Big Brother is Watching You


George Orwell coined this phrase in the third paragraph of the first chapter of his novel “1984.” He writes, “It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU…” Later it appears on posters and televisions as a political slogan. This is a political satire and Big Brother in this story is the supreme authority of a totalitarian state called, Oceania where “the Party” has the highest command over people.


The phrase refers to surveillance of Big Brother with listening devices and cameras in a totalitarian society, where Big Brother is the head of the totalitarian regime. Everyone in this society is under the surveillance of the authorities, which reminds people of an endless catchphrase “Big Brother is watching You” showing a dictator’s mindset of a Big Brother. Generally, the idea conveys a line of propaganda, meaning citizens have to follow what a dictatorial government wants them to do, and if they do not, Big Brother will know, as it spies on them all the time.


The phrase is not very common in usage, though we normally find it in literature, politics and everyday life. Today in such a dictatorial society, young adults and teenagers may worry about Big Brother and his spying activities, and some may fear the spying activities of government’s secret agents and security cameras. The practical application of this phrase today will be in the form of spying of security agencies and their digital cameras that can recognize faces, and may result in jailing of everybody who is hell bent on opposing the regimes.

Literary Source

George Orwell has employed this phrase in the third paragraph of the first part of his political satire, “1984.” It goes thus;

“The flat was seven flights up, and Winston, who was thirty-nine and had a varicose ulcer above his right ankle, went slowly, resting several times on the way. On each landing, opposite the lift-shaft, the poster with the enormous face gazed from the wall. It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran.”

(Part One, Chapter One, Lines 11-12)

Big brother is a representative of a dictatorial government, and its supremacy in the society. It can exercise total control and manage citizen’s lives by watching with spy cameras and advanced technology.

Literary Analysis

Although Big Brother is a symbol, it is literally appears in the shape of warnings and warning posts. Big Brother symbolizes dictatorial power gazing into people’s lives by spreading posters with this phrase, wanting from them complete obedience and devotion to his laws and rules. He is all powerful and God-like figures, who replaces love from people’s lives with fear and expects them to follow his rules, regardless of if they need to betray their own lives in his honor. Thus, his image is serious and stern, never seen to exist though those in power use him to maintain control over citizens.

Literary devices

  • Symbolism: Big Brother is a symbolic representation of dictators and dictatorial regimes.

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