Julia: 1984 Receives a Feminist Makeover

George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four is receiving a feminist retelling. The reimagining sees the story from Julia’s perspective, Winston’s lover.

Credit: The Guardian

Julia, a novel by Sandra Newman is reframing Nineteen Eighty-Four from a feminist perspective. The tale tells the story of a horrifying, fascist regime, from the perspective of the original protagonist’s romantic interest.

Winston discovers a free spirit in Julia, someone who has sex for pleasure (a criminal act) and mocks Big Brother. They are aware that their romance cannot continue, but they continue on in defiance. She claims to have slept with other Party members, a claim supported by the fact that she has obtained items that appear to be out of Winston’s reach, such as chocolate and tea.

Big Brother’s Narrative

Credit: Daily Mail

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen” is the famous literary line which opens the dystopian classic. In a futuristic world under the control of an omniscient leader, free thought has become a sin. Winston Smith falls in love with Julia and in this closely monitored society, there is no escape from Big Brother.

Big Brother is in charge, and the Thought Police are on the lookout for any individual thoughts. Winston Smith works for The Ministry of Truth, rewriting history to fit Big Brother’s narrative. He begins an illicit relationship with Julia. The works on the novel-writing machines in the Fiction Department. Eventually, both go to Room 101 for re-education.

Winston Smith is the novel’s protagonist. He lives in a dystopian Great Britain, known as Airstrip One. The country, and the world as a whole, is stuck in a never-ending cycle of war and alliances. The sole political party in Airstrip One, INGSOC, rules with an iron fist, by a personality cult centring around its leader, Big Brother.

The Eyes of a Woman

Credit: CharacTour

Nineteen Eighty-Four occurs through the eyes of a woman in Sandra Newman’s Julia. “It was the man from Records who began it, him all unknowing in his prim, grim way, his above-it-all oldthink way. He was the one Syme called ‘Old Misery’,” writes Newman. 

“Comrade Smith was his right name, though ‘Comrade’ never suited him somehow. Of course, if you felt foolish calling someone ‘Comrade’, far better not to speak to them at all.”

Per The Guardian, publisher Granta says that Julia understands the world of Oceania “far better than Winston and is essentially happy with her life”. 

The estate’s literary executor Bill Hamilton confirms that the novel explores the relationship of Julia and Winston. He describes it to The Guardian as, “both true to the original but also gives a dramatically different narrative to stand alongside the original,”

He adds that,

“The millions of readers who have been brought up with Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four will find this a provocative and satisfying companion.”

Hamilton explains that, “Two of the unanswered questions in Orwell’s novel are what Julia sees in Winston, and how she has navigated her way through the party hierarchy.”

Per Polygon, its news release states that Julia will showcase a character who “understands the world of Oceania far better than Winston and is essentially happy with her life — Julia has known no other world and never imagined one.”

As yet, no official release date for Julia is set. Mariner Books hope to publish the novel in time for the original novel’s 75th anniversary; approximately 2024.

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