Compare and Contrast the Ways in Which the Authors William Shakespeare, George Orwell and Jeanette Winterson Examine the Effects of Control in Their Texts the Taming of the Shrew, Nineteen Eighty-Four and Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit
English and Literature
Submitted By littlebjorn
Compare and contrast the ways in which the authors William Shakespeare, George Orwell and Jeanette Winterson examine the effects of control in their texts The Taming of the Shrew, Nineteen Eighty-Four and Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit.
William Shakespeare’s comedy The Taming of the Shrew attempts to present a comedic mockery of 16th century values. Shakespeare presents to the audience the farce of marriage values, the treatment of women and the control employed to tame those who were deemed ‘unruly.’ Shakespeare uses this technique in order to highlight to his audience the ridiculousness and brutality of their actions and, furthermore, to present to a modern audience the upheld expectations and beliefs of 16th century society and the ridiculousness of said societal values. The very title of the play alone – “The Taming of the Shrew” – through the language “taming” and “shrew,” indicates that there is something undesirable about a women acting of her own accord and thus she requires ‘taming.’ In the 1949 novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell uses control in an attempt to warn the reader of the dangers of totalitarianism after having witnessed the harrowing lengths that governments were willing to go to in order to sustain sovereign authority. Orwell was deeply disturbed by the cruelty and oppression that he had witnessed in Communist countries and was concerned by the increasing use of technology as a means of control; as presented by his use of the telescreen. Within Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, a bildungsroman; meaning a novel of formation or education, set within the 1960s – a period of time that was witnessing the beginning of personal liberation and a decrease in conservative values – Jeanette Winterson presents a heartfelt critique of religion and control through a young girl’s exploration of life and coming of age whilst saturated by religious zeal.
Within the texts each author examines the effects of control; in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Jeanette Winterson aims to show the effects of maternal and religious control, following young girl Jeanette in her exploration of life and coming of age while saturated by religious zeal; within Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell employs glimpses into Ministry worker Winston Smith’s repetitive life and the terror tactics used by the government to display to the reader the depressing effects of totalitarian control; in The Taming of the Shrew, Shakespeare attempts to present Elizabethan ideals of marriage and the control employed to ‘tame’ women who were deemed unruly.
Throughout each novel, people are controlled by godlike and faceless ideas and concepts; they are kept in control by omnipresent, monolithic figureheads; God; Big Brother; the patriarchy. Each author employs a paternal, elusive concept to keep people in check. For Winterson in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit it is God. From a psychoanalytical or Freudian perspective, God represents the paternal figure in Jeanette’s life, an overarching central figure, delegating the ways in which she should live her life, very similarly to Shakespeare’s use of the patriarchy as a figure of control in The Taming of the Shrew. The patriarchy is a faceless, ultimately non-existent figure; it is simply a result of societal traditions. Within Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell calls upon Big Brother who warns of eradication like the Christian threat of hellfire. Ultimately we learn that an omnipotent, omnipresent figure keeps citizens subconsciously under control and keeps them obedient and disposable.
