In George Orwell’s 1984, the Party, the government of Oceania, has many slogans. One of the sayings is “Big Brother Is Watching You”. Despite the fact that the slogan is only mentioned a few times throughout the novel, it embodies the government that Orwell has created.
We first learn of the slogan when the setting is described on the first page of the book. Orwell depicts, in explicit detail, the sights, sounds, and smells of Oceania. When illustrating the hallways of Victory Mansions, Winston Smith’s and other members of the Party’s apartment complex, Orwell writes:
On each landing, opposite the lift shaft, the poster with the enormous face gazed from the wall. It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. Big Brother Is Watching You, the caption beneath it ran (5).

This poster shows Big Brother as having a face. Big Brother was not an individual person so he did not have a “face”. The face, however, gives Big Brother a human quality. By doing so, the government puts itself on the same level of humanity as the citizens that it governs. The people are supposed to feel more comfortable with a ruling party that is just like them. The billboard is also found on every landing and every streetcorner. The overbearing number of posters is a way for the Party to continuously remind its citizens of its presence and ingrain the message into the people’s conscience and subconscience minds.
“Big Brother” is another name for the Party. It’s an ironic choice of words for the Party’s second name. First, the notion of a “big brother” connotes a child’s big brother. One thinks of comfort and protection, fun and trouble, and love and other feelings when thinking of a brother. One of the Party’s goals is to rid Oceania of these emotions. Second, the brother is part of the family unit. The Party is trying to destroy the family and the feelings associated with it (Kalechofsky 114).
The phrase “Big Brother Is Watching You” is the Party’s way of showing its control over the citizens of Oceania. The Party displays its power over both the history of the world and over the citizens of Oceania’s everyday life in many different ways.
“Who controls the past,” Orwell writes, “controls the future: who controls the present controls the past’” (23). The Party shows its authority over humanity by changing the past, present, and future. It changes all documents in order to fit their needs. For instance, if the Party says that something never happened, then it never happened. All evidence of the event is destroyed. Oceania is continuously at war with either Eurasia or Eastasia. When the Party decides to start fighting with Eastasia and be allies with Eurasia, after years of fighting with Eurasia, all signs of a war with Eurasia are wiped out within a week. The documents are all falsified in the Records department. This is where Winston works. It’s ironic that all of the nation's records are changed in the Records department and that this department is in the Ministry of Truth. In this department, facts are rearranged, erased, added, and rewritten in order to revise and “correct” history. There are, however, reminders of the past. Some of these reminders are the smell of real coffee, the thought of good beer, real sugar, a children’s history textbook, and various objects in Mr. Charrington’s “ordinary” shop and room. Winston buys a diary with paper that hasn’t been manufactured in nearly forty years and an “archaic” pen. In the secret room, there is a painting of a church. Churches and religion are a thing of the past. There is also an old armchair and a big bed in the room. Their softness prompts Winston to think of the past. Winston is the only person who remembers the past and that there was a different kind of life in the antiquity. He tries to save it for himself and for the future by writing a diary. It helps clarify and put his thoughts in order. He knows that he will be caught and that future generations will never see the diary. Nevertheless, he still feels the need to write it for that small possibility that they will read it.