The Critical Impasse: Inverse Relations Among Lesbian, Gay, and Feminist Approaches

  • Jacqueline Foertsch


In George Orwell’s 1984 the romantic union of Winston and Julia is interrupted by the triangulating character O’Brien, who functions not as a competing suitor for Julia’s attention but as a powerful intellectual distraction for Winston, a source of intense emotional release that eventually challenges and destroys the foregrounded heterosexual affair. Thus, the character whose love and loyalty are being fought over faces a choice not between largely interchangeable options (suitor A or B) but between radically different “lifestyles”: will Winston remain with Julia despite the fact that their sexual relationship has become to him an obnoxious barrier to authentic political action, or will he forsake the comforts of this stable arrangement for the dark secrets O’Brien promises but alluringly refuses to articulate? Indeed, Julia at first represents a radical sexual “alternative” to his depressingly desexualized existence and yet, even in the early chapters, O’Brien draws Winston further out on the limb: Winston becomes obsessed with entering O’Brien’s world, their climactic meeting arouses in him an intense emotional and physical response, and O’Brien’s brutal betrayal of Winston consummates itself in an S&M-style torture sequence enacted behind the locked door of Room 101.


Lesbian Couple Lesbian Identity Straight Woman Feminine Pronoun Queer Space 
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© Jacqueline Foertsch 2007

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  • Jacqueline Foertsch

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