Primarily, within Nineteen Eighty-Four the main type of control used by the party is psychological control. Through Winston’s eyes, the reader begins to understand the techniques that the Party uses to control its members. Winston experiences a world where leaders ditch the truncheons and boots for a quieter, less conspicuous method of control: psychological manipulation. From Winston’s telescreen, which provides news, his daily exercise instructions and bombards him with information as to who he should hate and why, to the propaganda covering the walls of ministry buildings and the places he spends his free time, constantly reminding him: “Big Brother is Watching You.” Orwell uses this to convey that Winston simply cannot get away from Big Brother and, through that, he cannot escape the cold clutches of totalitarianism; the reader must understand that “nothing was your own except the few cubic centimetres inside your skull.” The Party, in essence, controls reality, so much so that they would eventually make it that two plus two is five, realising the importance of psychological independence Winston believes that “freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four.” This links to the ways in which God is presented in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Jeanette lives through the belief that God is not your friend – he is your father, your judge, he is to be respected. At times, Big Brother occupies such an intangible position that the love party members are expected to uphold could be likened to a Godlike worship. The party slogan – “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength” – is the greatest display of control the party has over the minds of its members. Primarily, “War is Peace” tells us that party members are led to believe that they constantly have a common enemy; Winston often talks of how the enemy of Airstrip One changes very often, but people rarely notice and mindlessly continue their hatred from subject to subject. Political scientists such as Schlesinger would comment that a common enemy keeps the people united and Orwell would have experienced this common enemy during his experiences in real life warfare. Secondly, the juxtaposition of “Freedom is Slavery” tells party members that on their own, they are worthless. This point finds a link with The Taming of the Shrew in the way that Katherina, and women of the Elizabethan era, were made to believe that without their fathers, without men, they were worthless. Orwell uses these methods of control to highlight to an audience that widespread control is not always obvious. The Party also relies on Newspeak; a new language designed by the Party to reduce the amount of words within people’s vocabulary therefore making it harder for people to rebel their oppression and easier for the Party to manipulate its members. Once the party has control over the mind of its members, it can slowly and insidiously begin to shape their consciences until, eventually; they mindlessly obey orders and correct their own behaviour, calling for a lesser need of physical control. Winston begins to take note of the fact that if the universe exists only in the mind, and the Party controls the mind, then the Party controls the universe.
Within The Taming of the Shrew, control relies on deep rooted societal values and the existence of the patriarchy and presents to the audience the domestication and training of a human being who seems to be treated otherwise. Petruchio considers himself to be a tamer who must tame his wife and mould her into the perfect woman. Petruchio likens his plan to training a “falcon” and claims that he is going to “kill [Katherina] with kindness,” suggesting that he will simply “kill” the parts of Katherina that he doesn’t approve of, leaving her merely an aesthetically pleasing shell, and see her obedient and compliant. Shakespeare uses binary opposition of the words “kill” and “kindness” to convey a sense of morbidity that is somehow pleasant enough to be accepted by society. The way that Petruchio controls his wife is through psychological control by humiliating and degrading her, patronising and starving her, burning her to the ground so he can rebuild her the way he wants her. The ridiculous outfit Petruchio wears to his wedding is a display of the control Petruchio has over his wife, through this, coupled with her being too exhausted to protest, he is his able to humiliate her into submission. This is similar to the way that Baptista controlled his daughters, constantly using Katherina as a scapegoat, wishing her to be more like her sister; kind, quiet, yielding. This leads the reader to question: Does Katherina’s shrewishness stem from anxiety about her own undesirability and the feeling that she will never find a husband the way she is? Ultimately we begin to learn that Bianca is tired of being the archetypal woman, arguably she is simply a ‘shrew’ in disguise. Through this, we learn that women must be pretty, obedient and easily manipulated in order to find husbands, even if Petruchio himself is boisterous, obnoxious and often drunk. For instance, punching the priest at his own wedding to his dear Bianca. Through the text we learn that the 16th century institution of marriage was motivated by fortune, to see husbands and fathers at financial gain and through this, women are systematically oppressed.
When Winston first meets Julia, we can gain an understanding of how warped his sense of sexual desire has become as he says to her “I wanted to rape you and then murder you afterwards.” From this we can gather that through years of sexual oppression and a reliance prole prostitutes for gratification, Winston has developed a desire to control someone in the same way that Big Brother controls him. On the surface of Winston and Julia’s relationship, there is no romance or desire, their affair is a political act, supported by the fact that their first sexual affair “was a blow struck against the Party.” This is because the Party forbids love in near every capacity other than that towards Big Brother, especially an unlawful sexual relation like Winston and Julia’s affair and Orwell uses the presentation of forbidden love to show the reader that this utter, dictatorial control has no room for personal motives, no room for individual prosperity or happiness, it is a system of giving all you have for the betterment of the Party. However, behind the unadulterated lust and use of sex for rebellion we see an element of hope from Winston and Julia’s relationship, when Julia hands Winston the note reading “I love you” in the corridor he, for the first time in years, feels human. Winston feels respected in his individual capacity, not as a cog in the totalitarian machine. Orwell uses this to show us the ways in which the very nature of our humanity, or love and our freedom would be limited, near abolished, through totalitarian control and to highlight that the party has ultimate control over its members, in every element of their lives, even down to their will to live, by referring to them as a faceless, replaceable workforce. Within Nineteen Eighty-Four, Winston attempts to prove the power of the people; his interest in proles is based on his belief that if they were to rise up, they could shake off totalitarian governmental control like flies on the back of a horse.
