homes” (p.71) which is surprising considering how useful the telescreens are to the Party. Remember, telescreens grant the ability to spy on the populace, to keep individuals in check, and to provide propaganda about war status and rations. Similar to how social media feeds cycle through the same 3-4 stories or events, depending on the user's perspective.

Ask yourself: If these narratives were not presented to the users on a daily basis, would these users continue to exist in that same reality?

It is quite obvious that these stories on the medias are heavily intertwined with politics. If we were to accept this, we can expect the political trials that the user's face on a daily basis will also cede to exist for the majority of the population when these stories aren't uploaded as frequently. The Party has realized this and decisively withholds telescreens from the Proles because “it was not desirable that the proles should have strong political feelings” (p. 71). The only thing that The Party really needed was the “primitive patriotism which could be appealed to whenever it was necessary to make them accept longer working hours or shorter rations” (p. 71).

Primitive. Patriotism.

Red versus Blue. Left versus Right. Poor versus Rich. Us versus Them.

Pawn takes Pawn.

Wait a second - longer working hours? Weren't the Proles freed from the evil capitalists?

Surely when a class finally realizes they are being taken advantage of, they will revolt, “as they sometimes did, their discontent led nowhere, because, being without general ideas, they could only focus it on petty specific grievances. The large evils invariably escaped their notice” (p. 71). Wow, that hits a little close to home, kinda stings a bit there.

How many times have we seen massive protests and riots with minimal change past acknowledgment or fizzing out before any change is started? How many times have the wrongdoings of a person been brought center stage only for them to shuffle off screen? There have been multiple names and characters who have recently surfaced in the past years and they too have already been forgotten; their evils cloaked and swept under the rug while the herd stampedes to the next story.

Now why would governments around the world attempt to contain these evils as The Party commits to limit politics from the Proles? Two words – Hope and Power.

There would never be a revolution outside the Prole quarters for Party members like Winston, for them a “[r]ebellion meant a look in the eyes, an inflection of the voice; at the most, an occasional whispered word” (p. 69). The enemies of The Party “had no way of coming together or even of identifying one another” (p. 69). This section of 1984 is one of the first instances of The Brotherhood being mentioned; although Winston believes they too are incapable of overthrowing The Party simply because their members wouldn't be able to “assemble in larger numbers than twos and threes” (p. 69).

So what could the Proles possibly offer to the cause? Once we consider that they make up “eighty-five percent of the population of Oceania” (p. 69), we begin to see the bigger picture. Winston writes, If there is hope it lies in the proles” (p. 69) for he has lost hope that his population could ever break free from The Party. Of the 15% remaining in the population, how many are running the show and loyal to The Party? How many more are like Winston and realize “The Party could not be overthrown from within”? (p. 69)

Believe or not, the citizens of free nations wield the same power of the Proles in the case that if “they could somehow become conscious of their own strength, would have no need to conspire. They needed only to rise up and shake themselves like a horse shaking off flies” (p. 69). We look around in our societies and see how these elected officials are abusing their power. We know we have the power to elect them into their position. We must remember that we also hold the power to revoke their authority.

Back to the Proles, “[s]urely sooner or later it must occur to them to do it. And yet--” (p. 69) they don't. Will we?

If there is any doubt of power behind the Proles, Winston describes to us an event when he had been visiting in the Prole quarters and heard a “great formidable cry of anger and despair, a deep loud 'Oh-o-o-o-oh!' that went humming on like the reverberation of a bell” (p. 70). He was convinced this moment was the moment the Proles began to revolt but soon recognized they were crowded in a street market. He witnessed the crowd “[breaking] down into a multitude of individual quarrels” (p. 70) all because “one of the stalls had been selling tin saucepans” (p. 70). It sounds a bit like an average American morning at the Black Friday sales when they first became popular. Winston realized the “frightening power” (p. 70) that came “from only a few hundred throats” (p. 70) at the street market. He frustratingly questions, “[w]hy was it that they could never shout like that about anything that mattered” (p. 70). A question we may catch ourselves asking from time to time when society bickers about the latest celebrity controversy or when referees make a bad call in a big game.

Winston leaves us with a reflective line for when we find ourselves wading through the ocean of masses, so that we may go forth and unveil the similarities our society has with the Proles.


Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious” (p. 70).

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