What do Big Brother and Golstien mainly symbolize?

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cclinn | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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Big Brother and Emmanuel Goldstein, from George Orwell’s 1984, may be regarded as fictional figures created by the Party to carry multiple symbolic connotations.

Let’s begin by considering Big Brother.  From the myriad posters that display his image, he is a larger-than-life figure, omnipresent, middle-aged and has a ruggedly handsome face.  Although never glimpsed in real life, his exaggerated physical and psychological presence – Big Brother is watching you - suggest he is a political phantasm to heighten the power and influence of the party.   He is primarily a symbol of fear that sees and knows all things no matter how private, how hidden.  The monitors are his eyes through which he controls individuals and abuses them until they, like Winston, end by “loving Big Brother”.   Some critics suggest Big Brother is a symbol for all tyrants and dictators especially totalitarian dictators like Hitler or Stalin.  Furthermore, he has religious overtones in his omnipotence and omnipresence.

The novel opens with Winston having the impression that Big Brother’s poster eyes follow him as he climbs the stairs to his apartment.  As he enters he is greeted by the voice from the telescreen, used by the Thought Police to spy on all party members.  Through the open window, he notices the ironic slogans of the Ministry of Truth: “War is Peace.  Freedom is Slavery.  Ignorance is Strength.”  Within this setting, Winston embarks stealthily, but determined, on his first Thoughtcrime.

Through the pain, deprivation, and oppression dramatized in 1984, Orwell satirizes the inversion and falsification of reality and the dangers of corrupt, power-hungry government to deprive the individual of rightful human freedom, essential to maintain human dignity.

Emmanuel Goldstein, known to Winston and Julia as the leader of the resistance movement, the Brotherhood, appears to be symbolic of Leon Trotsky, the leader of the Russian Revolution.  Author of The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism, which parodies several of the more modern political treatises like Karl Marx’s Das Kapital, Leon Trotsky’s The Revolution Betrayed and Burnham’s The Managerial Revolution, Goldstein, in his opposition to Big Brother, becomes symbolic of all who fight against enslavement and oppression.

While Goldstein and his book slows the pace and makes the reader wait to have Julia and Winston arrested, they also focus the reader on the folly of the content of such significant political content that empties the individual of all human passion and ethos.

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