What role does Big Brother play within the novel? What effect does he have on Winston? Is Winston’s obsession with Big Brother fundamentally similar to or different from his obsession with O’Brien?
In the novel 1984, Big Brother is the figurehead of the Party who controls the dystopian nation of Oceania. Big Brother's image is located everywhere throughout the society, along with the ominous message that reads "BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU." Big Brother's image symbolizes government intimidation, surveillance, and control throughout the novel. In Oceania, citizens are constantly reminded that they are being watched and scrutinized by government agents at all times. Big Brother's presence makes Winston Smith feel uneasy, frightened, and anxious. Winston realizes that he needs to suppress his genuine emotions and feelings in order to survive each day. Winston absolutely detests the Party and everything it stands for, but cannot express his hatred because he will be arrested and tortured.
Winston has a forced obsession with Big Brother because he cannot escape the Party's presence. In O'Brien, Winston sees a confidant who shares the same feelings of hatred towards the Party. He becomes obsessed with the idea that O'Brien is a member of the Brotherhood and is willing to collude against the government with him. However, O'Brien is actually an agent of the Party who tricks Winston into believing that he is a member of the opposition. Winston's obsessions with O'Brien and Big Brother are fundamentally different. Winston is obsessed with the controlling nature of Big Brother but is drawn towards O'Brien for the completely opposite reason.
Big Brother plays the role of fear in the novel. It is because "he's always watching" that the Party members act the way they are expected to act. The Party forces obedience through that fear of being watched, listened to and caught doing something illegal. Winston is effected tremendously by Big Brother. He loves and hates him...we all need a routine, a purpose, but we rebel against an overabundance of restriction and authority. This is what Big Brother is to Winston--an overabundance. Winston's obsession with O'Brien stems from his belief that the two men are alike. O'Brien proves that this is only true in that he thinks the way men like Winston do in order to catch them and put them back on the correct "Big Brother" road. Winston felt a connection with O'Brien. His obsession with BB stems from the rebellion against stifling oppression. So, in my opinion, these obsessions are fundamentally different.