Big Brother is a key symbol in Nineteen Eighty-Four. He shows up in various ways throughout the story, even though we never meet him in person and it is doubtful whether he actually exists.
Big Brother is a symbol of the Party and its complete control of the people. In the minds of the citizens, he is often associated with positive qualities. He appears as protector, always appearing as a reassuring figure at the end of Hate videos or news about war, promising safety from the states’ enemies. We see a clear example of this in the beginning of the book, when the employees at the Ministry of Truth react to his appearance on-screen:
…drawing a deep sigh of relief from everybody, the hostile figure melted into the face of Big Brother, black-haired, black-moustachio’d, full of power and mysterious calm […] Nobody heard what Big Brother was saying. It was merely a few words of encouragement […] restoring confidence by the fact of being spoken. (p. 18)
As Goldstein's book points out, Big Brother’s name is no coincidence. By using a term that normally describes a close family member, his name is designed to inspire love and dedication. On a darker level, it also implies that this love is meant to replace the personal love that people might have felt for their own family members: “[The Party] systematically undermines the solidarity of the family, and it calls its leader by a name which is a direct appeal to the sentiment of family loyalty” (p. 225).
Big Brother also serves as a symbol of the state’s constant surveillance of its people. This is shown in the design of the ever-present posters of him: “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" (p. 3). The posters are meant to remind the citizens of the fact that they are being watched, to keep them in line at all times. Big Brother’s frequent appearance on the telescreens probably has a similar effect, as citizens are well-aware that the screens are being used to spy on everybody.
“Oranges and Lemons”
The old Br...