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The Red-Armed Prole Woman Symbol Analysis

The Red-Armed Prole Woman Symbol Icon
The prole woman symbolizes fertility and reproductive capacity, and represents the strong and vital lower classes. She is compared to an animal (a mare), a fruit (a rose-hip), and an overripe turnip. Winston feels a "mystical reverence" toward her. Just before the lovers are arrested, the sight of her hanging laundry in the courtyard convinces Winston that the proles are "immortal" and will someday awaken and rebel against and overthrow the Party.

The Red-Armed Prole Woman Quotes in 1984

The 1984 quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Red-Armed Prole Woman. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Totalitarianism and Communism Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Signet Classics edition of 1984 published in 1961.
Book 2, Chapter 10 Quotes
If there was hope, it lay in the proles! Without having read to the end of the book, he knew that that must be Goldstein's final message. The future belonged to the proles. And could he be sure that when their time came the world they constructed would not be just as alien to him, Winston Smith, as the world of the Party? Yes, because at the least it would be a world of sanity. Where there is equality there can be sanity. Sooner or later it would happen, strength would change into consciousness. The proles were immortal; you could not doubt it when you looked at that valiant figure in the yard. In the end their awakening would come. And until that happened, though it might be a thousand years, they would stay alive against all the odds, like birds, passing on from body to body the vitality which the Party did not share and could not kill.
Related Characters: Winston Smith (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Red-Armed Prole Woman
Page Number: 220
Explanation and Analysis:

Winston and Julia have admitted they are doomed, and meanwhile have been watching the red-armed prole woman singing; it is in this moment that Winston realizes that in contrast to himself, Julia, and other members of the Outer Party, the proles still have enough energy and freedom to overthrow the regime. He considers that the proles might not realize this for a long time––perhaps even a thousand years––and that even when it does eventually happen, it would create a world that he might not personally feel comfortable in. However, he decides it would be worth it because there would at last be true equality and "sanity"––a world where freedom of thought and common sense were allowed to exist. 

This passage stands in contrast to the rest of the novel, which stresses the inevitability of the Party's total power over the population. Winston's belief that hope "lay in the proles" reflects Karl Marx's theory that revolution would be achieved through a temporary "dictatorship of the proletariat," meaning a period of time when working-class wage laborers took control of political power, overthrowing the bourgeoisie. In 1984 it is debatable whether Orwell endorses or dismisses this view; while he does depict the "proles" (proletariat) as possessing energy and freedom, the narrative ends on a decidedly hopeless note, with no sign of a coming revolution. 

Note also the rather elitist way in which Orwell describes the proles. In this passage his statement that they are "like birds" suggests that he considers them closer to animals than humans. 


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The Red-Armed Prole Woman Symbol Timeline in 1984

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Red-Armed Prole Woman appears in 1984. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 2, Chapter 4
Totalitarianism and Communism Theme Icon
The Individual vs. Collective Identity Theme Icon
Sex, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Class Struggle Theme Icon
...Police. As he impatiently waits for Julia to arrive the first time, Winston watches a red-armed prole woman singing and hanging laundry in the courtyard below. Winston knows they are taking a terrible... (full context)
The Individual vs. Collective Identity Theme Icon
Sex, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Class Struggle Theme Icon
...milk, sugar, and jam that she's bought on the black market. They listen to the prole woman singing a popular song, and Winston realizes he has never heard a member of the... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 9
Sex, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Class Struggle Theme Icon
...interest in reading it herself. Instead, she throws herself into Winston's arms, while, outside, the red-armed prole woman sings in the courtyard. (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 10
The Individual vs. Collective Identity Theme Icon
Class Struggle Theme Icon
Winston wakes to the singing of the prole woman in the courtyard. He and Julia watch her and Winston is fascinated by her vitality... (full context)