The Role of Villainy and Totalitarian Control in George Orwells 1984

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O’Brien: The Face of Totalitarian Power

In the novel 1984, there are many characters. . . including good and evil. There are both heroes and villains or protagonists and antagonists. The popular villain in the novel is O’Brien. He is part of an extreme government that has total control and power over everything. O’Brien uses several acts of torture to destroy human thought and emotion. The face of O’Brien represents high power.

The villain wants to stop the hero from reaching their goal. The villain is often evil, and there is usually a reason as to why they are. Villains most likely crave nothing more than to have total power and control over everything around them and in their society, which is the overall goal of the extreme government or party from the novel. To reach their goal, villains will often use manipulation. . . whether that is mental, physical, or emotional manipulation. Villains are often the moral foil of the hero: that is, their main vice will parallel the hero’s main virtue.

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The society of 1984 has been torn apart by an overpowered government. It has been taken over by an extreme government or party with the goal of destroying all aspects of freedom. This party has obtained control over the past, present, and now the future. The people living in the community are not allowed to read, think, etc., due to the rules and commandments set by the powers.

Intricate Manipulation and Conflict in 1984

O’Brien is very intelligent and has knowledge of all aspects of the brain. This allows him to use physiological manipulation. In other words, he brainwashes people and persuades them to think things other than their original beliefs. Furthermore, O’Brien uses terror to force his victims to abandon their only life motives, giving them absolutely nothing to live for. For example, he uses rats, Winston’s biggest fear, to threaten him. The overall goal of the party is to abolish all memory, thought, etc., of the people living in the society.

The villainy of 1984 adds interest to the novel and enhances the meaning of the piece of literature. Without a villain or antagonist, there would basically be no plot. Antagonists allow for there to be conflict. This conflict can be man versus self, man versus man, man versus nature, or several others. In 1984, the conflict was man versus society. . . or Winston versus the Party. The conflict is the most interesting part of a story, novel, etc., which all readers look forward to. In other words, without an antagonist, there is most likely no conflict, and without conflict. . . There is no enjoyment in the novel or story. The novel, story, plot, etc., is not complete without an antagonist or villain.

George Orwell’s 1984 is a very interesting novel that consists of an entertaining storyline. The villain of the story adds conflict and entertainment to the plot. In my opinion, Orwell used this story as a prediction of the future. One day, one extreme power will rule the world and have total control over everything. One face will represent all power. . . just like O’Brien.


  1. Orwell, George. 1984. Signet Classics, 1949.
  2. Cohen, Ronald. “Power and Betrayal in Orwell’s 1984.” ELH, vol. 51, no. 3, 1984, pp. 555-573.
  3. Rodden, John. “George Orwell and the Politics of Literary Reputation: Ideas, Power, and Morality in Nineteen Eighty-Four.” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, vol. 14, 2004, pp. 335-358.
  4. Woodcock, George. “Orwell’s Message: 1984 and the Present.” The Massachusetts Review, vol. 19, no. 4, 1978, pp. 755-762.
  5. Morris, Alistair. “Totalitarianism and the Inner Life: The Struggle of O’Brien and Winston in Nineteen Eighty-Four.” The Modern Language Review, vol. 75, no. 1, 1980, pp. 65-78.
  6. Johnson, Earle. “Teaching George Orwell in Karl Rove’s World.” College Literature, vol. 34, no. 3, 2007, pp. 94-112.
  7. Brogan, T. V. F. The Intellectual Background of the Present War. G. Bell and Sons, 1941.
  8. Lynch, Robert. “Totalitarianism and Political Religion in Orwell’s 1984.” The British Journal of Politics and International Relations, vol. 9, no. 2, 2007, pp. 288-305.
  9. Meyers, Jeffrey. Orwell: Wintry Conscience of a Generation. W. W. Norton & Company, 2000.

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