Animal Farm: Animal Satire Essay

A Research Paper
Table Of ContentS
1.2.HIS LIFE 1
2.2.1. DEFINITION 13
Animal Farm as Political Satire
KORKUT, Rydvan
Supervisor: Assoc.Prof. Dr. Joshua M. Bear
This study aims to determine that George Orwell’s Animal Farm is a
political satire which was written to criticise totalitarian
regimes and particularly Stalin’s practices in Russia. In order to
provide background information that would reveal causes led Orwell
to write Animal Farm, Chapter one is devoted to a brief summary of
the progress of author’s life and significant events that had
impact on his political convictions. Chapter one also presents
background information about Animal Farm. Chapter two is devoted
to satire. In this chapter, definition of satire is presented and
some important characteristics of satire are discussed. In chapter
three, the method of this research is described. Under the light
of information presented in the previous chapters, Chapter four
discusses Animal Farm and focuses on the book as a political
satire. The last chapter presents the conclusion of this study.

I would first like to express my sincere thanks to my thesis
supervisor, Assoc.Prof. Dr. Jashua M. Bear for his help and
freedom he gave me in this study. Without his understanding this
thesis would never have been completed.

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I also wish to thank my sister Fidan Korkut for her suggestions in
the planning stage of this study and her endurance during my long
study days at home.

My special thanks go to ?zg?r Ceylan, who constantly granted me
her moral support. She was always there when I needed her.

This chapter introduces general information about George Orwell’s
life. It includes chronological progress of his life and his
political convictions. Furthermore, important events, such as The
Russian Revolution and The Spanish Civil War which had significant
influence on his commitment to write Animal Farm will be
discussed. Lastly, general information about Animal Farm will be

His Life
The British author George Orwell, pen name of Eric Arthur Blair,
was born in Motihari, India, June 25, 1903. His father was an
important British civil servant in India, which was then part of
the British Empire. A few years after Eric was born, he retired on
a low pension and moved back to England. Though their income was
not much enough, the Blair family sent their son away to boarding
school which was an exclusive preparatory school, to prepare him
for Eton Collage. Eric then won a scholarship to Eton Collage.

During his education from the age of eight to eighteen, as he
wrote in his essay about his school experiences titled “Such, Such
Were the Joys,” he experienced many things about the “world where
the prime necessities were money, titled relatives, athleticism,
tailor-made clothes”, inequality, oppression and class
distinctions in the schools of England (In Ball,1984).

After the education at Eton College in England, Eric joined the
Indian Imperial Police in British-Ruled Burma in 1922. There he
witnessed oppression again, but this time he was looking at things
from the top. Having served five years in Burma, he resigned in
1927 and turned back to Europe and lived in Paris for more than a
year. Though he wrote novels and short stories he found nobody to
get them published. He worked as a tutor and even as a dishwasher
in Paris. During his poor days in Paris, he once more experienced
the problems of the oppressed, the helpless and lower class

In 1933, After having many experiences about the life at the
bottom of society, he wrote Down and Out in Paris and London and
published it under his pen name “George Orwell.” After a year in
1934 he published his novel Burmese Days, which he reflected his
experiences there. Then, he published A Clergyman’s Daughter in
1935, and Keep the Aspidistra Flying in 1936.

In 1936, his publisher wanted Orwell to go to the English coal-
mining country and write about it which was another important
experience in his life. He wrote The Road to Wigan Pier to reflect
what he saw there, the real poverty of people of the Lancashire
Town of Wigan, and published it in 1937 (Ball, 1984).

1937 was the year that Orwell who for some time had been
describing himself as “pro-socialist” (BALL, 1984) joined the
Republican forces in the Spanish Civil War. When the Communists
attempted to eliminate their allies on the far left, he fought
against them and was wounded in the fighting, later was forced to
flee for his life. His experience in this war was to have the most
significant impact on his political thoughts and his later works.

In 1938, Orwell wrote Homage to Catalonia, which recounts his
experiences fighting for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War.

