George Orwell (English 246: Fall 2011)

Entries tagged as ‘Martha Nussbaum’

Nussbaum: The Death of Pity and the Role of the Family

December 20, 2011 · Leave a Comment

Class Presentation of Analyses of Nineteen Eighty-Four


Martha Nussbaum claims that characters in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four do not receive the necessary support from their families to develop into fully functioning compassionate individuals. She claims that individuals fail to develop fully.  Because they have not formed independent selves they are more able to integrate their personal identities with the state, claiming national successes and victories as their own. Yet, while the lack of personal identity is beneficial for the model of power if Big Brother, it negatively impacts interpersonal relationships. Because individuals fail to develop into fully independent people, they are unable to recognize others as fully separate and independent people as well. Because they cannot conceive of others as completely separate and autonomous beings, they are unable to extend pity and compassion to them. Thus, Oceania lacks pity.
Winston is positioned as the last human being, but even he is negatively impacted by his lack of familial support and his meager demonstrations of pity and compassion, while better than most Party Members, is still poorly developed.
Nussbaum indicates that a possible solution to the lack of pity would be to enhance the support of families to allow individuals to achieve full development to help them cultivate a sense of empathy and compassion for others. Similarly. Urie Bronfennbrenner proposed the Model of Ecological Development that recognizes that children are influenced by multiple levels of society. The Ecological Model is comprised of the microsystem, exosystem and macrosystem that all influence the individual. The most influential system is the microsystem, which is comprised of the family. THe model also recognizes the impact of larger and more distant levels such as the community and national governments which also play a part in the development of the individual in Oceania. 


Categories: Nineteen Eighty-Four