The following is an assignment for iHub reads called, iSearch. To complete the iSearch I had to look for any detail in my book (George Orwell’s 1984) that stood out to me, and I would like to discover further. By analyzing that detail, rereading it, and researching it, I learnt as much about that detail as possible and thought about for what reason it was put in the book and what it symbolizes.
In the first chapter of George Orwell’s 1984, the main character, Winston Smith, introduces us to an intimidating sounding poster. This poster is spotted across from the stairs on the way up to his flat in the Victory Mansions. The poster has an enormous face on it and like it says right from the book, “it was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move.” Along with the picture the caption on it read, “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU”. This poster is clearly intimidating to the society… Who is Big Brother? What exactly does he represent, in this novel?
As we know “big brother” is a term in government and politics, but because that can become such a broad topic for an isearch assignment I’m narrowing it down to just the figure and the symbolism it has in this novel. At the beginning it only mentions Winston seeing this poster, and going into detail of what was on it, indicating its importance, however it did not yet state what exactly it was representing. Shortly after Winston sees the big brother poster it talks about the telescreen, which could pick up everything they said in their homes and could not be shut off by citizens. Putting together the telescreen eavesdropping on what they said, and the poster saying “big brother is watching you”, we already get that they’re in some sort of controlled society. It goes on to say that Winston observes outside his window to be all grey, grey skies, and cold looking. There wasn’t much colour anywhere except for on the posters plastered everywhere, including the big brother posters. This symbolizes that nothing else really matters in their world anymore. For some reason society is only focussed on the meaning of those posters, they have perhaps been brainwashed to live by what those posters are indicating. A few times it mentioned that the eyes of big brother on the posters followed you in every which way you moved and the giant posters everywhere made it like his eyes even peered into Winton’s flat. It said “the dark eyes looked deep into Winston’s own.” This isn’t just saying that you could see these creepy eyes everywhere, it’s also indicating on how people felt. It was like someone was not only peering into their home but into their soul, what they were thinking, feeling, everything. They almost couldn’t be their own person anymore. The society of Oceania developed into a society who would only do things and think in the way that big brother would want them to. The scariest part about big brother is that he’s never seen, he is most likely not really existing, meaning he’s just a face the party had been using, and everything the society has done for “him” was out of fear of someone who isn’t even entirely existing. In this case, to society, “big brother” could very well just be manipulation.
Relating it back to real life, this type of society and story is related to anywhere in the world with a corrupt government, where they’re always watching their citizens, giving themselves great power. An extreme example of big brother could be dictators such as Hitler. Given the year the book was written, there’s a great possibility that Hitler could’ve been an inspiration for the “big brother” in this story. It’s possibly used in this novel to share the terrifying message of how a society can become manipulated and brainwashed into worshipping a tyrannical leader.
The big brother poster is from Oceania’s government and the “big brother” on it is the face of “the party”. Looking at the literal word, there is some irony in the name big brother… Just like a big brother, they bully and taunt you but they are also family, making them loyal and will have your back. The big brother from this novel has a bit of the same effect on the society. He appears to be stern, serious, and controlling, which is how he ends up inspiring loyalty to himself out of fear. However, he also acts as a trustworthy entity, only being an enemy or threat if you’re a “criminal” to what the party has told the society to do. Of course the citizens will be loyal to him and whatever the party says because they have been scared into it. They are then made to believe that what the party is saying is always what’s best. Because they will slowly become brainwashed to worship their party and believe that it’s always in the right, big brother can compare to a God-like figure to the citizens in Oceania. Everyone begins to worship what he has to say.