Title: Animal Farm
Author: George Orwell
Published: April 1996 (first published 1945)
Publisher: Signet Classics Printing
Bookshelves: Classics, Historical Fiction, Fable
Read: September 10 - October 4, 2012
What can I say?
Originally submitted as a paper for Political Thought in October 4, 2012.
The Animal Farm written by George Orwell (1977) revolves mainly on the struggle of the Manor Farm animals against human aggression and the totalitarian rule that the animals experienced after the revolution. An old boar named Old Major inspires the animals to hold a revolution against the tyrannical human beings. He claims that the human beings simply exploit their resources and energy. They steal the fruits of their labor and give the animals little or even nothing in return. He calls them to stand up and stop the ruthless and unjust rule of the humans. After Old Major dies, the animals did not expect the revolution to take place so early. They overthrow the humans and have the Manor Farm—which they change into Animal Farm—to themselves. Two pigs, Snowball and Napoleon, harmonize and adapt Old Major’s teaching into the Principles of Animalism. There they create the Seven Commandments, which state that those with two legs are enemies and those with more legs are friends, no one should wear clothes, sleep in a bed, drink alcohol, kill another animal, and finally, all animals are equals. Napoleon is not good to begin with so he casts Snowball out of the Animal Farm, discredits his good intentions, and speaks ill about him. Eventually, the freedom and the prosperous living that the animals achieved are subtly suppressed by Napoleon until he only deceives them about their true social and political condition. The animals work harder and receive less food than before, but Squealer the spokesperson of Napoleon deceives them that they actually are more prosperous. This continues for years until the animals are mere slaves of their own kind, but the pigs live more prosperous than ever. In the end, the animals can no longer distinguish the pigs from the humans. They can no longer see which is which.
The Animal Farm is both an allegory and fable that is rooted upon the historical events of the Russian Revolution and Soviet Communism, where Orwell expresses his strongest opposition against communism. Each character in Animal Farm symbolizes a particular historical character: Old Major, Napoleon, Snowball, Squealer, Benjamin, and Boxer to name a few.
Old Major represents Karl Marx and his philosophy about social classes. Karl Marx believes that history is the history of class struggle. He points out two social classes: the working class and the owner class. He says that the working class toil to produce the desired goods while the owner class do nothing but enjoys the fruits of the working class’ labors. Inequality then arises from the divisions of the social class. Hence, Marx points out that social class must be abolished and it can be achieved through a revolution (Thomas as cited in Boucher & Kelly, 2010). Napoleon represents no less than Joseph Stalin himself. The totalitarian rule of Napoleon, his use of the menacing guard dogs, and the unjust killings and workload that he imposes upon the animals reflect Stalin’s rule. On the other hand, Snowball symbolizes Leon Trotsky, who was Stalin’s political rival whom he banished and killed. Snowball represents Trotsky’s belief of the possibility of a utopia. Next is Squealer, who deliberately deceives his fellow animals into believing that their condition is better because of Napoleon’s leadership. Squealer represents the Russian press Pravda, which spreads news that are contrary to the truth. Benjamin is another interesting character because he knows the ill-doings of Napoleon and the pigs and yet, he does nothing. Benjamin represents the group of people that were aware of Stalin’s injustice and yet, remain cynical and uninvolved. Boxer is like Benjamin. Although he lacks knowledge about the truth, he has the skills and ability to overthrow Napoleon and fight the dogs, but still he follows and reveres Napoleon. Boxer symbolizes the working class who blindly follows Stalin’s orders in the belief that he will protect him because of their hard work.
Animal Farm touches upon a number of themes. Among these are class struggle, politics, language, human rights, and equality. He illustrates how class struggle creates inequality among the members of the society. In Animal Farm, Owell shows this through the division between the pigs and the rest of the animals. The pigs acquire better treatment because they claim that they are intellectuals. They assert that the job of the mind is difficult and thus, they must receive larger and better food supply than the rest. Politics and human rights are linked with each other. Orwell shows that if the form of rule is unjust, the citizens will also be deprived of their natural rights. Through the totalitarian rule of Napoleon, Orwell shows the oppression of its fellow animals. Another important theme in the novel is the power of language. Orwell demonstrates that language can change black to white. It can manipulate the minds of the listeners and distort the truth.