One of his best-known books reflecting his lifelong distrust of
dictatorial government, whether of the left or right, Animal Farm,
a modern beast-fable attacking Russian Revolution, Stalinism and
totalitarianism, was published in 1945, and Nineteen Eighty-Four,
a dystopian novel setting forth his fears of an intrusively
bureaucratised state of the future was published in 1949. His
first fame was brought by these two novels and they were the only
ones which made a profit for him as a writer (Ball,1984).

Orwell died at the early age of forty-seven of a neglected lung
ailment in London, Jan. 21, 1950.

His Time: Political Background
In his essay “Why I Write”, Orwell (1947) says:
I do not think one can assess a writer’s motives without knowing
something of his early development. His subject matter will be
determined by the age he lives in_at least this is true in
tumultuous, revolutionary ages like our own_
Taking Orwell’s his own words into consideration, in order to get
a better understanding of his works and particularly of his
political satire Animal Farm, we should look at his political
convictions, and the historical context which influenced Orwell
and inspired him to write. Very few authors develop essays
explaining the motivation behind their writing. Orwell was of one
them. Therefore in order to understand his motivations, his essay
“Why I Write” would be the most appropriate source to be looked

Orwell was a political writer and according to him he was `forced’
to be a writer by the circumstances under which he has become
aware of his `political loyalties’. His Burma and Paris days
increased his `natural hatred of authority’ and `made him aware of
the existence of the working classes.(Orwell, 1947)
As mentioned above, he described himself as “pro-Socialist.” What
he was longing for was a society in which there would be no class
distinctions, and he named his ideal ideology “democratic
socialism”. He says “every line of serious work that I have
written since 1936 has been directly or indirectly, against
totalitarianism and for democratic socialism ” (Orwell, 1947)
There are two significant events that have great influence on
Orwell’s political thoughts: The Russian revolution that took
place in the second decade of 20th century and The Spanish Civil
War between 1936 and 1939.

The Russian Revolution
Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917 was the first great
revolution which aimed at to overthrow the owners of the means of
production, that is Capitalist Bourgeoisie, and to establish a
state to be ruled by the working class, the Proletariat.

Ideological basis of the revolution was taken from the philosophy
of Karl Marx and Frederick Angels who believed that the history of
the world was the history of a struggle between classes- between
ruling classes and ruled classes (Han?erliodlu, 1976). Marx was
very critical of industrial capitalist society in which there are
many cruel injustices and men are exploited by men. Out of his
analysis of Capitalist system, he attained a vision of ending
these injustices and establishing a society in which there would
be no social classes and everybody would be equal. To him, in
order to achieve this end the only way was a revolution made by
the working class or the Proletariat against the Bourgeoisie.

After revolution working classes would own the means of
production. Marx called the new order that would be set after
revolution “dictatorship of the Proletariat” which eventually
replaced with a classless society (Han?erliodlu, 1976).

In October 1917, V.I. Lenin, led the socialist (Bolshevik)
revolution in Russia. After the revolution was a four-year bloody
civil war. During this war Red Army of the revolution organised
and headed by Leon Trotsky had to fight against both Russians who
were loyal to Czar and foreign troops (The Academic American
Encyclopaedia, 1995).

After Lenin died in 1924, a struggle between Joseph Stalin and
Leon Trotsky started for the leadership of the Communist Party.

Stalin gained priority over Trotsky and; in 1925 Trotsky with
several other members ousted from Politburo (the chief executive
and political committee of the Communist Party); in 1927 Trotsky
and his followers expelled from Party; Stalin took the control.

Later Trotsky was exiled and in 1929 he was deported. In 1940 he
was assassinated. During this period, Stalin always denounced
Trotsky as a traitor (Ball, 1929).

