Big Brother is Watching You

Origin of 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 television ads as a political slogan. This is political satire, and Big Brother in this story is the supreme authority of a totalitarian state called “Oceania,” where “the Party” has the highest authority over the people.

Meaning of Big Brother is Watching You

The phrase refers to the government’s surveillance of the people 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 surveillance by 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.

Usage of Big Brother is Watching You

The phrase is not very common in usage, though we do find it in literature, politics, and occasionally everyday life. In today’s society, young adults and teenagers may worry about Big Brother and his spying activities, and some may fear the spying activities of the 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, which can recognize faces, and may result in jailing of everybody who is hell bent on opposing the regimes.

Literary Source of Big Brother is Watching You

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 of Big Brother is Watching You

Although Big Brother is a symbol, it literally appears in the form of warnings and warning posts. Big Brother symbolizes dictatorial power gazing into people’s lives. Posters with this phrase warn the people that the government wants complete obedience and devotion to the laws and rules. It is all powerful and God-like, replacing love from people’s lives with fear, and expecting them to follow the rules, regardless of whether they need to betray their own lives in his honor. Thus, his image is serious and stern, never actually seen in person, 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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