Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Character Study: O'Brien (1984)


 Character Study: O’Brien (1984)


Richard Burton as O'Brien in  Nineteen Eighty-Four (Virgin Films)


Dominant character traits: large/strong/formidable, authoritarian/stern

Secondary character traits: thoughtful/studious, brutal/threatening

Individuality: O’Brien fiddling awkwardly with his spectacles on his nose



Introduction

1984 is a literary novel (first published, 1949) by George Orwell and is about a totalitarian state in the future. O’Brien, a complex main character, is an important member of the Inner Party of this state. This essay will examine personality traits, both Dominant and Secondary, and Individuality for O’Brien. Features used for this analysis range from Static (Posture, Body, Face and so on) to more active, Dynamic features such as Speech and Action. Individuality is an aspect of O’Brien’s character that makes him stand out from other characters. In this instance, it is his gesture of fiddling with his spectacles on his nose. O’Brien occurs in seven main scenes. (Note: O’Brien occurs in two or three other scenes, one including a dream, but they too insignificant for the purpose of this essay). First, we will study traits and features of each main scene, then examine two tables and two bar charts that combine the information for deeper analysis.


SCENE 1: THE HALL

PHYSICAL APPEARANCE – large/strong/formidable (x2)
PHYSICAL APPEARANCE + METAPHOR - strong
BODY (NECK) large/strong/formidable
FACE – old/worn/coarse, serious, brutal
GESTURE+OBJECT – individuality (x2)
MANNER - charming
MANNER - courteous
FACE - large
POSTURE – serious
BODY (CHEST) large/strong/formidable
THOUGHT – intelligent/calculating

The first aspect to note is Orwell’s heavy reliance of Physical Appearance and Body to bring O’Brien to life. O’Brien is a ‘large, burly man’ with a ‘formidable appearance’. Also, his appearance is combined with Metaphor to highlight his formidability, as in his ‘prize-fighter’s physique’. Parts of the Body highlight his size and strength, for example: his ‘thick neck’ and ‘powerful chest’.  

Face and Manner highlight the contrast in O’Brien’s personality. For example, O’Brien has a ‘heavy’ and ‘brutal’ face, whereas he has ‘a certain charm of manner’ and a courteous or ‘urbane manner’.   

Individuality occurs twice in this scene. First: ‘He had taken off his spectacles and was in the act of resettling them on his nose with his characteristic gesture’; and then: ‘He had a trick of resettling his spectacles on his nose’.


SCENE 2: THE CORRIDOR

TOUCH + HAND - friendly
SPEECH - grave, courteous
GESTURE + OBJECT - individuality, friendly
ACTION - absent-minded/indifferent/vague

First, Touch combines with Hand to highlight O’Brien’s friendliness, as we see O’Brien ‘laying a friendly hand for a moment on Winston’s arm’.

Through Speech, we see O’Brien is both courteous and grave, as in: ‘He began speaking with the peculiar grave courtesy that differentiated him from the majority of Inner Party members’.

In addition, Individuality and his friendly trait become evident: ‘With the curious, disarming friendliness … he resettled his spectacles on his nose’.

Then Action, which becomes more predominant in later scenes, plays a small part here, highlighting  O’Brien’s vague/absent-minded trait, as in:Somewhat absentmindedly O’Brien felt two of his pockets and then produced a small leather-covered notebook and a gold ink-pencil’.