In the following years, Russia witnessed that Stalin started to
take all power only in his hands. In 1930’s, many people were
arrested. After public trials most of the opposing elements were

Stalin has been accused of being a very cruel dictator. However,
Nikita Khrushchev, who ruled USSR between 1958-1964 and who was
very critical of Stalin’s crimes and non-human practices said in
1956 that:
Stalin believed that all his practices was necessary in order to
defend the benefits of labourers. He looked at these practices
from the view point of the benefit of socialism and labourers.

Thus, we cannot define his practices as of a giddy cruel despot.

Here, it is the all tragedy (Han?erliodlu, 1979).

The Spanish Civil War
In 1936, General Francisco Franco led a military coup in Spain,
plunging the country into civil war. Franklin Rosemont in his
article “Spanish revolution of 1936” defines the beginning of the
revolution as follows:
When Franco’s fascist troops invaded Spain in July 1936 with the
purpose of overthrowing the young and unstable Republic, the
Spanish working class responded by making a revolution that went
much further toward realising the classless and stateless ideal of
proletarian socialism than any preceding popular revolt.

Spontaneously and almost overnight, workers seized factories and
other workplaces; land was collectivised; workers’ militias were
formed throughout the country; the church_age-old enemy of all
working-class radicalism and indeed, openly profascist_was
dismantled, and its property confiscated; established political
institutions disintegrated or were taken over by workers’
committees (Rosemont, 1988).

Yet, between 1936 and 1939 the military rising originating in
Morocco, headed by General Francisco Franco, spreads rapidly all
over the country, After a number of bloody battles in which
fortunes changed from one side to the other. Finally, Nationalist
forces occupied the capital, Madrid, on March 28, 1939, and on
April 1, General Franco officially ended the war (The Academic
American Encyclopaedia).

Orwell And The Spanish Civil War
David Ball (1984) points out three experiences in the Spanish
Civil War that were important for Orwell: atmosphere of
Comradeship and respect, what happened to his fellow fighters and
what happened when he returned to England and reported what he had

After spending very poor days in Paris, Orwell went to Spain to
fight for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. When he
arrived Barcelona, he found an elating “atmosphere of Comradeship
and respect”. People were friendly and addressing each other
“comrade”. To Orwell, relations in the militia group he joined
were the same and this made him feel that socialism was in action

But later on, he was disappointed by what happened to his arm
friends who were imprisoned and killed by their own “comrades” who
were of Communist-dominated elements of the Republican government
that they were fighting for. Communists believed that the
communist ideas were betrayed by the militia group that Orwell
belonged to. After he was wounded Orwell went back to England for
remedy and was saved from being killed by his “comrades”.

When he returned England he reported what he witnessed in the war,
but Socialists strongly resisted to understand what he told about
the practices of communists in Spain. The reason was that it was
not the right time to publicise all these things while the war was
going on and this information would harm Republican’s position in
the war. After this bad experience, he started to be more critical
of British socialists and of communism. He wrote in his article
“The Spanish war and other events in 1936-37 turned the scale and
thereafter I knew where I stood.” (Orwell, 1947)
Animal Farm
Through his questioning of his own experiences in Burma and Spain
and communists’ practices in USSR, Orwell began to develop a
rejection of totalitarian systems. He was also denouncing the
acceptance of soviet regime by the left-wing people of other
countries and particularly of England without questioning in
depth. For Michael Shelden, “the idea for the book” which was to
serve Orwell’s desire to “make a forceful attack, in an
imaginative way, on the sustaining myths of Soviet communism had
been in the back of his mind since his return from Spain”
(Shelden, 1991, p. 399). Another author Peter Davison points out
that, besides Orwell’s experience in Spain, Animal Farm
“originated from the incident that suggested its genre: the little
boy driving a huge cart-horse, which could easily overwhelm the
child had realised its own strength.”(Davison, 1996, p.125)
Shortly after he published Animal Farm, Orwell (1947) in his essay
titled “Why I Write” wrote about his goals in writing his book:
Animal Farm was the first book in which I tried, with full
consciousness of what I was doing, to fuse political purpose and
artistic purpose into one whole. I have not written a novel for
seven years, but I hope to write another fairly soon. It is bound
to be a failure, every book is a failure, but I do know with some
clarity what kind of book I want to write.

