1984 by George Orwell is about a dystopian society, Oceania. Big Brother is the leader of the Party that governs Oceania in a totalitarian manner where privacy is severely constrained, as Big Brother is always watching. In fact, throughout the nation of Oceania, posters tell citizens that “Big Brother is...
1984 by George Orwell is about a dystopian society, Oceania. Big Brother is the leader of the Party that governs Oceania in a totalitarian manner where privacy is severely constrained, as Big Brother is always watching. In fact, throughout the nation of Oceania, posters tell citizens that “Big Brother is Watching You.” Moreover, the Thought Police monitor people, as well. Orwell writes:
“There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to.”
Winston lives in Oceania and works at the Ministry of Truth. Winston longs to rebel, but he is fearful because he knows that his every action is scrutinized. Early in the novel, Winston buys a diary, which is a subversive action punishable by death. Because Winston knows that Big Brother might be watching, he is furtive:
“He had given a quick glance up and down the street and then had slipped inside and bought the book for two dollars fifty. At the time he was not conscious of wanting it for any particular purpose. He had carried it guiltily home in his briefcase. Even with nothing written in it, it was a compromising possession.”
This need to be secretive overhangs Winston’s every move and thought. He fears that regardless of how he tries to hide his thoughts or cover his tracks, the Thought Police and Big Brother will eventually catch up with him. Initially, Winston just writes a “stream of rubbish” in his diary, but ultimately writes repeatedly, “Down with Big Brother.”
Winston both hates and fears Big Brother and these feelings guide his actions. Moreover, people's neighbors, relatives and children also are willing to report any "unorthodox" behavior. Winston encounters a mother of two children and fears for her. He thinks that in “another year, two years, and they would be watching her night and day for symptoms of unorthodoxy.” Ultimately Winston is imprisoned, just as he feared. After some indoctrination, Winston “loved Big Brother.”
Ironically, the world that Orwell envisioned where Big Brother is always watching is something that we contend with today. We are dependent on our smart devices, which are always ‘listening’ to us and aggregating data about us.