1984

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The antagonist of the novel—a corrupt bureaucrat, member of the Inner Party, and symbol of dehumanizing and dehumanized despotism. O'Brien's charismatic appearance and manners fool Winston into believing that he too is working against the Party, leading Winston to incriminate himself. Even after O'Brien reveals himself to be the Party's instrument of terror, Winston continues to admire his intelligence, and under torture comes paradoxically to worship him as his savior.

O'Brien Quotes in 1984

The 1984 quotes below are all either spoken by O'Brien or refer to O'Brien. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Totalitarianism and Communism Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Signet Classics edition of 1984 published in 1961.
Book 3, Chapter 3 Quotes
". . . The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from all the oligarchies of the past, in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just round the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power."
Related Characters: O'Brien (speaker)
Page Number: 263
Explanation and Analysis:

Winston, who has succumbed to torture in the Ministry of Love and is doing everything he can to get O'Brien to ease the pain, has told O'Brien that he believes the Party seeks absolute power because this is ultimately the best for the majority of the population. However, O'Brien's gives a surprising response to this; he explains to Winston that the Party seeks power for no other reason than to have it. This shift in ideology shows that, now that Winston has been tortured into accepting doublethink, brainwashing and lies are no longer necessary.

Note O'Brien's distinction between this aspect of Party ideology and the legacies of Nazism and Stalinism. O'Brien suggests that these regimes fell short of the ultimate form of totalitarianism symbolized by the Party, because they maintained that there was a reason for their authoritarian power (such as increasing equality or efficiency, or conquering other nations) other than the goal of achieving power itself. The Party thus symbolizes the logical conclusion of totalitarianism, where leaders are not corrupted by power, but instead justify everything through the aim of having power over others. 

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Book 3, Chapter 6 Quotes
"They can't get inside you," she had said. But they could get inside you. "What happens to you here is forever," O'Brien had said. That was a true word. There were things, your own acts, from which you could never recover. Something was killed in your breast; burnt out, cauterized out.
Related Characters: Winston Smith (speaker), Julia/The Dark-Haired Girl (speaker), O'Brien (speaker)
Page Number: 290
Explanation and Analysis:

Winston has been released from the Ministry of Love, having successfully been tortured into accepting and obeying the Party. He is now an alcoholic and is drinking gin in the Chestnut Tree Cafe, recalling a moment when Julia had told him that no matter what the Party did, "they can't get inside you." Of course, Winston's time being tortured in the Ministry of Love disproves this fact, something he now understands. The horror of Room 101 lies in the fact that, when faced with their greatest fear, a person will betray everything that is meaningful to them, thereby losing their sense of self. Winston knows he will never be able to "recover" from the moment when he betrayed Julia, and because of this will never have enough agency to be able to resist the Party again. 

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O'Brien Character Timeline in 1984

