Is Big Brother a person in 1984?

It's far from certain that Big Brother is a real person in 1984. When Winston asks O'Brien whether he exists, O'Brien replies that he does. However, he also goes on to say that Big Brother can never die. This gives the impression that Big Brother is a mythical construct designed to keep the people of Oceania in line.

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The question as to the existence of Big Brother in 1984 has been a topic of discussion for successive generations of critics. As there are no conclusive answers in the text, such critics have been reduced to offering speculative hypotheses, some more profitable than others. In any case, the existence...

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The question as to the existence of Big Brother in 1984 has been a topic of discussion for successive generations of critics. As there are no conclusive answers in the text, such critics have been reduced to offering speculative hypotheses, some more profitable than others. In any case, the existence of Big Brother is much less important than what he represents for both the Party and the citizens of Oceania.

To Winston Smith's simple question, “Does Big Brother exist?” O'Brien answers that of course he does. He then goes on to say, somewhat confusingly, that Big Brother can never die. It is reasonable to infer from this that Big Brother does not, in fact, exist; after all, everyone must die at some point.

Instead, it seems more than likely that Big Brother is a figurehead created by the Party to secure the allegiance of Oceania's citizens. The Party clearly realizes that it's much easier to control people if they can have some visual representation of state power whom they will fear, as well as to whom they will give their loyalty and devotion.

This is where Big Brother comes in. He serves as the icon of the Party's rule, a symbolic representation of its absolute power. That power is ably reflected in Big Brother's ubiquity. His picture is everywhere. He looks down upon the population, his stern, unremitting gaze expressly designed to make the people believe that he really is watching them, as the propaganda slogan would have them believe.

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