To Orwell Today,


I’m an 11th grade student entering an AP Language and Composition course, and 1984 was assigned for summer reading.

Could you help me understand the significance attached to the washerwoman’s songs (or song, if they are two verses of the same song) found in the “We Are the Dead” section on your website?

Thank you,
Caitlin McGee

Greetings Caitlin,

I had a conversation about the Washerwoman's song not that long ago with another reader. See THE PROLE WOMAN'S SONG.

Now, to answer your question: I've not previously ascribed any significance to the song but I suppose, it being written by Orwell, it DOES have some significance. Orwell's personal taste in music went to popular, catchy tunes and poetry that rhymed. I think its main significance is it provides a picture and a sound of the washerwoman he's describing, and whose role in the drama is to set the time of day and make Winston reminisce about normal families with Moms who stayed at home washing the nappies of lots of babies and didn't have a care in the world, compared to Winston who was tormented with dread for the future:

"It was only an 'opeless fancy,
It passed lika an Ipril dye,
But a look an' a word an' the dreams they stirred
They 'ave stolen my 'eart awye!'

They sye that time 'eals all things,
They sye you can always forget;
But the smiles an' the tears across the years
They twist my 'eart-strings yet!"

Recall that part of the reason Winston risked renting the room above Mr Charington's shop was because it "had awakened in him a sort of nostalgia, a sort of ancestral memory...nobody watching you, no voice pursuing you..." and it was in that room that he first heard the Washerwoman singing.

All the best with your summer reading of "1984",
Jackie Jura

30.Love Instinct & Family and 29.Risking Renting the Room and 31.Love Nest and 37.We Are the Dead

Jackie Jura
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