Can Big Brother decide what is real and what is not?

Expert Answers info

David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2017

write10,324 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

In Oceania, Big Brother is the sole arbiter of what is real and what is not. As dictator, as the absolute ruler of this totalitarian state, whatever he says, goes. It doesn't matter how absurd, (2+2=5) strange, or plainly contradictory his utterances are; if he says something, then the people of Oceania have no choice but to accept it as an accurate statement of reality.

Big Brother and the Party are creating an alternate reality in which they, and they alone, get to determine what's real. Constructing a parallel universe in this way allows the Party to cement its control over the people of...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 614 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Thanh Munoz eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2010

write1,637 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Arts

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Thomas Mccord eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2010

write2,259 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial


adrenalinmew | Student

Absolutely -- this is George Orwell's scary thesis of 1984. Big Brother warps everyone's sense of reality through indoctrination programs (like the programmed displays of "hate"), historical manipulation (like Winston's responsibility to discard information that portrays the Party unfavorably), over-stimulation, and propaganda. When introduced to this world, the reader might ask themselves: "Can't someone in this world know the truth? Doesn't everyone have the capacity to know it deep inside themselves?"

This is the question that drives Winston Smith through the story. The Party decides that "2 + 2 = 5," where very basic instinctual logic dictates that 2 + 2 =4. You could say that Winston's desire is to bring back a society where 2 + 2 = 4, where the truth can be openly admitted and appreciated. O'Brien, a character supposedly belonging to a revolutionary group called the Brotherhood, inspires Winston to take action. Winston meets with him, hoping they will form a rebellion. When it turns out that O'Brien is actually a member of the Party, Winston Smith is tortured and told to admit that "2 + 2 = 5." Eventually, he does. 

So, back to the original question: can Big Brother control what is real?

The answer is yes and no. If someone lives under Big Brother, they may have intuitions and a sense of the truth, but Big Brother will find out. When he does, they will inevitably submit.