Animal Farm, a masterpiece novella by George Orwell was written in 1945. It falls under novella as it is shorter and contains a less complex plot unlike a novel. The crux matter of Animal Farm is about how Czarist Russia evolved into communist Russia after the Russian Revolution in 1917. Orwell used the animal farm as the backdrop representing Russia and the animals that dwelled in the farm as the who’s who in the Russian Revolution. The Animal Farm is an allegory-a narrative that uses literary devices to unveil concealed meanings and messages.
The Oxford Dictionary defines allegory as a story, poem, or picture which can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one. Not only that, Animal farm is also a satire. The same Oxford Dictionary defines a satire as the use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to mock, expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other social issues. Animal farm fits into both these categories aptly.
At the time when the book was published, it wasn’t that popular, did not command a widespread reading because Russia was an ally of the West in their fight against German aggression under Hitler in World War II. In a clear indication of belittling the Russians and its communist leaders, the western world saw it as an act of non-goodwill if they popularized the book in droves.
The author himself was not an anti-communist. In fact George Orwell is said to be a socialist who supported the belief that industries should be under the control of the working class (workers) for the good of everyone, not just benefitting the elites, who controlled these industries. However, he witnessed the corrupt revolution of the communist in Russia, eventually leading to a change of perception.
Orwell was perplexed on how the communist had diverted, departed from their initial noble goals of seeking a classless society. Orwell’s conviction was that he owes the world a warning of how destructive unchecked authority was.
He was adamant to show the other side of communism when it was taken too far without a check and balance and how the leaders of this cause succumbed to worldly pleasures, the same class bound pleasures that they despised on other ideologies; hence the world got to witness the birth of Animal Farm. Orwell had used allegory to the best of effect, to criticize the hypocrisy of communism, especially its overzealous leaders, their actions and their thirst for merciless murders and mass killings to maintain their status quo.
The use of pigs, of all animals, was the acme of this novella. In the thought of a layman, pigs are lazy animals, non-productive and gleefully end as meat in most taste buds. However, Orwell was way ahead of his time. He used pigs as his protagonists and antagonists in Animal Farm for the same reasons of how modern science had revealed quite shockingly though, about these creatures. Scientists want people to think of pigs as more than just meat. Among other talents, pigs are known to have excellent long-term memories and they are skilled at completing mazes and recognizing symbols, just like our close cousins-chimpanzees. They also have empathy and can learn from each other in groups.
Besides that, Orwell had used pigs as an irony, debunking all the myths surrounding these fleshy creatures as lazy but wise, gluttonous but conniving, immobile but strategist who is vivacious in thoughts, plotting and scheming a plan discreetly. Pigs are fleshy, sized animals known for their slobs. Orwell was quick in equating some world leaders especially from the communist ideology states to pigs probably because of the state of hypocrisy that they lived their lives; floating in the wealth produced by the proletariat who for a major part of their miserable lives remained poor and desolate, where else the leaders were fat, ugly and precariously healthy.
The Old Major in Animal Farm was a pig, portrayed as old and wise, experienced and well-respected. Old Major had a dream where ‘all animals are equal’. This was relayed to the animals, who rejoiced in the prospect of relieving themselves from the clutches of the elites – the humans. Orwell used Old Major to represent Karl Marx, the founder of Communism and the Communist Manifesto, which is based on Marxism. The words uttered by Old Major represent Marx’s words on the evils of feudalism and capitalism.
The utterance also accentuated on the idealistic world of communism. Thereby, the Russian Revolution in 1917 was inspired by those who believed big in the doctrines of communism. In Marxist methodology, it originally used economic and sociopolitical inquiry to analyze and critique the development of capitalism and the role of class struggle in systemic economic change.
According to Marxist doctrines, class conflict within capitalism arises due to escalating contradictions between highly productive mechanized and socialized production performed by the proletariat (workers), and private ownership and appropriation of the surplus product in the form of surplus value (profit) by a small minority of private owners called the bourgeoisie. In the Animal Farm, the bourgeoisie were represented by Mr. and Mrs. Jones, the humans who owned the animals, frequently ill-treating them. Mr. and Mrs. Jones can also be equated in direct reference to the last Czar of Russia – Nicholas II and his consort Alexandria who were disliked by the Russians at that time for unnecessarily dragging Russia into World War I. Apparently, the animals exhausted their patience, began to rebel, eventually booting the humans out of the farm and took control of their own destiny.
Besides Old major, another pig character was Snowball. Snowball rose as one of the leaders in Animal Farm. Snowball was depicted as a vivacious and an ingenious character. He was given the task of spreading the attained glory of Animal Farm throughout the neighbourhood. Snowball represents Leon Trotsky – Lenin’s second in command in the Russian Revolution and the leader of the ‘Red Army’ in the subsequent Russian Civil War.
Trotsky also wanted to spread the word about communism to other nations. However, fate had it differently when both Snowball and Trotsky were expunged by ruthless and corrupt individuals who craved for power more than anything else.
Napoleon was another pig character who rose as a leader in the novella. Rather than influencing other animals and working through consensus, he secretly raised nine puppies into ferocious man-eating animals. These nine puppies were his personal army of bodyguards which he used and manipulated to achieve his goals, no matter how treacherous and brutal they were. Napoleon represents Josef Stalin-the General Secretary of the Russian Communist Party from 1922 until his death in 1952.
The nine puppies were an analogy to the KGB – the Communist party’s secret police, known for its ruthlessness. The KGB carried out all of Stalin’s commands religiously without fear or favour.
The false confessions of disloyalty in Animal Farm, and the subsequent executions were modeled at Stalin’s great purge in the 1930s in which anyone who is seen as a counter-revolutionist was killed mercilessly.
Squealer, another character in Animal Farm is a pig who always spread persuasive messages supporting the leader’s goals and objectives. Squealer is an embodiment of hypocrisy and propaganda. He reinvents the rules and history in order to confuse the other animals in the farm. He could also represent Pravda- the communist newspaper in Russia which was the official propaganda mouthpiece of the party in the 1930s. With his wizardry like words and manipulative articulation, Squealer kept the public (the animals) calm and under control with his often misleading and crooked messages and announcements.
Animal Farm serves as a reminder of how humans crave for unlimited power to rule the lives of innocent people through ‘divide and rule’ and ‘manage by fear’ tactics to achieve their personal goals. Along that line, some made it into the history books as either being exemplary or despised. This novella is excellent to be used as a reading resource for middle and high school students.
Students will not only learn the English Language, but also the various literary devices – allegory, satire, irony, metaphor and personification that come with it. The novella contains lots of humour from which the writer mocks the actions of the leader and students will also be able to apply their thoughts out of the box to identify why some individuals had managed to obtain power, how some maintained this power at all cost, how some misused the power entrusted on them for their own personal gains and agenda, how some abused their power using violence and threats, and how some had lost to the people-power insurgencies.
Apart from that, the historical events representing this novella will provide an insight of Communism and Russian history. Marxism subsequently gained support across much of Europe, and under the control of the Bolshevik Party, a communist government seized power during the Russian revolution, leading to the creation of the Soviet Union, the world’s first Marxist state, in the early 20th century.
Source by RG Mohan Rethnaswamy