When Orwell finished his book, no one wanted to publish it. Since,
like his efforts to publicise reality after he returned from
Spain, for many people, and of course for publishers, it was the
very wrong time to attack Soviet myth, particularly when the World
War-II was going on and Russia was Britain’s ally. Consequently
the book was published in Britain on 17 August 1945, after the war
was over, and sold more than 25.000 hard copies in five years.

When it published in the State in 1946, it sold about 590.000 in
four years (Shelden, 1991).

The book was a satire on totalitarian regime of Stalin in Russia.

Many people thought (and still think) that the book reveals
Orwell’s opposition to the ideology that was prevailing in Russia.

As Michael Shelden states, the book “caught the popular
imagination just when the Cold War beginning to make itself felt.

For many years `anti-Communists’ enjoyed it as a propaganda weapon
in that war” (Shelden, 1991, p.404). But this interpretation of
the book was completely opposes to the real intention of the book.

As Roger Fowler reports, in his preface to the Ukrainian edition
of Animal Farm, written in 1947, Orwell writes that his aim with
Animal Farm was not only to attack and to criticise Soviet
Communism, but to attack “Soviet Myth” as received in Britain. To
him, this myth was giving harm to the Socialist movement (Fowler,
1995, p. 163).

Animal Farm might leave a kind of pessimism on readers who have
knowledge of historical background that inspired Orwell to write
it. For instance, one possible pessimistic view that can be
derived from Animal Farm is the impossibility of establishing a
social system in which there would be no inequality between
individuals and there would be no individuals or groups of people
who apt to make use of power just for their benefits. Another
possible pessimistic view of those who rely on socialism or
communism would be that: even socialism, which is claimed to be a
more egalitarian system, would be turned into a dictatorship by
human beings’ desire for power.

Actually, the point that Orwell intended to give emphasis is not
the ideology itself, but the human nature. As Christopher Hollis
(1962) explains, “The lesson of Animal Farm is clearly not merely
the corrupting effect of power when exercised by Communists, but
the corrupting effect of power when exercised by anybody” (In
Yemenici, 1997).

Finally, for a better understanding of Orwell’s intention, it is
the best way to consult Orwell himself. Shelden (1991) quotes
Orwell’s letter he sent to Dwight Macdonald in America in which he
expresses his intentions in writing Animal Farm. The letter
included his arguments against pessimistic view of his book:
Of course I intended it primarily as a satire on the Russian
Revolution. But I did mean it to have a wider application in so
much that I meant that that kind of revolution (violent
conspiratorial revolution, led by unconsciously power-hungry
people) can only lead to a change of masters. I meant the moral to
be that revolutions only effect a radical improvement when the
masses are alert and know how o chuck out their leaders as soon as
the latter have done their job. The turning point of the story was
supposed to be when the pigs kept the milk for themselves
(Kronstad). If the other animals had had the sense to put their
foot down then, it would have been all right … what I was trying
to say was, `You can’t have a revolution unless you make it for
yourself; there is no such thing as a benevolent dictatorship

This chapter is devoted to the information about satire. After the
definition of satire, its significant characteristics, and some
techniques used in satire will be discussed.

What Is Satire?
There are many different ways to reveal one’s perception of life
and its reflection by a person. In art for instance, the
reflection may be revealed in the form of a sculpture, a song or a
picture. Satire is one the ways that the reaction or perception of
life is expressed. Since people look at life from different stand
points, as matter of fact, they naturally perceive it in numerous
ways. As a result of the variety in perception, the way of
revealing the effects or reflections of these perceptions also
shows variety.

