The novel Animal Farm, written by Eric Blair under the pseudonym George Orwell, is a novel written as an allegory (a story with a double meaning) on the Russian Revolution. Blair, a passionate believer in justice, freedom and equality, wrote this book as a warning to all of those who hold a powerful political position. The novel is written on several different levels. It is written as a ‘Political satire’, written with a critical attitude with wit and humour for the purpose of mocking or ridiculing the follies of man’s political behaviour and comments.
To be an effective satire, the novel must show that the central ideas to the cause are noble, but man’s nature prevents them from being implemented. Man simply cannot resist the temptation of power. Orwell has fulfilled this criteria very well as the teachings of Old Major on Animalism (based on the teachings of Marx about Communism) were noble but the power the pigs gained led them from one corruption to the other with the pigs growing ever more power-hungry and the tyrannical reign of the chief pig, Napoleon.
Napoleon, who represents the powerful leader, Stalin, is an aggressive animal who gradually increases his personal power and privileges, while simultaneously tightening his control over the other animals. The way that Napoleon is described is in the way that a typical tyrant had been described throughout history. He is illustrated, in chapter 2, as ‘a large, fierce-looking Berkshire boar with a reputation for getting his own way’. This, to a reader’s mind, immediately conjures up images of a ferocious animal with inappropriate ideas. Just as with Stalin and his regime, Napoleon’s corruption was the downfall of the cause of Animalism.
However, Snowball, who represents Trotsky, is put across as a more vivacious animal who is quicker in speech and more attentive than his comrade, Napoleon. Snowball is portrayed as a brilliant speaker and as a sincere and selfless worker for the benefit of all of the animals. The same could be said of his real life person, Trotsky. This could have been what eventually lead to his downfall. Orwell also tried to write the book as a simple story, so that it could be understood within all the community and wasn’t just for the rich upper classes.
He wanted everyone to understand what could happen if man gained power and he used the book as a warning against the one supreme power. The book is also in the style of a fable, in the sense that all of the characters have it’s own personality and human characteristics. The animals think ,meet, act and do every other kind of human activity. But the animals are also used to describe the fallings, follies and foibles of the humans. As a fable, the story is warm, amusing and friendly on the surface. Underneath, there is great meaning, for it becomes a political fable on the story of the Russian Revolution and its betrayal of the people.
It is also a modern animal fable in which the events that occur in an animal utopia are parallel to the post revolutionary development in the Soviet Union. The major theme of the novel is the triumph of evil over good. The animals try to create a utopia, a paradise where all society is equal and there is good everywhere. Unfortunately, the animals that gain control of Animal Farm begin to act in a manner similar to the humans in greed and corruption. Examples of all of this can be seen in an extract of the text starting at the bottom of page 100.
In the extract of the text, Animal Farm is proclaimed a Republic. This in itself is ironic. Who proclaimed the republic? Did the animals of Animal Farm demand it? No, Napoleon declared it a republic and by doing this he used it as an excuse to gain more power but at the same time, trick the other animals into thinking that they had some choice in the way that Animal Farm was run. This situation also happened in the Russian Revolution. Napoleon uses the fact that he is powerful and he exploits the working class or animals.
The evidence from this text suggests the start of the class system, where some animals are better than others. Gullible, loyal, and hardworking, these animals give Orwell a chance to sketch situations of how the better educated animals (pigs and dogs) used that education to put themselves above the other more nai?? ve animals such as the sheep and the ducks. The ‘working class’ had no chance to improve their education so they relied heavily on the decisions and choices of their leader, the more superior and intellectual animals.
Stalin exploited the working class in a way that is unimaginable today: they were treated as dogs were treated. They were worked to the bones and were given nothing for their labours. Animal Farm offers a commentary on the development of the class system and the human tendency to put down other animals if they are slightly slower or do not agree with the more influence animals, even if the rebellion allegedly stood for total equality. The book illustrates how all animals are unified in the face of a common enemy but they become internally diviided when that enemy is eliminated.
When Mr Jones was eliminated, this left a power gap which was quickly filled by the pigs who where seen as the ‘brainworkers’ of the operation. This pigs then used their intelligence to manipulate the society. Then there develops a situation between the ‘brainworkers’ and the common labourers on the farm, just as happened in the Russian Revolution when Stalin eventually became a supreme dictator and the peasants meant nothing to him and he cared nothing for them. Another quote says that ‘it was necessary to elect a President’ This is also heavily ironic.
Why was it necessary to elect a president? For the same reasons it was to proclaim Animal Farm a republic. Napoleon wanted to improve his situation. It was also a chance for Napoleon to see if any of the other slightly more intelligent animals would come and stand up against him. Would anybody defy his rule? This was actually a very good excuse to see if any of the animals were trying to start a rebellion against him. And if they were, he would see to it that that they were put down and the rebellion was squashed.
The election of Napoleon is described to be unanimous. This is, of course, the only outcome possible as Napoleon was the only candidate for the job. This proves that the animals of animal farm have no free will or freedom of speech as they only had one animal to vote for and only one point of view. The book tells of a situation between the pigs and the animals, where the animals are not being given all of the rights which they originally rebelled for. They rebelled for freedom and equality and they have not been given either of these.
