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“Nobody is a villain in their own story. We’re all the heroes of our own stories.” According to George R.R. Martin, an estimable American novelist, an individual’s perspective ultimately decides whether he views himself as a protagonist and deems his doings morally correct. These seem to be the circumstances of O’Brien in George Orwell’s 1984. Through the physical and psychological torture O’Brien imposes on Winston, and the deceitful claims O’Brien made about being in the Brotherhood, Orwell illustrates that a steep sacrifice is made when the implementation of villainy dehumanizes morals in exchange for even the slightest sum of power.
O’Brien chooses to capture and “re-educate” citizens in 1984 because he feels an empowering sense of purpose. In reality, his soul has already been emptied out by the Party. While Winston is in his cell, O’Brien tells him what the Inner Party will do to him when he says, “Never again will you be capable of love, or friendship, or joy, of living, or laughter, or curiosity, or courage, or integrity. You will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty, and then we shall fill you with ourselves” (Orwell 256). The Party’s idea of the ideal Oceanic citizen would harbor none of the qualities listed above, and thus the Party would dehumanize citizens in its search for power. O’Brien, one who would be considered the perfect citizen, ironically works for the Inner Party and would go to extreme measures to assert his allegiance to Big Brother. When Winston is in Room 101, O’Brien says, “They are a form of pressure that you cannot withstand, even if you wished to. You will do what is required of you” (284). The physical and mental pain Winston endured during his capture ultimately shows how severely O’Brien will traumatize someone in order to prove a point. In the physiological control of Winston, O’Brien feels as though he is complete and has served his purpose to the Party. This evil that thrives within O’Brien is solely a result of his undivided loyalty to the Party. Orwell wants to leave his audience with the impression that extreme loyalty to an idea or organization can dehumanize everyone involved.
Through the villainy of O’Brien, Orwell indicates that self-benefit and acquisition of power are higher priorities to a villainous individual than the preservation of morals. The inhuman devotion O’Brien possesses toward Big Brother shows that the bond between a well-respected idea and an individual who believes it is unbreakable. As O’Brien describes his elaborate plan in Winston’s cell, he tells Winston, “We shall crush you down to the point from which there is no coming back. Things will happen to you from which you could not recover, if you lived a thousand years. Never again will you be capable of ordinary human feeling” . O’Brien’s lack of empathy for Winston’s pain is a clear indication that he expresses psychopathic symptoms. Orwell uses this approach to illustrate that extreme loyalty to or belief in an idea can degrade the innate morals of an individual. The villainy of O’Brien makes the audience reconsider the morality of the extent to which one desires the attainment of power, and what he will do in order to gain such control.
Orwell clearly demonstrates that O’Brien sacrifices the truth in order to ensure the acquisition of power. Stretching the truth is a sign that an individual is desperate, but deception shows that an individual is morally corrupt. Big Brother has set up the Brotherhood in order to protect his power and grip on Oceania. O’Brien stirs a rebellious passion in Winston and Julia, but they are later let down when they realize there is no hope for freedom. At the beginning of the book, Winston thinks to himself, “And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth”. Misrepresentation of truth is an inhumane way to achieve power. O’Brien thinks that the Party fakes the Brotherhood in order to grow and keep its control. This is tactic may be based on human irrationality and underhanded manipulation, but it is mercilessly effective.
O’Brien’s evil in 1984 is derived from his ultimate passion for the Party and its ideas. Thus, Orwell shows that villainy is a disturbingly inherent human characteristic and can rupture common human traits if used for personal gain. An individual may corrupt his morals in order to achieve greater authority.
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