SCENE 3: O’BRIEN’S STUDY

POSTURE + LOCATION (ROOM) + OBJECTS (CARPET, TABLE, LAMP, PAPERS) – serious, studious
LACK OF SIGHT – indifferent
ACTION (STUDYING) – studious, observant
FACE – large/formidable, intelligent
POSTURE – studious
ACTION – calculating
GAIT + LACK OF SOUND – calm
FACIAL EXPRESSION – grave/solemn  (x2)
PHYSICAL APPEARANCE – large/strong (‘solid’)
FACIAL EXPRESSION - expressionless
ACTION (WAITING) – stern
FACIAL EXPRESSION (SMILE) – sarcastic (x2)
GESTURE + OBJECT - individuality
EXPOSITION – studious/busy
SPEECH (TONE) - emotionless
POSTURE – calculating
EYES – calculating
SPEECH (VOLUME, TONE) – calm/gentle, emotionless
SPEECH (TONE) - calculating
ACTION – vague/ indifferent/absent-minded
GAIT – calculating
GAIT – thoughtful
GAIT - graceful
BODY - large
GESTURE - graceful
MANNER – graceful, confident, sarcastic
SPEECH (TONE) – good-natured/friendly
BODY (SHOULDERS) + FACE - formidable
FACE – expressionless, ugly
THOUGHT – intelligent/calculating
SPEECH (TONE) – good-natured/friendly
SPEECH (TONE) – grave/solemn
ACTION - calculating
SPEECH (TONE) – grave, courteous
TOUCH – strong
THOUGHT – studious/busy

First, O’Brien is sitting in his study, which is littered with numerous objects like paper and a reading lamp. This Location and these Objects connate his scholarly personality. His Posture also alludes to this intellectual trait, or intense focus, as in: ‘For perhaps twenty seconds he sat without stirring’.

However, Speech is the most common feature in this scene. It highlights his vague/ expressionless trait, as in: ‘He began asking his questions in a low, expressionless voice’; and he speaks ‘impassively’.

Facial Expression, dominant in this scene, highlights O’Brien’s sarcastic trait. For example, he has a ‘faint smile’ and breaks ‘into what might have been the beginnings of a smile’. 

Moreover, we see his serious/grave trait, as in: ‘His face grew solemn again’ and his ‘expression was grimmer than usual’.

O’Brien’s Gait conveys his calculating and thoughtful aspects. He ‘deliberately … came towards them’ and ‘began to pace slowly to and fro, as though he could think better standing’. It also expresses his grace, as in: ‘there was a remarkable grace in his movements’.

Touch provides an example of O’Brien’s power and strength: ‘His powerful grip crushed the bones of Winston’s palm’.

Manner/impression highlight O’Brien’s strength, confidence and understanding, as in: ‘More even than of strength, he gave an impression of confidence and of … understanding’.

O’Brien’s calculating trait comes through Winston’s Thoughts about him: ‘There was no stratagem that he was not equal to, no danger that he could not foresee’. Then O’Brien’s busy/scholarly trait is conveyed by Winston’s Thought: ‘Within thirty seconds, it occurred to him, O’Brien would be back at his interrupted and important work on behalf of the Party’.


SCENE 4: WINSTON’S CELL

THOUGHT - authoritarian
SIGHT – grave/sad
FACE – old/worn/coarse
GESTURE – brutal
ACTION brutal
SPEECH (WORD CHOICE) – brutal (x5)
SPEECH (WORD CHOICE) – polite
GESTURE + OBJECT – individuality (x2)
GAIT – thoughtful (x2)
SPEECH (TONE) – gentle, patient
MANNER + SIMILE – authoritarian (x2)
GESTURE – authoritarian (x4)
SIGHT - calculating
MANNER – authoritarian/stern
FACIAL EXPRESSION (smile) – good-natured (x3)
FACIAL EXPRESSION (smile) – sarcastic (x2)
OBJECT (SPECTACLES) - sarcastic
MANNER - stern
THOUGHT - thoughtful
FACE – large, stern
TOUCH – kind/friendly (x2)
THOUGHT - protector
SPEECH – calm/gentle (x2)
FACE – large, ugly, intelligent
THOUGHT - understanding
FACE – large, ugly, intense
FACE – large, ugly
EYES – mad/intense
SPEECH – vague/indifferent (x2)
FACE – mad/intense
GAIT – large, graceful, thoughtful
THOUGHT - calculating
SPEECH - stern
FACIAL EXPRESSION – vague/expressionless

O’Brien’s Speech dominates this scene. It conveys his brutal nature: ‘I have it in my power to inflict pain on you at any moment’ he says to Winston; ‘Nothing will remain of you, not a name in a register, not a memory in a living brain’; and: ‘Everything will be dead inside you’. There is contrast in O’Brien’s character because, on the other hand, ‘his voice was gentle and patient’.

