I finished reading George Orwell‘s Nineteen Eighty Four few days back. This book is pioneer of famous Big Brother concept with iconic slogan: “Big Brother is Watching You.” It triggered several popular Big Brother shows that have made millions reality TV celebrities. Recently it was our home-grown actress Shilpa Shetty who made hay while the show was on. Big Brother has also been telecast in various desi versions such as Big Boss that had many little known ‘celebrities’ as their stars.
In George Orwell’s book, Big Brother is watching every citizen every moment to monitor if they commit any thought crime. There were life size large cameras in every home and workplace. People are watched constantly, they are encouraged to give away their spouses, children, parents to the thought police. The Ministry of Love (ironic name, huh) then inflicts pain and other tortures to convert a rebel’s hatred of Big Brother into love for Big Brother. Once rebels are converted and become completely subservient to Big Brother, they are executed. All rebels die loving Big Brother.
Nineteen Eighty Four is story of Winston who secretly does not agree with Big Brother. He keeps secret rebellious thoughts in his mind evading the screen in his room and work. He starts keeping a secret diary. This was an act of rebellion as Big Brother had prohibited diaries. Writing diaries encouraged independent thought and that was considered crime by Big Brother. He participates in Big Brother’s Two Minutes Hate with disdain.
Winston works in record department of Ministry of Truth that is concerned with news, announcements, and entertainment. A part of his job is to edit all the old news that was published or released to public before. Confusing, eh? Let’s take an example. Big Brother awarded Mr. X for excellence in the month of January. As it turned out Mr. X was found to be committing thought crimes in February, thus he was eliminated and locked away in Ministry of Love for correction of his crimes. It was Winston’s department that corrects all the old records such as the news item of the month of January, erasing every trace of existence of the rebels. Winston is aware how Big Brother misles the world.
Winston manages to find his partner in crime in Julia who looks like a good party worker on surface but has been dodging Big Brother’s thought police for years. He is delighted when Julia tells him that she has slept with other guys before. Enjoying sex was a crime under Big Brother, the fact that Julia enjoyed it proved that she was a rebel of his kind. This endeared Julia to Winston. This is what Winston tells Julia:
“Listen. The more man you’ve had, the more I love you. Do you understand that?”
“I hate purity. I hate goodness! I don’t want any virtue to exist anywhere. I want everyone to be corrupt to bones.”
He asks Julia: “You like doing this, I don’t mean simple me: I mean the thing in itself?”
Any man would not say the first two statements to his girl in normal circumstances. But life under Big Brother was not normal in any way. Winston was married, but his wife was an unthinking woman who blindly believed Big Brother’s every diktat including sex, to the frustration and dismay of Winston. She would have denounced Winston to Big Brother any day had she stayed with him.
Winston and Julia find themselves in love with each other in such extraordinary circumstances. They continue with their escapades till they are captured by thought police one day. They are tortured and forced to betray each other. They are inflicted with so much pain that they actually betray each other in their thoughts. During one such painful experience, Winston shouted, “Do it to Julia! Do it to Julia! Not me! Julia! I don’t care what you do to her. Tear her face off, strip her to the bones. Not me! Julia! Not me!”
That was the beginning when Winston, one of the most difficult rebels of Big Brother, embarks on his journey toward feeling love for Big Bother. Big Brother triumphs.