A Look at Why 1984’s Antagonists Work So Well

Hello all, and welcome back!

It has been a while since the last post, and even longer since an analytic piece. Judging by the title, you have probably already realized that this post will be just that. Once again, do not expect anything lengthy, although I do realize that many of you enjoyed one particular post so think of this as a pseudo-sequel of sorts. I also recognize that I have covered this topic in the past, but this post is more refined.

And unlike every post here, this one was actually proofread. Also, this is the 50th post on the blog!

Enjoy!

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When writing a story, a highly developed antagonist can enrich conflict, setting and the protagonist’s development. 1984 by George Orwell is one of such stories which impacts the reader’s perception of a setting through a carefully constructed antagonist. O’Brien is a character who is initially thought of as an ally by both the reader and protagonist Winston, but an organic twist reveals him to be on the side of the government Winston fights. This revolutionary attitude is challenged by both order and security, each characterized in O’Brien. The reader is impacted through doubt, as O’Brien asks if they “[are] willing to throw sulphuric acid in a child’s face” (pp. 180, Orwell). O’Brien’s malicious intent to trick Winston into confessing a willingness to criminality is where his most effective trait comes through to the reader: power. He makes Winston suffer psychologically by challenging and twisting his world-view, going as far as to claim the past does not exist as he “[does] not remember it” (pp. 259, Orwell). Winston is helpless and forced to concede, allowing the theme of hope to be crushed into nothingness. Orwell effectively showcases the effectiveness of brutality and the power of statements which carry 1984’s narrative. The fear in acknowledging O’Brien’s small part in a lager play gives weight to the omnipotence of the Party, as he “[set Winston’s trap] over the course of seven years, and ultimately breaks [him]” (paragraph 11, Hardaker). It is important to utilize an antagonist beyond being an adversary, instead using one to test the merits developed by a protagonist and building a world that may not always be how it seems.

Orwell, George. 1984. Penguin, 1948.

Hardaker, Harry. “1984 by George Orwell.” WordPress. 10 Apr. 2013.
https://hardakh.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/introduction-to-1984-and-its-author/. Accessed 22 Feb. 2017.

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