LITERARY ESSAY : Animal Farm – George Orwell TOPIC : Animal Farm does not represent a very optimistic view of human life. Typical weaknesses and faults (displayed by the animals) are emphasized. Discuss exactly how George Orwell achieves this end. Animal Farm is a satire of totalitarian governments in their many guises, however this book was composed for a more specific purpose: to serve as a cautionary tale about Stalinism. The allegorical characters of the novel represent specific historical figures and different factions of Imperial Russian and Soviet society.
These include Karl Marx (Old Major), Vladimir Lenin (Old Major), Leon Trotsky (Snowball), Joseph Stalin (Napoleon), Adolf Hitler (Frederick), the Allies (Pilkington), the peasants (Boxer and Clover), the elite (Molly) and the church (Moses). From the very beginning of the novel we become aware of the role of education in stratifying Animal Farm’s population. Following Old Major’s death, the pigs, who represent the Bolsheviks, are the ones that take on the task of organising and mobilising the other animals because they are ‘generally recognised as being the cleverest of the animals’.
At first, the pigs are loyal to their fellow animals and the revolutionary cause. However, it is not long before the intelligence and education of the pigs turn from tools of enlightenment to implements of oppression. The moment the pigs are faced with something material that they want, they abandon their morals and use their superior intellect and knowledge to deceive the other animals. The intelligence and education of the pigs allow them to bring the other animals into submission through the use of propaganda and revisionism. Squealer represents Stalin’s propaganda agency, ‘Pravda’.
Eloquent to a fault, he can make the animals believe almost anything. This fact is especially clear in Squealer’s interactions with Clover and Muriel. Each time Clover suspects that the Seven Commandments have been changed; Squealer manages to convince her that she is wrong. After the executions, Napoleon abolishes the singing of “Beasts of England” in favor of a new anthem, the lyrics of which contain a promise never to harm Animal Farm. In this propagandist manoeuvre, Napoleon replaces the revolutionary spirit of “Beasts of England” with the exact opposite, a promise not to rebel.
In addition to being a source of manipulation, propaganda is an agent of fear and terror. In Animal Farm Orwell criticizes the way that dictators use violence and terror to frighten their populaces into submission. Violence is one of the yokes from which the animals wish to free themselves when they prepare for the Rebellion. Not only does Jones overwork the animals and steal the products of their labor, but he can whip or slaughter them at his discretion. Once the pigs gain control of the animals, they, like Jones, discover how useful violence and terror can be. They use this knowledge to their full advantage.
The foremost example of violence and terror in the novel is the pattern of public execution. Orwell’s allegorical executioners, the dogs that kill cruelly, portray the bloody and inescapably animalistic side of execution. Terror comes also in threats and propaganda. Each time the animals dare to question an aspect of Napoleon’s regime, Squealer threatens them with Jones’s return. The other major example of fear tactics in the novel is the threat of Snowball, who is pegged as a terrorist, responsible for the infringement on the rights and liberties instigated by the pigs.
Exploitation is the issue around which the animals unite. Initially the animals do not realise that Jones is exploiting them. For this reason, Old Major’s speech is a revelation of momentous proportions. Orwell suggests that exploitation is, in fact, bound to happen when one class of society has an advantage over another. Major’s ideas about animal rights symbolise the importance and scarcity of human rights in an oppressive regime. Gaining freedom does not necessarily lead people to also become rich, but it is better to be poor and free than poor and exploited.
Using animals to portray typical weaknesses and faults such as greed, terror, violence, manipulation and exploitation allowed Orwell to criticize humans as bitingly as he wished. He criticized without having to make a direct attack on the Russia of his time. He aroused empathy for those who suffered under tyrannical dictators like Stalin by having defenseless farm animals as victims, and finally he whipped up scorn for dictators by equating them literally with greedy pigs and vicious dogs.
From the evidence presented above, it can clearly be seen that Animal Farm does indeed present a very pessimistic view of human life and this allegorical account should certainly serve as a cautionary note that “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Supreme power corrupts all who possess it, transforming all dictators into ruthless, self-serving, and power-hungry entities that can subsist only by oppressing others. This warning is one that we, as society, should certainly take heed of so that mistakes of the past will not be repeated.