Who is the villain in 1984 ?

George Orwell’s dystopian novella “1984” is one of his best known works, having spawned movies, television shows, video games and countless essays pertaining to varying critical approaches to the text. However, here we shall take a look at who the villains truly are in the novella.

At first glance, the answer is fairly simple, O’Brien. The man, who entraps our heroes Winston and Julia with promises of rebellion, then converts their way of thinking to follow the Party’s. Despite being ‘built like a prize fighter’, O’Brien is the most intelligent character in the novella, revealing at the story’s climax that everything Winston has done in secret, was not so. O’Brien was essentially toying with him, seeing how far a man would go to rebel against the state.
However, O’Brien can be seen as simply a tool of a much larger villain in the text, the Party itself. O’Brien is essentially a religious inquisitor, destroying the negative thoughts of prisoners before releasing them back into society. It is the Party that has control over all aspects of existence in Eurasia. It is the Party that has control over the past, present and ultimately future, as (as Winston eventually understands) resistance is indeed futile.
The idea that a political party could gain so much power is rather ridiculous, but that is not up for debate in this blog. What can be discussed is whether the Party is the real villain in “1984”, or are there any other choices aside from O’Brien?

I will go in a different direction here, and present the idea that the villain of “1984” is Winston himself. He is the one who rebels against the Party, which according to newspaper articles has done wondrous things for Britain. Winston is the one who breaks laws on creative writing, and plots to overthrow the government, going as far as attempting to join the ‘Brotherhood’, a group that is essentially a terrorist organisation.
I am being fairly one sided in this view, the articles are falsified, the ‘Brotherhood’ is a trap and one man plotting to overthrow a government is laughable. However, to the Party, and those loyal to the society it has created, Winston is certainly the antagonist of the text. His actions single him out from everyone else, as he attempts to fight against what is accepted by the rest of society. It is possible to that everyone else in Eurasia feels as much resentment to the Party as Winston does and are simply too idle or scared to rebel. However, it is equally as possible that Winston is the only one who wants to rebel, and so he would be the villain of the novella.

In conclusion, depending on how you view “1984”, it brings up different antagonists. O’Brien deceives Winston and Julia, causing their capture, and tortures them into his way of viewing existence. The Party created the way of thinking O’Brien prescribes to, and indeed all of Eurasia does too. However, Winston rebels against this mass ideology, attempting to destroy it, and so, is also a villain in the eyes of society in “1984”.

    • jennafer
    • February 16th, 2012

    Really interesting, I’d never thought of Winston as the villain before, I found it rather enlightening 🙂 x

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