Touch also conveys his gentle nature: ‘O’Brien laid a hand reassuringly, almost kindly, on [Winton]’ and ‘[Winston] was sitting up with O’Brien’s arm round his shoulders’.

Orwell relies heavily on Face in this scene to convey O’Brien’s character. Winston looks at O’Brien’s ‘lined face, so ugly and so intelligent’. Moreover, his face is ‘hideously ugly’ and filled with lunatic intensity’.

Gesture is important in this scene. It highlights O’Brien’s authoritarian trait, as in: ‘O’Brien stopped [the doctor] with a movement of the hand’ and: ‘He paused and signed to the man in the white coat’. Manner and Simile combine to highlight this authoritarian trait, for example: ‘He had the air of a doctor, a teacher, even a priest’.

Facial Expression conveys his sarcasm: ‘There was a trace of amusement in O’Brien’s face’ and ‘O’Brien smiled slightly’.

Individuality occurs twice in this scene, that is: ‘He resettled his spectacles’ and ‘he resettled his spectacles on his nose’.


SCENE 5: WINSTON’S CELL

FACE – mad/intense
THOUGHT – intelligent (x2)
THOUGHT – mad/intense
ACTION – brutal (x2)
FACE – old/worn, strong, brutal, intelligent, mad/intense
SPEECH (ABOUT FACE, BODY) – old/worn
GAIT - thoughtful
GESTURE – authoritarian (x2)
SPEECH (TONE) - indifferent
FACIAL EXPRESSION (SMILE) - sarcastic
MANNER + SIMILE - authoritarian
SPEECH - brutal
SPEECH (ABOUT FACE) – old/worn
ACTION - authoritarian
TOUCH – kind/friendly
SIGHT – thoughtful

The most common feature for analysis in this scene is Face. We see O’Brien has a mad/intense personality: ‘The faint, mad gleam of enthusiasm had come back into O’Brien’s face’. Also, his Face is ‘strong and fleshy and brutal … full of intelligence and a sort of controlled passion’. But O’Brien’s Face is old and ragged: ‘There were pouches under the eyes, the skin sagged from the cheekbones’. O’Brien’s Face is used by Orwell to show that the human body deteriorates, but the State will remain strong forever. This is evident through O’Brien’s speech: ‘my face is old and tired … I am not even able to prevent the decay of my own body’, but not so the State.

As in the previous scene, Speech portrays O’Brien as ruthless and brutal: ‘Imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.’

O’Brien’s brutal trait is supported by Action, for example: ‘A pang of pain had shot through [Winton’s] body. O’Brien had pushed the lever of the dial up to thirty-five’ and: ‘A twinge of pain shot through Winston’s jaw. O’Brien had wrenched the loose tooth out by the roots’.

Thought displays O’Brien’s intelligence, for instance: ‘How intelligent, [Winston] thought, how intelligent!’ and: ‘What can you do, thought Winston, against the lunatic who is more intelligent than yourself?’

Gesture shows O’Brien to be authoritarian: ‘O’Brien silenced him by a movement of his hand’ and ‘O’Brien made a small impatient gesture’.

Gait displays O’Brien’s thoughtful trait. He regularly paces himself up and down because he is a deep thinker, that is: ‘He turned away from the bed and began strolling up and down again, one hand in his pocket’.

In addition, Sight shows O’Brien’s thoughtful trait: ‘[He] looked down at [Winston] thoughtfully’.


