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Big Brother (Nineteen Eighty-Four): Wikis


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Big Brother is a fictional character in George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, the enigmatic dictator of Oceania, a totalitarian state taken to its utmost logical consequence - where the ruling elite ('the Party') wield total power for its own sake over the inhabitants.

In the society that Orwell describes, everyone is under complete surveillance by the authorities, mainly by telescreens. The people are constantly reminded of this by the phrase "Big Brother is watching you", which is the core "truth" of the propaganda system in this state. Big Brother's physical characteristics are intended to resemble Joseph Stalin.


Purported origins of Big Brother

Lord Kitchener, a possible inspiration for Big Brother

In the essay section of his novel 1985, Anthony Burgess states that Orwell got the idea for Big Brother from advertising hoardings (billboards) current during World War II, for educational correspondence courses from a company called Bennett's. The original posters showed Bennett himself; a kindly looking old man offering guidance and support to would-be students with the phrase "Let me be your father" attached. After Bennett's death however, his son took over the company and the posters were replaced with pictures of the son (who looked imposing and stern in contrast to his father's kindly demeanor) with the text "Let me be your big brother."

Speculation has also focused on Lord Kitchener[1], who among other things was prominently involved in British military recruitment in World War I. As a child Orwell (aka Eric Blair) published poems praising Kitchener and war recruitment in his local newspaper.

Appearance in the novel



In the novel, it is unclear if Big Brother is a man or an entity crafted by the Party.

In Party propaganda, however, Big Brother is presented as a real person; one of the founders of the Party along with Goldstein. At one point in the year 1984, the protagonist of Orwell's novel tries "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. In the Party histories, of course, Big Brother figured as the leader and guardian of the Revolution since its very earliest days. His exploits had been gradually pushed backwards in time until already they extended into the fabulous world of the forties and the thirties, when the capitalists in their strange cylindrical hats still rode through the streets of London..."

Big Brother's face looms from giant telescreens in Victory Square (the location is Alexandra Palace in Muswell Hill, north London) in Michael Radford's 1984 film adaptation of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.

In the year 1984, Big Brother (as seen on posters and on the telescreen) appears as a man of about 45. Goldstein's book comments: "We may be reasonably sure that he will never die, and there is already considerable uncertainty as to when he was born."

Love of Big Brother

A spontaneous ritual of devotion to Big Brother ("BB") is illustrated at the end of the "Two Minutes Hate":

At this moment the entire group of people broke into a deep, slow, rhythmic chant of 'B-B! .... B-B! .... B-B!'—over and over again, very slowly, with a long pause between the first 'B' and the second—a heavy murmurous sound, somehow curiously savage, in the background of which one seemed to hear the stamps of naked feet and the throbbing of tom-toms. For perhaps as much as thirty seconds they kept it up. It was a refrain that was often heard in moments of overwhelming emotion. Partly it was a sort of hymn to the wisdom and majesty of Big Brother, but still more it was an act of self-hypnosis, a deliberate drowning of consciousness by means of rhythmic noise.[2]

Though Oceania's Ministry of Truth, Ministry of Plenty, and Ministry of Peace each have names with meanings inverse to their purpose, the Ministry of Love is perhaps the most straightforward, in that rehabilitated thought criminals leave the Ministry as loyal subjects who love Big Brother (albeit only after having undergone a rigorous campaign of torture).

Response to Big Brother today

Since the publication of Nineteen Eighty-Four, the phrase "Big Brother" has entered general usage, to describe any overly-inquisitive or overly-controlling authority figure or attempts by government to increase surveillance.

The magazine Book ranked Big Brother #59 on its 100 Best Characters in Fiction Since 1900 list. Wizard Magazine rated him the 75th greatest villain of all time.[3]

The worldwide reality television show, Big Brother, is based on the concept of people always being watched and being under constant surveillance from this novel. In 2000, after the U.S. version of the CBS program "Big Brother" premiered, the Estate of George Orwell sued CBS and its production company named "Orwell Productions, Inc." in federal court in Chicago for copyright and trademark infringement. The case was Estate of Orwell v. CBS, 00-c-5034 (ND Ill). On the eve of trial, the case settled worldwide to the parties' "mutual satisfaction". The amount that CBS paid to the Orwell Estate was not disclosed. CBS had made no effort whatsoever to get permission from the Estate. Under current laws, the novel 1984 will remain under copyright protection in the United States until 2044 but only until 2020 in the European Union.


David Graham as Big Brother

Big Brother served for an inspiration of an advertisement by Apple for their new computer, the Macintosh played by David Graham. In this 1984 television commercial, IBM is portrayed as Big Brother, whilst the Mac is represented as the heroine, smashing the "Big Brother" with a hammer. Finally, it says "Why 1984 won't be like 1984". The Estate of George Orwell, through its licensee, sent a "cease-and-desist" letter to Apple's ad agency after the ad first appeared, stating that the ad violated copyright and trademark laws.

Other media

In the Comic Book "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier" Big Brother was General Sir Harold Wharton. He married Bessie Bunter and enlisted in the army rapidly becoming a General,and became involved with communists. After the Second World War he joined the Labour party, his nickname was Big Brother.


  1. ^ Kitchener's face Big Brother
  2. ^ Orwell, George (1949). Nineteen Eighty-Four.
  3. ^ Wizard #177

See also

Simple English

Big Brother is a fictional character in George Orwell's book Nineteen Eighty-Four.


Book magazine ranked the character of Big Brother as #59 on its "100 Best Characters in Fiction Since 1900" list[1].



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