The element of forced love is very prominent in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit as Jeanette’s mother forces from her daughter absolute devotion to Christ, to the Church and to the Bible. Every element of Jeanette’s life is controlled by the strict guidelines her mother enforces through Christianity. This can be noted from Jeanette’s description of her mother, “She had never heard of mixed feelings. There were friends and there were enemies,” we can gather from this that Jeanette’s mother is someone with extremely rigid boundaries; people are holy or people are evil. There is no room for those who do not believe in God to be good people and this sets the precedent for the conflict Jeanette will have with her mother further on in the novel. Finding affinity with Winston of Nineteen Eighty-Four, Jeanette stands insurgent against the accepted belief of what she should believe and the love she should give the massively illusive idol of God, similarly to Winston’s rebellion towards the elusive figurehead of Big Brother. Jeanette does not believe she is doing anything wrong by discovering her own sexuality and giving love to those she feels passion for rather than those she is told to love, drawing a parallel with The Taming of the Shrew, as Katherina has no real choice in the decision of who she will marry, it is down to her father to judge her potential suitor and to agree a dowry upon the marriage, Shakespeare does this to present how women of the Elizabethan era were treated; passed from father to husband like a ragdoll. This resolves itself by sending Katherina to near insanity, which leads to exhaustion, and eventually submission. This draws a parallel with Winston’s eventual obedience in Nineteen Eighty-Four, after he has been worn down in Room 101, betrayed by O’Brien – someone he thought he could trust – much like Katherina is manipulated by her husband, someone who should love and care for her. However, audience perception of a husband has changed quite dramatically over the last five hundred years, for a 16th century audience, marriage was very much a financial agreement not a promise or love nor commitment.
We learn that predominately, the effect of control is rebellion, much like compressing a spring for too long – it must return to its original, liberated position, in the same way that people, when oppressed for far too long, will ultimately begin questioning their position. For Jeanette in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, her mother kept her spellbound and clueless, ignorant of the world outside of the Bible, so when she attends school she realises that the world is not simply a sequence of scripture, but rather it is vast and we see Jeanette thinking for herself. After Jeanette is revoked from the Church due to her romantic feelings for Melanie, she realises that she must move on and she cannot continue living in the past, through this she develops a profound understanding of herself and her disillusionment from the Church is vastly unimportant. This is presented in Jeanette saying to Melanie, “I love you almost as much as I love the Lord,” we can see here that Jeanette’s priorities are slowly changing, she is beginning to escape the control of her mother’s religious zeal. She may not refute God himself completely but she appears to begin to refuse her mother’s zealousness towards the Bible and the ways in which she forced Jeanette to practice it in every element of her life. Through this, Winterson presents the main theme of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit: being yourself and not being shaped by the beliefs of someone else. Here, the texts find dissimilarity, as Nineteen Eighty-Four and The Taming of the Shrew resolve themselves very differently. For Winston of Nineteen Eighty-Four, he is forced into eventual submission by the use of fear, presenting to the audience that totalitarianism is exactly that: total control. If the Party cannot obtain that through insidious, inconspicuous indoctrination, they will do so by force or you will be eradicated and forgotten about. It appears to the reader that Winston would sooner live another day, slowly being drained of any will to live, quietly rebelling within his mind, continuing his doublethink, than be eradicated in vain. Likewise, for Katherina in The Taming of the Shrew exhaustion, abuse, and eventually submission see her as the ideal wife. Perhaps in her mind she is rebelling still, much like Winston of Nineteen Eighty-Four.
