At the end of 1984, why does Winston love Big Brother?

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The ending to 1984 is a difficult ending to swallow as a reader. More often than not, I have found that most first time readers rail against the ending. They simply cannot believe that the man that they have been rooting for this entire time has not only given up...

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The ending to 1984 is a difficult ending to swallow as a reader. More often than not, I have found that most first time readers rail against the ending. They simply cannot believe that the man that they have been rooting for this entire time has not only given up the fight but embraced the enemy. The final lines of the story are some of the most disappointing lines in all of literature. Winston simply can't love Big Brother, yet he really does.

At this point, a debate can follow. Some readers continue to resist the idea that Winston loves Big Brother. These readers claim that Winston's love is a false love. He has been brainwashed into believing that he loves Big Brother. This is a valid argument, but it is ultimately a pointless argument. If Winston believes that he loves Big Brother, it doesn't matter that he was brainwashed into believing it. For Winston, the feelings of affection for Big Brother are real, regardless of how he happened to come by those feelings.

The other side of the debate is that Winston wasn't brainwashed at all. He really was convinced that his rebellion was wrong and that Big Brother really is the all knowing and ultimately good protector that he is made out to be. This fits with what O'Brien states.

"There are three stages in your reintegration," said O'Brien. "There is learning, there is understanding, and there is acceptance."

Readers can believe that Winston was always in the wrong and that he truly learns the error of his ways. He learns to understand that Big Brother is a benevolent entity that has society's best interests in mind. If that isn't believable, then a reader could think that Winston learns to understand that fighting is pointless, and loving Big Brother is the only way to fully be a working part of society. Consequently, Winston loves Big Brother in order to become a better piece of the society as a whole.

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After Winston Smith is arrested by the Thought Police, he is taken to the Ministry of Love, where O'Brien becomes his torturer. During his time spent in the Ministry of Love, Winston suffers from malnutrition, lack of sleep, exhaustion, and physical abuse. While O'Brien tortures Winston, he continually lectures him on the Party's ideologies and attempts to brainwash him. However, Winston proves difficult and refuses to fully accept Big Brother into his heart. No matter how hard Winston tries to become completely orthodox, he absolutely detests the Party. Unfortunately, O'Brien can tell whenever Winston is lying and ends up taking him into the dreaded Room 101, where Winston encounters his worst fear. After having a device placed on his head, Winston comes face-to-face with flesh-eating rats and betrays Julia. Winston finally loses his mind in Room 101 and is brainwashed into loving Big Brother. Winston's love for Big Brother is illustrated by his reverence and admiration for the Party while he sits in a cafe listening to the telescreen describe Oceania's military accomplishments. Winston also forgets about Julia and no longer loves her after his time spent in Room 101.

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In 1984, Winston's transition from party rebel to reformed party member is effectuated in three stages. We learn this directly from O'Brien, in the opening lines of Part 3, Chapter 3

"There are three stages in your reintegration," said O'Brien. "There is learning, there is understanding, and there is acceptance."

For Winston, the first stage represents a number of horrific beatings and general degradation of his character. He is accused of all manner of crimes, from sexual perversion to spying. The purpose of this is to "to humiliate him and destroy his power of arguing and reasoning," and it works: he admits to all of these crimes because he has been weakened to a point that he loses the power of reason and he is afraid of further violence. 

Next, Winston must learn to understand Big Brother. Here, O'Brien confesses to Winston that he is the author of Goldstein's book and that rebellion against the party is simply not possible because the party exerts absolute power and influence over the people of Oceania: 

"Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing."

Winston continues to protest but O'Brien shows him a powerful image. The image is his own battered and malnourished body. While he blames O'Brien for his state of health, O'Brien responds that it is Winston's doing: 

 "This is what you accepted when you set yourself up against the Party. It was all contained in that first act. Nothing has happened that you did not foresee."

But Winston is still not convinced and this brings about the third stage of his reformation: Room 101. What is interesting about this stage is that, so far, Winston has not betrayed Julia, no matter how the party treats or threatens him. This is Winston's last vestige of control and he does not give it up willingly. But, in Room 101, in Part 3, Chapter 5, Winston is confronted with his greatest fear, rats, and the betrayal of the women he loves quickly follows:

"Do it to Julia! Do it to Julia! Not me! Julia! I don't care what you do to her. Tear her face off, strip her to the bones. Not me! Julia! Not me!"

This completes the process of Winston's transformation. He has undergone these three stages and, piece by piece, he has been broken down and rebuilt, according to the party's norms and values. When he meets Julia again, he learns that she has also betrayed him and he learns an important lesson: that Big Brother can conquer all, even love. 

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