SCENE 6: WINSTON’S CELL

SOUND + GAIT– threatening/brutal
SPEECH (WORD CHOICE/IMPERATIVES) - authoritarian
SPEECH (TONE) - gentle
ACTION – authoritarian (x2)
HANDS – strong
SIGHT - observant

Sound is used to reinforce O’Brien’s brutal/threatening nature, especially when it is combined with Gait: that is, Winston hears ‘a heavy tramp of boots’ and the door opens ‘with a clang’ as ‘O’Brien [walks] into the cell’.

Speech, through the use of Imperatives, highlights O’Brien’s authoritarian nature; that is, he sets commands for Winston: ‘Get up … Come here … Stand up straighter. Look me in the face.’ On the other hand, O’Brien’s Speech Tone conveys his gentle nature: ‘[O’Brien] went on in a gentler tone’.

Action also reinforces O’Brien’s authoritarian nature, for example: ‘He released Winston with a little push towards the guards’.

O’Brien’s Hands signify his strength, for example: O’Brien took Winston’s shoulders between his strong hands’.


SCENE 7: ROOM 101

SPEECH (TONE) – authoritarian (x2)
SIGHT + SIMILE – thoughtful
SIGHT + METAPHOR - thoughtful
SPEECH – brutal/threatening (x2)
ACTION brutal/threatening

First, Speech signifies O’Brien’s authoritarian trait, as in: ‘When he spoke it was in the schoolmasterish manner that he sometimes affected’.

Sight, combined with Simile, highlights his thoughtful nature: ‘He looked thoughtfully into the distance, as though he were addressing an audience.’

This Simile turns to Metaphor to highlight the same thoughtful trait, as O’Brien is still addressing his invisible audience’.

As in previous scenes, Speech highlights his brutality, for example: ‘In some streets a woman dare not leave her baby alone in the house, even for five minutes. The rats are certain to attack it’.

Then we have the brutal/threatening Action of O’Brien moving the rat cage ‘less than a metre from Winston’s face’.


Features that highlight Character Traits and Individuality for O’Brien in 1984


Features
S1
S2
S3
S4
S5
S6
S7
Total

Gesture+object (individuality)
2
1
1
2



6
*
Physical appearance
3

1




4
*
Body
2

2




4
*
Manner/impression
2

1
3
1


7
*
Face
2

3
6
4


15
*
Posture
1

3




4

Thought
1

2
5
3


11
*
Hand

1



1

2

Touch

1
1
2
1


5

Speech

1
7
12
3
2
4
29
*
Location


1




1

Sight


1
2
1
1
2
7

Facial expression


5
6
1


12

Gesture


1
5
2


8

Action

1
4
2
3
2
1
13

Eyes


1
1



2

Gait


4
3

1

8
*
Object


1
1



2
*
Exposition


1




1

Sound


1


1

1

Simile/metaphor
1


2
1

2
6

Total
14
5
41
52
19
8
9


NB: * Static features


This table displays literary features used for analyzing the character of O’Brien in 1984 (Orwell, 1949). Features can be Static and Dynamic, plus other writing techniques such as Sound and Simile/metaphor. S1 and S2 refer to scenes one and two and so on. There are seven scenes.
For a bird’s eye point-of-view, Speech is the most common feature (29). This is nearly double the second highest feature, which is Face (15).
From a closer perspective, Face is nearly as common as Action (15 and 13 respectively). The only other features that occur in double numbers are Thought and Facial Expression: they are almost as common (11 and 12 in that order). Gait is reasonably high with eight occurrences. Also worthy of mention are Sight, Gesture, and Manner/impression (seven occurrences each), and, to a lesser extent, Simile/metaphor (six) and Touch (five). In more specific detail, both Speech and Action are the most consistent features, occurring in six out of seven scenes. To continue, Static features like Physical Appearance, Body, and Posture are only evident in the first two or three scenes (four occurrences each). Individuality – a feature which makes O’Brien’s character unique – occurs only in the first four scenes (for a total of six occurrences). However, there is nothing subtle about this literary technique: it occurs twice in the first and fourth scenes. Orwell is hammering O’Brien’s Individuality into the reader’s head like a cannonade.



