What do the proles symbolize?

Answered by Douglas Hiatt

The proles in George Orwell’s novel, 1984, symbolize several significant themes and ideas. They represent the lower classes, who are strong and vital, but also oppressed and marginalized by the ruling Party. The prole woman, in particular, embodies fertility and reproductive capacity, which are essential aspects of the proles’ existence.

Firstly, the proles symbolize the strength and vitality of the lower classes. In the dystopian society of 1984, the Party maintains control by suppressing and manipulating the masses. However, the proles are depicted as physically robust and resilient. Orwell describes them as “enormous, bloated creatures” who possess a natural strength that the Party cannot fully extinguish. This portrayal suggests that the proles, despite their marginalized status, possess an innate power that could potentially challenge the Party’s dominance.

Additionally, the prole woman symbolizes fertility and reproductive capacity. She is compared to a mare, an animal known for its ability to bear offspring, highlighting her role as a symbol of fecundity. In the novel, the Party strictly regulates procreation among the Party members, aiming to control the population and ensure loyalty to the Party. However, the proles are largely left to their own devices in this regard, with the Party showing little interest in controlling their reproductive activities. This lack of control over their fertility represents the proles’ freedom and potential to challenge the Party’s authority through their sheer numbers.

Moreover, the prole woman is compared to a rose-hip, a fruit known for its abundance of seeds. This comparison further emphasizes her role as a symbol of fertility and reproductive power. Just as a single rose-hip can contain numerous seeds, the prole woman represents the potential for the proles to multiply and increase in number, posing a threat to the Party’s control. The Party, aware of this potential, aims to distract the proles with mindless entertainment and keep them unaware of their own strength.

Furthermore, the prole woman is described as an overripe turnip, which conveys a sense of decay and excess. This comparison suggests that the proles, despite their strength and fertility, are regarded as expendable and insignificant by the Party. The Party exploits the proles’ labor and keeps them in poverty, ensuring their dependence and preventing them from realizing their true potential. The image of the overripe turnip also implies that the proles, if left unchecked, could become a force that destabilizes the Party’s control.

The proles in 1984 symbolize the strong and vital lower classes, who are marginalized and oppressed by the ruling Party. The prole woman, through various comparisons, embodies fertility and reproductive capacity, highlighting the potential threat posed by the proles’ sheer numbers. They represent a force that could potentially challenge the Party’s dominance and bring about its downfall. However, their exploitation and the Party’s efforts to keep them ignorant and distracted prevent them from realizing their true power.