Originally, the word “satire” comes from “the Latin word for
medley, satura; the impression that it is to do with the word
“satyr” is a popular delusion” (Abrams, 1986, p.2598). it is a way
of revealing the reaction to what is perceived, with a mixture of
laughter and outrage. In The Quarterly Journal of Contemporary
Satire the description of satire is given as “a work in which
vices, follies, stupidities, abuses, etc. are held up to ridicule
and contempt.” In the preface to The Battle of the Books, Jonathan
Swift, who claimed that satire is therapeutic, describes satire as
“A sort of glass wherein beholders do generally discover
everybody’s face but their own” (In Bozkurt, 1977, p.71).

Bozkurt (1977), offers two fundamental types of satire: Horatian
and Juvenalian satire. These types are named for two Roman poets
Horace and Jevenal, the most differentiated practitioner of them.

As Bozkurt reports, both of them were critical of the Roman
society but while the former was more “gentle, urbane, smiling and
tolerant”, the latter was “severe” and angry. Horatian satire is
purpose is to sort out society through a “gentle and broadly
sympathetic laughter.” On the other hand, Juvelian satire is
“bitter, angry, misanthropic” or cynical. It approaches to its
subject with a degrading and disrespecting manner (Bozkurt, 1977,
p. 68).

Characteristics of Satire
People, in their everyday life, always use satire in order to
respond several events going on in their environs. The main
purpose of using satire is to attack and intensely criticise the
target subject. It also includes aggressiveness toward the subject
being criticised. As a matter of fact, satire should include more
than these in order to be accepted as a satirical work. It must,
for instance, include aesthetic features like different sound and
meaning patterns that can give pleasure to the readers.

Furthermore, the satirist should deal with problematic subjects
that are known by many people. In doing so, the satirist should
abstract the setting of satire from the world. Mostly, this
imaginary world is of non-human beings, as in beast fables like
Animal Farm or, as in Gulliver’s Travels and Alice in Wonderland,
a world that possibly would not exist or in which the real world
is turned upside down. Primary reason for abstraction is to move
readers from the concrete reality, and so, while entertaining them
through a fantastic setting to provide them with a critical
vision. Richard (1976) calls this element of satire “fantasy”. He

The satirist does not paint an objective picture of the evils he
describes, since pure realism would be too oppressive. Instead he
usually offers us a travesty of the situation, which at once
directs our attention to actuality and permits an escape from it.

… It is written for entertainment, but contains sharp and
telling comments on the problems of the world in which we live,
offering `imaginary gardens with real toads in them’.

As mentioned above, people approach problems, subjects etc. in
different ways so do authors. The satirist differs from authors of
other types of literature with regard to its way of dealing with
his subject. In novel or drama, for example, the target subject is
dealt with directly. In the Cherry Orchard, Chekhov deals with
social change in Russia and how people react to it. His characters
are real persons that can be found in the society as they are
described in the play. On the hand, it is impossible to find a
real Napoleon or Lilliputian in a society. Since, they are just
symbols of particular types of people.

In this sense, the satirist use high level of symbolism. One
reason for using symbols might be that it provides the author with
an absolute freedom to attack his targets through their images he
created which seemingly have no relation with the reality. As
Richard (1976) notices, the satirist often aims at “to deflate
false heroes, imposters or charlatans, who claim a respect which
is not their due, the vehicle he chooses for this is usually the
mock-heroic.” Therefore, in order to operate his attack and
mockery towards these so-called heroes who might be leaders of a
country or people of prestigiousness, without any restriction the
satirist uses symbols.

Since the main topic of satire is politics which is throughout the
history considered a dirty business, writing political satire is
very risky, but on the other hand it would be very rewardful. As
remarked before, after he published his two satires, Animal Farm
and Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell was to be one of the greatest
authors of literature, as mentioned above he hardly find a
publisher for Animal Farm, and published it after a year he
finished it.

In order to achieve his end says Richard (1976), the satirist
“must use some of the basic strategies of satire.” He also should
“commit himself boldly to his `impure’ subject, yet retain a
purity of attitude, in his aesthetic disengagement from the
vulgarities and stupidities of the struggle.” Richard (1976)
continues his argument by adding that what distinguishes satire
from other kinds of literature is its approach to the subject.

