Society has always been troubled by the idea of overpowering control. In George Orwell’s 1984, humanity is dominated by an extreme government with the intent to abolish all aspects of freedom. Winston, a man opposing this ruling method, becomes determined to fight or at least dismantle such power. 1984 enhances its themes of power, physical control, and psychological manipulation through a lucid and intriguing villain'”O’Brien.
O’Brien, a truly magnificent antagonist, represents the party’s calamitous power. The party itself intends to entirely dominate society. Through the use of starvation and elaborate torture methods, O’Brien depicts this insane ascendency on Winston, who stands as a representation of humanity in the Oceania. The party’s objective is to abolish human thought and emotion in order to create its own actuality. O’Brien constantly reminds Winston that the party is interminable and all those who defy it are erroneous (255). How can all humankind be in error? Even O’Brien’s demeanor symbolizes power. Orwell commonly uses words such as heavy and intelligent (252) to describe O’Brien’s facial features. At one instance, Winston refers to O’Brien’s physique as large and brutal (11). Similarly, these words are also descriptive of the party and its incredible preponderance. Furthermore, O’Brien’s formidable ability to quickly respond to all questions creates an ambience of authority throughout all of his dialogue. Even Winston realizes this and says that O’Brien “demolishes” him (259) using his eloquent arguments.
O’Brien’s villainy is almost entirely reliant on his intelligence. With such knowledge of the human brain, O’Brien’s character is able to complement one large theme in 1984, psychological manipulation. Constantly, O’Brien easily answers questions with expressive assertions. By doing so, he is able to persuade Winston that he is fallacious and that absurdity is truth, thus establishing a mental breakdown. Additionally, O’Brien uses common knowledge to contradict the brain’s original beliefs. He uses an effortless math problem as an example. He emphatically states that two plus two is equal to five, or whatever the party needs it to be (249), thereby overwhelming the mind’s capability of maintaining independent thought. Finally, he uses terror to force his victims to abandon their only life motives, giving them absolutely nothing to live for. In Winston’s case, O’Brien threatens Winston with rats (284-286), his most dominant fear.
While O’Brien’s depravity requires intelligence, it demands physical domination. O’Brien is not only more capable and more muscular than Winston, but he also possesses a whole populace that supports him. He progressively torments Winston physically in order to pull out mendacious confessions and elaborate schemes that Winston had never committed. Through such physical pain, Winston confesses to the assassination of eminent Party members, the distribution of seditious pamphlets, embezzlement of public funds, and sabotage of every kind (242). This proves that any emotions or strong ideologies can surely be abated by physical pain. In addition, physical abuse leads to mental manipulation, which gives the party full supremacy over humanity. In Winston’s case, O’Brien uses an electrical machine to instill the idea that any notion created by the party is valid.
O’Brien’s character also contributes to the novel’s essential memory theme. Because the party plans to dictate control of the past, present, and future, it requires an alteration of every human’s memory. Without any recollections, the party has full manipulation over history and essentially everything else. O’Brien depicts a perceptive and stable individual, who strongly agrees with the party’s apocryphal events, thereby making a person of a lesser intelligence struggle to perpetuate an opposing belief. Whether the manipulation is using mental, physical, or emotional pain, the party is determined to abolish all memories contradicting their own. Accordingly, O’Brien transcends the standard of narrative villainy through his opposition of the very concepts our society currently holds dear.