Animalism, which is the animal form of as Communism, is about freedom from the tyrannical grip of the human/leader and the freedom to do as they pleased with their lives. This would have included choosing a leader. If the animals are not given these rights then there was no point in fighting for a revolution in the first place. If they could not choose their own leader then they may as well still be under the rule of Jones. The Russian peasants were also not given the luxury of choosing their own leader and after a period of Stalin’s rule, many of them decided that they had been better off under Tsar Nicholas.
Later on in the book the animals arrive at a similar conclusion. Later on it, tells of the contradiction in the way that Napoleon views what has happened to the different animals. The passage starting ‘It now appeared.. ‘ is an example of leader manipulation of the worst possible form. In this passage, Napoleon is deliberately perverting what the animals have seen and what they believe. He is completely changing what happened to suit his own cause. Napoleon had no evidence of what he suggests but he still tries to change the history of the farm.
He is suggesting that the animals are too stupid to see what really happened and that they cannot trust their own eyes so Napoleon must tell them what happened. The animals believe Napoleon because they are nai?? ve and they believe in Boxer’s slogan ‘Napoleon is always right’. One of the book’s most impressive accomplishments is not only the portrayal of the leaders and the tyrants but also the portrayal of the other animals of the farm. The story is told from all of the farm animals’ point of view and the perspective of the animals overall.
The animals are described as gullible, loyal and hardworking and the animals give Orwell a chance to show how influenced and mistreated these animals were. The animals had little or no education but they worked so hard for the dream of revolution even though this dream was shattered from the start. There is evidence from this statement that suggests that Napoleon is trying to destroy all evidence of Snowball because he doesn’t want the other animals to think that life was better with Snowball around which it certainly was.
This is exactly the same as the situation with Trotsky and Stalin. The Russian Revolution was really two revolutions, just like the Battle of the Cowshed and the Battle of Windmill. After the initial revolution against the Tsar in 1917, the Bolsheviks (Communists) came to power and the leader became the powerful orator, Lenin with Trotsky and Stalin both prominently placed. In 1924, Lenin died and there was a massive power-struggle between Trotsky and Stalin. Trotsky was eventually exiled from Russia, by Stalin, in 1929, just like Snowball is exiled by Napoleon.
After the exile of Trotsky, life for the Russian peasants rapidly went from bad to worse. One of the predominant differences between Stalin and Trotsky was that Stalin advocated ‘socialism in one country’ and Trotsky believed that it should ‘be spread so that Communism was the predominant power in the world’. It was these differences that lead to the downfall of Trotsky. Stalin was power-hungry and did not care for the welfare of the peasants. The peasants were, eventually, just as hungry and just as poor as they had been under Tsar Nicholas.
Another example of the manipulation of the animals was the statement made by Napoleon that Snowball had, in fact, been ‘fighting openly on Jones’ side. This in itself is a ridiculous statement. If Snowball had been fighting on Jones’ side then why did he go into battle so courageously? This is another example of how leaders (Napoleon and Stalin) change the course of past history to coincide with their own political views and to drum up support of the working class. When Stalin came to power, he re-wrote millions of history books to a history that he agreed with.
Orwell shows this magnificently in his book. There are several occasions where the animals’ minds are changed because of things that Napoleon has said or decreed. Although Orwell believed strongly in socialist ideals, he felt that the Soviet Union grasped these ideas in a terribly perverse form. In Animal Farm, he doesn’t so much as condemn tyranny or the idea of leadership, he just looks at the hypocrisy of the different leaders and shows the great irony between the initial ideologies of liberation and equality to the distorted form of this dream that they are now living in.
The gradual disintegration of the Seven Commandments illustrate this hypocrisy with vivid force, as do Squealer’s elaborate philosophical justification for the pigs’ blatantly unprincipled actions. The last statement of irony in this passage is the sentence ‘which a few of them still remembered to have seen’ This statement is talking about Snowball’s actions in the Battle of the Cowshed and what he did during the battle.
This is Napoleon ridiculing the fact that most of the animals are not as intelligent as he so he is changing the way that they see the world and the way that they see the revolution. Napoleon wants his children to grow up with the idea that he is a hero and with the failing memories of the older animals, he tries to change what really happened to a version that makes him look like a conqueror and someone for his children to look up to.
Napoleon has confused the animals so much that they don’t know who to trust and they find that they can’t even trust themselves. Stalin also did this to his people in Russia. He told them so many different stories that the peasants did not know what to believe and many of them became thoroughly confused over the situation. The book Animal Farm is a book which tell us of the power-hungry nature of man and how man is always wanting more.
The novel tells us of the segregation, discrimination and intimidation of the animals and the leaders and the growing problem of some animals thinking that they are better than others. It tell us of a hierarchy where the people at the top are better, in every single way, to the animals below them. Orwell’s novel is a brilliant example of how man is always led away from the true and noble causes of equality and liberation and it tells of the true irony and hypocrisy of the leaders. This book is a warning to everyone: power is only great if used wisely and for the right causes.