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

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in 1984, George Orwell shows both Winston and O’Brien as shifting constantly in their attitudes toward Big Brother and the Party.

One of the novel’s central themes is the inability for Oceanians to find stability, because truth is presented as mutable and unreliable. Although Winston understands this dilemma because...

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in 1984, George Orwell shows both Winston and O’Brien as shifting constantly in their attitudes toward Big Brother and the Party.

One of the novel’s central themes is the inability for Oceanians to find stability, because truth is presented as mutable and unreliable. Although Winston understands this dilemma because of his work at the Ministry of Truth, he wants to help improve his society so that moral and ethical behavior becomes possible. This is one reason he turns to O’Brien. Winston initially hopes to believe that Big Brother is more than omniscient and omnipotent: that he is also completely benevolent. The idea that their leader stands for goodness appeals to him, but he loses this romantic notion as he finds himself dreaming of bringing him “down.”

O’Brien, in contrast, espouses noble principles, but the reader is encouraged to doubt that he has any moral center. He justifies his abuse of Winston on the basis of improving him. O’Brien lets Winston believe that he too doubts Big Brother, but this seems to be exclusively for purposes of entrapment.

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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.

By the way--love your Napoleon Dynamite image!

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