Therefore its subject-matter forms the most important aspect of
satire. Despite he introduces the cruellest facts of life, the
satirist mean to make people laugh and In order to make people
laugh, he employs some techniques.

Techniques of Satire
The satirist may use different forms of literature in prose or
verse. But for the satirist some particular techniques are
necessary to achieve his aim. Richard (1976) suggests two main
techniques that the satirist use: the first one is reduction and
the other one is invective and irony.

Reduction is the act of decreasing or reducing something. It is
the main means of the satirist to attack his subject. People can
more easily criticise those who they can laugh at. Since, laughter
loosen muscles and is anatomically relaxing. if you laugh at
someone, then your critical mechanism are set free, your criticism
is revealed easily. Through reduction the satirist aims at to make
the reader laugh at his subject. Degrading, says Richard (1976)
may be employed “on the level of plot and will almost he continued
to the level of style and language.” He puts Gulliver’s Travels as
the most outstanding example of reduction. Animal world is
continually used by the satirist for this aim.

Invective is the expression of bitter deep-seated ill will. As it
can be expected the satirist, writing satire, expose himself to
counter-attacks by those who attacked. Richard (1976 )says:
this danger becomes the greater, the more the writer is committed
to invective and abuse. Invective is of course one of his most
useful weapons, and it is an art its own: it requires elegance of
form to set off grossness of content, and learned allusiveness to
set off open insult. But although invective has the sanction of
holy writ, the best satirist use it only occasionally, for shock
effect (p.130).

Irony is one of the figure of speeches. It includes the reverse
meaning of what is said. It is one of the main devices of which
the satirist make use. As Richard (1976) wrote,
“Irony assumes double meaning and double audience one of which is
deceived by the surface meaning of the words, and another that
catches the hidden sense and laughs with the deceiver at the
expense of the deceived. In order to operate irony, the satirist
uses imaginary or fictional characters or events by which s/he
allow the double flow of meaning to be maintained (p.130).

This chapter is concerned with the procedure of the research which
was carried out to collect necessary sources for the study and
method of the study.

Since the subject of this study mainly concerns with George
Orwell’s Animal Farm, first the book was read. After reading the
book, sources about George Orwell’s life and Animal Farm were
cited. When investigating Orwell’s intention in writing the book
and his political convictions, mainly his essays were used as
primary sources. During this period it was found that the Spanish
Revolution was of great influence. Information on the Spanish War
was mainly drawn from secondary sources.

Since the book is strongly related to the Russian Revolution,
Socialism, Communism and Marxism, several sources and Internet
sites were searched for to find out important dates and events in
the Revolution, and to gather basic information about the
principles of above maintained ideologies. In the parts related to
these subjects of the study, again, mostly secondary sources were

Information about Satire is mainly drawn from secondary sources.

Finally, comparison of Animal Farm and the Russian Revolution in
terms of characters, events and some specific elements, mainly
based on the information gathered from primary and secondary

In this chapter, under the light of information given in the
chapter-1 and chapter-2, Animal Farm will be examined. It aims at
to show the elements of satire in Animal Farm, and to compare
characters, events and some elements of Animal Farm and The
Russian Revolution
Elements of Satire In Animal Farm
Orwell, as quoted before, clearly explains that his main purpose
for writing Animal Farm was to write a satire on the Russian
Revolution (In Shelden, 1991, p.399). Through animal satire,
Orwell attacks on the Stalin’s practices in Russia and in wider
scope, on totalitarian regimes. Taking Bozkurt’s (1977)
classification into consideration, Animal Farm would be said to be
a Juvenial satire. Since, it is clearly seen that Orwell bitterly
criticise Russian Communism and Stalin.

Summary of The Plot
One night after Farmer Jones has gone to bed drunk, all the
animals of Manor Farm meet in the barn for a meeting. Old Major,
the prize Middle White boar, wants to tell them about a strange
dream he had. First, he narrate “the nature of life” as he has
come to understand it. Animals, though work very hard


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