1984

by

George Orwell

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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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Signet Classics edition of 1984 published in 1961.
Book 2, Chapter 9 Quotes
The masses never revolt of their own accord, and they never revolt merely because they are oppressed. Indeed, so long as they are not permitted to have standards of comparison, they never even become aware that they are oppressed.
Related Characters: Winston Smith, O'Brien, Emmanuel Goldstein
Page Number: 207
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 3, Chapter 2 Quotes
“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. Everything will be dead inside you. 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.”
Related Characters: O'Brien (speaker), Winston Smith
Page Number: 256
Explanation and Analysis:
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] knew in advance what O’Brien would say: that the Party did not seek power for its own ends, but only for the good of the majority. That it sought power because men in the mass were frail, cowardly creatures who could not endure liberty or face the truth, and must be ruled over and systematically deceived by others who were stronger than themselves. That the choice for mankind lay between freedom and happiness, and that, for the great bulk of mankind, happiness was better. That the Party was the eternal guardian of the weak, a dedicated sect doing evil that good might come, sacrificing its own happiness to that of others.
Related Characters: Winston Smith, O'Brien
Page Number: 262
Explanation and Analysis:
“But always—do not forget this, Winston—always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.”
Related Characters: O'Brien (speaker), Winston Smith
Page Number: 267
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 3, Chapter 5 Quotes

And then—no, it was not relief, only hope, a tiny fragment of hope. Too late, perhaps too late. But he had suddenly understood that in the whole world there was just one person to whom he could transfer his punishment—one body that he could thrust between himself and the rats. And he was shouting frantically, over and over.

“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!”

Page Number: 286
Explanation and Analysis:
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:
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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)