How do Winston and O'Brien contrast in their perception of Big Brother?

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scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Winston despises Big Brother through most of the novel.  For example, when he sees the BB posters in his apartment building, instead of being inspired with a feeling of worship and adoration for the figure, Winston cringes.  Later, as he spends time with Julia and believes that he can join the counterrevolution, Winston negative view of BB grows.  He is willing to give up his life and commit heinous acts in order to overthrow Big Brother and the Inner Party. Finally, after Winston's curiosity about Big Brother's existence wanes and after he has been tortured, a teary-eyed Winston conforms to the Party's goals andprofesses his love for the Party's figurehead (much like his love-hate relationship with O'Brien).

O'Brien's view of Big Brother seems to share some similarities with Winston, but in the end, it is ironically different. On the surface at the beginning of the novel, O'Brien seems to demonstrate contempt for Big Brother (during the 2 minutes of Hate), and this is partly what draws Winston to O'Brien. In Book 3, when O'Brien is torturing Winston and Winston asks O'Brien if Big Brother exists, O'Brien tells Winston that it doesn't matter. The truth is that O'Brien and the Inner Party merely need the idea of Big Brother; so O'Brien's true feelings about Big Brother are ambivalent and insignificant. So, while O'Brien tortures Oceania's citizens until they "love" Big Brother, he does not need to feel any emotion for BB himself.

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