       Character Traits and Individuality for O’Brien in 1984

Character Traits + Individuality
S1
S2
S3S4S5S6S7
Total
Individuality
2
1
1
2



4
Good-natured/charming/friendly/kind
1
2
3
5
1


12
Large/strong/formidable
6

5
5
1
1

18
Authoritarian/stern


1
11
3
3
2
20
Intelligent/calculating
1

7
1
3


12
Grave/solemn/serious/sad
2
1
5
1



9
Courteous
1
1
1




3
Indifferent/vague/expressionless/absent-minded

1
6
3
1


11
Observant


1


1

2
Calm/gentle


2
3

1

6
Thoughtful/studious/busy


6
4
2

2
14
Old/worn/coarse/ugly
1

1
4
3


9
Brutal/threatening
1


7
4
1
2
15
Patient



1



1
Protector



1



1
Mad/intense



5
3


8
Graceful


3
1



4
Confident


1




1
Understanding



1



1
Sarcastic


3
3
1


7
Total
15
6
46
58
22
7
6




This table examines the occurrences of Character personality and uniqueness (or Individuality) for O’Brien in the novel 1984. Some traits have been merged together for convenience, such as Charming/friendly and Old/ugly. S1 and S2 are the number of scenes: there are seven main scenes.
In general, O’Brien shows a wide range of contrasting traits. For example, his Kind/friendly and Courteous traits are predominant earlier on, whereas his Authoritarian and Brutal/threatening traits are more evident in the mid to later scenes.
In more specific detail, the most important traits are Authoritarian/stern (20), followed by Large/strong/formidable (18); in contrast; the least common traits are Patient, Protector, Confident, and Understanding (one occurrence each). Looking closer at the table, other significantly high traits are Brutal/threatening (15 occurrences) and Thoughtful/studious (14). Moreover, O’Brien’s Intelligent/calculating trait occurs as many times as his Good-natured/charming trait (12). This is slightly higher than his Indifferent/vague trait (11). O’Brien’s Mad/intense trait occurs twice as many times as his Graceful trait (eight and four times respectively). To continue, Individuality occurs only in the first four scenes and not in any later scene, but it is still predominant when it does happen, occurring twice in scenes one and four. It is also interesting to note that no trait is consistent throughout every scene. This highlights O’Brien’s complexity. The most consistent are Friendly, Authoritarian, Indifference, and Brutality, which all occur in five out of seven scenes. 






The two bar charts display Static and Dynamic features used for analyzing the character of O’Brien in 1984 (Orwell, published in 1949). The y-axis shows the number of features and the x-axis shows the number of main scenes that O’Brien appears in. There are seven main scenes. The numbers at the top of each column show the number of features for that scene.
Overall, Static features are significant in the first four scenes (except S2), but are less prevalent in the later scenes, whereas Dynamic features dominant the middle scenes and are still important in the final scenes, although they are insignificant in the earlier scenes.
This means the writer relies heavily on Static features like physical appearance, body, face, posture, manners and so on to highlight character traits at the beginning of the novel, but relies on more active, Dynamic traits like action, walking (or gait), eye movement, observation (or sight), speech, facial expressions, hand gestures and thought from the middle to late scenes.
Looking closer at the Static features, there are ten Static features in the first scene alone, double the total number of Static features in the last three scenes (five). In addition, Static features are still prevalent in the middle scenes: S3 with 12 and S4 with 10 respectively. Significantly, there are no Static features in the final scene.
From a closer perspective of the second graph, scene seven has slightly more Dynamic features than scene six (seven and six in that order), and the total for these last two scenes is more than three times the total for the first two scenes (13 and four alternatively). Moreover, scene one has the least number of Dynamic features (one), followed by scene two (with three).

  

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