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Symbolism in 1984 by Orwell

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The Image of Big Brother

A symbol is an object, action, or event that represents a theme or an idea. In literature a symbol can express an idea, meaning, or enlarge a literal theme by an author. In 1984, George Orwell uses symbolism to enhance the message discussed in the novel. He warns readers about the dangers of a totalitarian society and the effect on future generations to come. In “1984”, Big Brother was a constant symbol to assist the readers in a deeper understanding of the psychological and physical control in a dystopian society. Orwell uses the image of Big Brother to symbolize the control in society, the love and loyalty it had installed with its citizens, and the constant surveillance of its people.

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Big Brother is the face of the party and the country, with that, comes great responsibility in maintaining complete control of all its citizens. This ensures dominance and rules of the country are followed smoothly by all its citizens. This can be seen in the novel when Winston recites the party slogan on dealing with control, “Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past”(Orwell 248). This represents the idea being promoted that as long as this government still stands, it has the control on what citizens hear, speak and even think no matter how absurd it is. The party also created a language to control people’s thoughts and speech by creating Newspeak. It made it impossible to think or speak about anything that brought down the powerful government. As the Party kept updating Newspeak, which is their version of a clean and respected language, it was a major step for Big Brother in winning over their citizens. This can be seen when Syme tells Winston, “Don’t you see the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought”(Orwell 52). This proves that the ultimate goal for Big Brother is that no one will even dare think such thoughts or even question the Party’s supreme power. It can also be seen when Winston was trying to recall when Big Brother came into power, “He tried to remember in what year he had first heard mention of Big Brother. He thought it must have been at some time in the sixties, but it was impossible to be certain” (Orwell 35). This quote explains how the society’s memories were altered by Big Brother in which Winston could not even remember dates and times in his own life. Winston throughout the novel kept trying to remember his past but was unable to put pieces together due to Big Brother taking full control of his mind as well has it own citizens.

Big Brother was notorious in playing a “brotherly” or “fatherly” figure in its citizens lives. It created a family-like connection with its citizens and gave them a sense of protection as well as being taken care off. That idea was purposely installed to create fear that if one disobeys their “father”, it would create major consequences that would potentially lead to being “vaporized”. It can be seen when Winston attends The Two Minute Hate that denounces the opposing party which Goldstein led where he says, “The horrible thing about the Two Minute Hate was that one was obliged to act a part, but it was impossible to avoid joining in” (Orwell 14). In the novel it also goes further stating Goldstein against the party’s dictatorship, advocating for freedom, speech ,thought and much more. It shows how citizens remained loyal and like a tight-knight family to Big Brother where they always have his back no matter what. Citizens also felt that Big Brother did what they did with their best interest in mind. It can be during wars with other countries or as simple as cutting down chocolate rations. Winston recalls the chocolate ration, “ Was to be reduced from thirty grams to twenty at the end of the present week. All that was needed was to substitute for the original promise a warning that it would probably be necessary to reduce the ration”(Orwell 39). By rewriting history, it goes to show the party created the “categorical pledge” just for namesake to tell people there will be no reduction but behind the scenes it is just another way they show how they “care” for their citizens.

The citizens of Oceania were heavily monitored to ensure their citizens would not overthrow the government since the majority were working class and to also maintain their idea of law and order. As soon as the chapter started, the audience got a glimpse of its citizen’s privacy. The author states, “ Winston kept his back turned to the telescreen. It was safer, as well as he knew, even a back can be revealing” (Orwell 3). It shows how every inch of the city is covered with telescreens and all sorts of surveillance. It resembles how the citizen’s privacy is now also Big Brother’s privacy. Throughout the city, Big Brother’s image being displayed from telescreens all the way to posters with the infamous quote, “Big Brother is watching you” (Orwell 2). It installs fear that they must choose their actions and thoughts wisely to ensure their own safety. In the novel, it also says how his face was in every corner in which the feeling of always being watched was just a part of daily life with its people. From helicopters having a bird’s eye view of their citizens to police snooping in people’s windows as the authors state in Chapter one. This surveillance gives the party a “God-like” appearance in which they are all-knowing and watching over their followers constantly for any wrongdoing or “sin”.

Conclusion

Throughout the novel “1984, Orwell uses the face of Big Brother to symbolize the control it had on citizens, the love and loyalty forced on its people, and the constant surveillance used to maintain great power and order. Orwell uses a simple face that served as a pillar in portraying the psychological and physical control in a dystopian society. In general, Orwell’s main goal was to warn readers of the dangers of a totalitarian government and the effects it may have on future generations to come.

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