Big Brother is a fictional character in George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. He is the enigmatic dictator of Oceania, a totalitarian state taken to its utmost logical consequence - where the ruling elite ('the Party') wield total power for its own sake over the inhabitants.
In the society that Orwell describes, everyone is under complete surveillance by the authorities, mainly by telescreen. The people are constantly reminded of this by the phrase "Big Brother is watching you", which is the core "truth" of the propaganda system in this state.
Since the publication of Nineteen Eighty-Four, the term "Big Brother" has entered the lexicon as a synonym for abuse of government power, particularly in respect to civil liberties.
In the essay section of his novel 1985, Anthony Burgess states that Orwell got the idea for Big Brother from advertising billboards for educational correspondence course from a company called Bennett's, current during World War II. The original posters showed Bennett himself; a kindly looking old man offering guidance and support to would-be students with the phrase "Let me be your father" attached. After Bennett's death his son took over the company, and the posters were replaced with pictures of the son (who looked imposing and stern in contrast to his father's kindly demeanour) with the text "Let me be your big brother."
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