In George Orwell's 1984, there is a mention of a secretive organization named Brotherhood whose main aim is to rebel against the Big Brother, and the Party in general.

In the later part of the prose, we find out that O' Brien was actually working for the Party the whole time in order to find and capture rebels like the protagonist. Does that mean Goldstein's Book, and the Brotherhood itself, were just made up by the Party to achieve the task of separating out the rebels? Or did the Brotherhood really exist at some point?

  • 3
    Why do you think there should be some way to tell? The book's viewpoint character has no way of distinguishing these two scenarios.
    – Peter Shor
    Sep 3, 2019 at 11:17
  • 4
    @PeterShor Because I may as well have missed that point altogether?
    – CinCout
    Sep 3, 2019 at 12:31

1 Answer 1


The only evidence of the existence (or non-existence) of the Brotherhood comes directly from the Party itself. As such, its existence (or non-existence) may simply be part of the mystique of Big Brother and the party apparatus.

Winston is told about the Brotherhood on a daily basis.

A day never passed when spies and saboteurs acting under his directions were not unmasked by the Thought Police. He was the commander of a vast shadowy army, an underground network of conspirators dedicated to the overthrow of the State. The Brotherhood, its name was supposed to be.

Whereas Julia is entirely unaware of the Brotherhood's supposed existence, implying that that knowledge of the Brotherhood-mythos is restricted to lower echelon Party members.

He noticed that she never used Newspeak words except the ones that had passed into everyday use. She had never heard of the Brotherhood, and refused to believe in its existence. Any kind of organized revolt against the Party, which was bound to be a failure, struck her as stupid.

With that in mind, since the Brotherhood is used as a tool to entrap would-be rebels like Winston (just like the fake bric-a-brac shop) it seems more likely than not that the Brotherhood doesn't exist or else the risk would be that by promoting it, the Party could inadvertently strengthen resistance to Big Brother.

That all being said, we shall let O'Brien have the final word.

‘Does the Brotherhood exist?’

‘That, Winston, you will never know. If we choose to set you free when we have finished with you, and if you live to be ninety years old, still you will never learn whether the answer to that question is Yes or No. As long as you live it will be an unsolved riddle in your mind.’

And that goes for you too, dear reader.

  • Do O'Brien's words actually imply that it doesn't exist? On the grounds that if it did exist, there would be the possibility of it contacting Winston, and so he couldn't be so sure that Winston would never know. (Of course, taking at face value anything O'Brien says to Winston is itself inadvisable.)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Feb 16, 2020 at 21:17
  • Regarding Julia, what's the connection between her unawareness and the knowledge being restricted to lower echelon Party members? It's been some years since I read 1984, but I thought Winston and Julia were both around the same echelon.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Feb 16, 2020 at 21:19
  • @Randal'Thor - The one thing we know for certain is that the whole 'Winston discovers a way to rebel' thing was a complete setup. He was never not observed, never not under total control.
    – Valorum
    Feb 16, 2020 at 21:20
  • @Randal'Thor - Winston seems to be the equivalent of a mid-level Civil Servant. Julia isn't nearly that high up in the party.
    – Valorum
    Feb 16, 2020 at 21:21
  • And the connection would be that if he's being constantly fed stories of the Brotherhood and The Book (and she's not), then it's more likely to be a myth spread by the Party to people at his level. One assumes that people above and below him are fed different lies.
    – Valorum
    Feb 16, 2020 at 21:22

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