The main effect of control within Nineteen Eighty-Four is that of forbidden and forced love; party members are told exactly how to feel, through bombardment of propaganda, insidiously through their telescreens and blatantly during Ten Minutes Hate, when party members are told exactly who to hate and why. Big Brother uses control to force from party members complete devotion; reducing sex and procreation to a mere chore to be performed for the furtherance of the Party. Through this, we can note Julia’s rebellion through the use of sex and lust and we learn that “simple undifferentiated desire … would tear the Party to pieces.” This holds similarity with Jeanette’s use of love as rebellion in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit as she does what she feels to be naturally right and, through this, stands against what it is she is told to believe and, furthermore, Katherina’s use of rebellion in The Taming of the Shrew; she stands against indoctrination and suppression in order to be who she wants to be, even if by the end of the novel when she finds herself mindlessly obedient. Each author is presenting a moral of standing up for what you believe to be right and not simply believing and adhering to what you are told, presenting the importance of individuality and liberty.
From a feminist perspective, the control within The Taming of the Shrew can be interpreted in two different ways, the first of which sees Shakespeare tackling the archetypal constructs of misogyny and refuting the belief that women are the lesser sex and criticising the archaic institution of marriage with fortune as a motivation, using Katherina as the catalyst in his fiery attack of 16th century social order, empowering women to challenge their position in both their families and society. However, some audiences have taken a less positive view of Shakespeare’s opinion on women and argue that interpret Katherina’s eventual weakness to Petruchio’s various attacks on her humanity as obedience to the patriarch, quietly rebelling in her mind alone, like her sister Bianca and therefore reflecting Shakespeare’s view of what all women should do. As the text takes form in a play, varying interpretations are taken to the stage and very often this makes it difficult to present the original idea as it includes the influence of a budding director as well as Shakespeare himself. Very often, the contrasting viewpoint is that Katherina’s suffering is played for laughs, she is starved, deprived of sleep, beaten, refused food all because she refuses to adhere to male orders, which begs the question: Is The Taming of the Shrew Shakespeare’s display of a poor reality, played for laughs in order to show his audience their ridiculousness and light-heartedness towards the scenario, or a brutal display of how women should be treated, further ridiculed by comedy? Critics of Orwell also often praised his subversive political approach and it was said by Rushbrook Williams, Orwell’s BBC boss, that had Nineteen Eighty-Four been written earlier in history it would have been him “either canonised – or burnt at the stake,” this goes to further the argument that Winston, and therefore Orwell, stood against the accepted and established beliefs of the time, much like Jeanette Winterson and William Shakespeare in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and The Taming of the Shrew, respectively.
Through the use of control, the authors show the reader the importance of freedom. Nineteen Eighty-Four predicts a grim reality of how totalitarianism would leave humanity; abysmal, desolate and lonely. Orwell presents control as absolute, all-consuming and totalitarian. Through the belief that ‘a thought alone is the biggest display of freedom,’ Orwell urges readers to think for themselves, to stand up and oppose rigid governmental control or the conditions of Nineteen Eighty-Four will become a harsh reality in a little less than 35 years; “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stepping on a human face – forever.” Nineteen Eighty-Four attempts to show us the importance and beauty of the individual mind, something the Party rigorously attempts to eradicate. Within Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Winterson attempts to convey the importance of the need to find your own identity. Using Jeanette’s coming of age and disillusionment with the Church as a catalyst to present to the audience the moral of finding yourself for yourself, not allowing any bigoted or dogmatic influences allow you to be ignorant of the freedom you deserve. From this we can determine that Shakespeare, Orwell and Winterson stand dissident against the accepted doctrine and attempt to influence their reader, or audience, to go forth and think for themselves.
Word count: 3,267
Orwell, George: Nineteen Eighty-Four
William, Shakespeare: The Taming of the Shrew
Winterson, Jeanette: Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit