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Understanding Independence through Classics

Whether it is the “independent” character of Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice, or it is the lost sense of “independence” in Orwell’s famous 1984, independence and its various interpretations have been seen in many, many classics. So, on the occasion of our country’s 75th Independence Day, let us talk about independence through classics.

Orwell wrote 1984 to show the world how USSR, a powerful socialist (or communist) state was not exactly the correct representation of socialism. He knew that USSR was a controlled society, and in fact a totalitarian one. At the time, many American scholars began preferring communism, and though the idea of communism was something Orwell admired, he believed that taking inspiration from USSR would be wrong. Hence, he wrote 1984, as a satire.

The fictional world of 1984 is a “surveillance” one. Big Brother has his eyes on everyone, and anyone who goes against the system, is punished. It is a society where the government watches and controls each and every step of an individual. There is not only a psychological manipulation, but also a physical one, where “a tiny facial twitch could lead to an arrest.” Thus, independence in is true sense is lost.

Another famous dystopian classic, Brave New World, portrays a society where emotions are taken away at a young age, and people are assigned families. The independence of choosing a loved one or having emotions has been robbed. It is a world where people are controlled by technology. The World State is against the idea of individuality and considers it to be a barrier to productivity. People only work for efficiency here, and the freedom, and the essence of life has been completely taken way. However, many are completely oblivious to this.

In Jane Austen’s famous Pride and Prejudice, we get glimpses of ideas similar to independence through the themes and especially through the character of Elizabeth Bennet. In a time when gender roles were rigid, Elizabeth was an unconventional character who did not depend on such ideas. She was open-minded, free and did not abide by the conventions of the times. She was independent.

Contrastingly, the society was built on a framework where the middle-class or the poor were heavily dependent on the rich. The middle-class, or someone like the Bennet family, had to constantly worry about their status and their reputation, which made them dependent on the society’s absurd system, and the theme of individuality was forgotten.

Even Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with The Wind, expresses the idea of independence through the character of Scarlett O’Hara. Scarlett O-Hara, a character full of vanity, whose sole purpose was to find a husband, had to take matters into her own hands, at the mere age of 19, when Tara, her family’s plantation land, was destroyed by the Yankees, during the Civil War. Her widower father was too heartbroken to work, leaving matters to Scarlett’s inexperienced hands. Scarlett O’Hara demonstrated independence by becoming the head of the household, managing the plantations and the slaves, and doing a task she would have never dreamt of doing otherwise.

So, through fiction, through satires and through unconventional characters, classics have portrayed various interpretations of independence and meaning of the word independent.


©Aaira Goswami, 2022. All rights reserved.


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