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.
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: Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer 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."
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.
Page Number and Citation:
Explanation and Analysis:
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
...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
...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
Book 1, Chapter 7
Book 1, Chapter 8
...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
Book 2, Chapter 6
Book 2, Chapter 8
Book 3, Chapter 1
...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
Book 3, Chapter 3
Book 3, Chapter 4
Book 3, Chapter 5