The timeline below shows where the character O'Brien appears in 1984. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 1, Chapter 1
Totalitarianism and Communism Theme Icon
Reality Control Theme Icon
Sex, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
That morning, at a routine political rally called the Two Minutes Hate, O'Brien, a charismatic Inner Party member whose body language suggests to Winston that he secretly hates... (full context)
Totalitarianism and Communism Theme Icon
The Individual vs. Collective Identity Theme Icon
Reality Control Theme Icon
Sex, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
...the Party slogans: WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. Winston's eyes met O'Brien's, and it seemed to Winston that O'Brien was sending him a silent message of understanding.... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 2
Totalitarianism and Communism Theme Icon
Reality Control Theme Icon
...shall meet in the place where there is no darkness." He identifies the voice as O'Brien's. The telescreen reports a victory over the Eurasian army and announces that the chocolate ration... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 5
Totalitarianism and Communism Theme Icon
The Individual vs. Collective Identity Theme Icon
Sex, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
...one day be denounced by her children and vaporized, and that Syme, himself and even O'Brien will be vaporized, but not Parsons, the quacking man or the dark-haired girl from the... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 7
Totalitarianism and Communism Theme Icon
The Individual vs. Collective Identity Theme Icon
Reality Control Theme Icon
Winston becomes aware that he is writing the diary to O'Brien. Though conscious of his own intellectual limitations, he still believes that he is right and... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 8
Totalitarianism and Communism Theme Icon
Reality Control Theme Icon
Sex, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
...will happen to him when he's inevitably arrested: torture, then death. He thinks again of O'Brien's mysterious comment about meeting in a place where there is no darkness. He takes a... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 5
Totalitarianism and Communism Theme Icon
The Individual vs. Collective Identity Theme Icon
Sex, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Class Struggle Theme Icon
Winston tells Julia about his suspicion that O'Brien is, like them, an enemy of the Party. Julia, though, believes that the Party is... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 6
Totalitarianism and Communism Theme Icon
The Individual vs. Collective Identity Theme Icon
One day, O'Brien stops Winston in the hallway at work and makes a reference to the vanished Syme.... (full context)
Totalitarianism and Communism Theme Icon
The Individual vs. Collective Identity Theme Icon
...and death at the Ministry of Love, but is nonetheless excited to be going to O'Brien's house. (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 8
The Individual vs. Collective Identity Theme Icon
Reality Control Theme Icon
Winston and Julia go to O'Brien's luxurious apartment, where O'Brien's servant, Martin, admits them into a room where O'Brien is dictating... (full context)
The Individual vs. Collective Identity Theme Icon
Winston confesses that he and Julia are enemies of the Party and adulterers. O'Brien serves Julia and Winston wine, which neither of them have ever tasted. Winston proposes a... (full context)
Totalitarianism and Communism Theme Icon
The Individual vs. Collective Identity Theme Icon
O'Brien tells Winston that the Brotherhood is real and that Emmanuel Goldstein is alive. He then... (full context)
Totalitarianism and Communism Theme Icon
The Individual vs. Collective Identity Theme Icon
Class Struggle Theme Icon
O'Brien promises to send Winston a book that teaches the true nature of their society and... (full context)
Totalitarianism and Communism Theme Icon
The Individual vs. Collective Identity Theme Icon
As he is leaving, Winston asks O'Brien if they will meet again "in the place where there is no darkness." O'Brien nods... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 1
Totalitarianism and Communism Theme Icon
The Individual vs. Collective Identity Theme Icon
Reality Control Theme Icon
...out, and there are no windows. Ravenous with hunger, he wonders if he will see O'Brien, and hopes O'Brien will send him a razor blade. (full context)
Totalitarianism and Communism Theme Icon
The Individual vs. Collective Identity Theme Icon
Reality Control Theme Icon
...delirious with thirst and hunger, Winston thinks of Julia and wonders if she is suffering. O'Brien enters and Winston naïvely exclaims, "They've got you too!" O'Brien tells Winston not to deceive... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 2
Reality Control Theme Icon
Winston awakes, immobilized and lying on his back, with O'Brien peering down at him. He has no idea how much time has passed, but he... (full context)
The Individual vs. Collective Identity Theme Icon
Reality Control Theme Icon
O'Brien turns a dial and Winston receives a painful electric shock. The needle is at 40;... (full context)
The Individual vs. Collective Identity Theme Icon
Reality Control Theme Icon
O'Brien holds up four fingers and asks Winston how many he sees. Four, says Winston. If... (full context)
The Individual vs. Collective Identity Theme Icon
Reality Control Theme Icon
Finally, after more torture, Winston gives O'Brien the answers he wants: that Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia, that he... (full context)
The Individual vs. Collective Identity Theme Icon
O'Brien gives Winston permission to ask him some questions. Winston asks what has happened to Julia.... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 3
Totalitarianism and Communism Theme Icon
The Individual vs. Collective Identity Theme Icon
Reality Control Theme Icon
Class Struggle Theme Icon
After weeks of further torture, O'Brien tells Winston that there are three stages—learning, understanding, and acceptance—and that he is about to... (full context)
Totalitarianism and Communism Theme Icon
The Individual vs. Collective Identity Theme Icon
Reality Control Theme Icon
Trying to say what he thinks O'Brien wants to hear, Winston replies that the Party seeks power for the good of the... (full context)
Totalitarianism and Communism Theme Icon
The Individual vs. Collective Identity Theme Icon
Class Struggle Theme Icon
Winston insists that the spirit of Man will defeat the Party. O'Brien tells Winston that he is the last man and orders him to remove his clothes... (full context)
The Individual vs. Collective Identity Theme Icon
O'Brien says that Winston has been completely beaten, broken, degraded. Winston protests that there is one... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 4
Totalitarianism and Communism Theme Icon
The Individual vs. Collective Identity Theme Icon
O'Brien walks into the cell and says Winston has made intellectual but not emotional progress. He... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 5
The Individual vs. Collective Identity Theme Icon
Reality Control Theme Icon
Sex, Love, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Room 101 is deep underground. Once inside, Winston is immobilized and strapped to a chair. O'Brien tells him that Room 101 contains "the worst thing in the world," and that this... (full context)