Animal Farm by George Orwell
The short novel Animal Farm that was published in 1945 is being considered as one of the most enduring writings of George Orwell. In the novel, Orwell utilizes an animal fable to detail a story of a group of animals that unite together to rebel against their human masters creating a utopian state in the farm. A large number of commentators has viewed Orwell’s Animal Farm as a picture that reveals the rise and fall of socialism in the Soviet Union and the beginning of Joseph Stalin’s totalitarianism. Critics have considered Orwell’s story to be relevant and important in the exploration of human nature and social and political systems in the society. The story was banned in Russia and other Soviet-Union countries after it was translated into Russian. In general, Orwell’s work carries a message of revolution not only in the Russian society but across the whole world.
The animals in the Animal Farm represent a certain group of people in the society. As the story evolves from the manner in which the animals organize themselves and decide to overthrow their master from the firm to the battle for the Windmill, it represents the change process in the society. The eviction of Mr. Jones from his own firm and taking over of the firm by the three smart pigs (Squealer, Snowball, and Napoleon) depicts the displacement of one regime by another. Being an allegory, George Orwell used animals to represent people and detail the events that took place in Russia between 1917-1940. In the story Mr. Jones represents Czar Nicholas II. In both the story and in Russia, they both lost control of where they administered power. Mr. Jones controlled the Manor Farm in the Animal Farm whereas Czar was the head of Russia.
Through the events that were taking place in both Manor Farm and Russia, it was evident that new leadership was needed. In Animal Farm three pigs stood up, (Snowball, Squealer, and Napoleon) and in Russia Trotsky, Stalin, and Lenin stood up for this challenge. Orwell chose pigs to represent the Russian leaders since they were considered to be the most intelligent animals in the farm. Since the leaders of the farm were all gone, the animals were in need of a leader who was to lead them in a regime where they were both equal. Among the animals, the pigs were the most intelligent and Snowball and Napoleon received the highest distinction. To demonstrate that power corrupts, the pigs became corrupted and Napoleon was of the opinion that they (pigs) were the only ones to have a say and rule the farm. Napoleon’s opinion was contrary to that of Snowball who thought all animals in the farm should have a say and they should conduct regular meetings to discuss new plans for the farm. Their different opinions lead to constant arguments with each other, this was an indication that Napoleon was really thirsty for power and had plans to eliminate his main opponent (Snowball) immediately after the rebellion. In Russia, Stalin and Trotsky were in constant fights for power; finally Stalin succeeded in eliminating Trotsky by having him expelled from the country. In the Animal Farm, Napoleon organized an attack on Snowball by the dogs which he had raised. Through the attack he eliminated his only and able opponent by having him expelled from the farm giving him the power to control it. After Snowball’s expulsion from the farm, Napoleon cancelled the Sunday meetings by saying that they served no purpose and a wastage of time. From there onwards, all issues in regard to the ways of the farm were to be handled by a special committee that was constituted of pigs only. Napoleon’s special committee of pigs was like Stalin’s Command Economy, which was responsible for making all government economic decisions.
To gain more power, Stalin had to eliminate whoever who stood up to challenge his leadership and keep bodyguards around him to prevent him from any harm plotted by his opponents. He also had secret police whose work was to assassinate his opponent as well as protecting him from any danger. Likewise, Napoleon had his own army of dogs which he had raised. Squealer was Napoleon’s right-hand man and was very persuasive. Orwell says that Squealer, the pig “… could turn water into white.” He was in charge of communicating to other animals on what Napoleon had said and could persuade them into believing that came from their master was always right. In Russia, Lenin played Squealer’s role in the Animal Farm by ensuring that nobody opposed Stalin’s decisions and always convinced them they were right.
There are various lessons that can be learnt from this allegory. The first one is that when absolute power is bestowed to an individual, it is not used to benefit the public but oneself. This allows one to control others and acquire all the luxurious things he or she desires. This can be seen after Napoleon drives Snowball out of the farm and what happens after Trotsky is expelled from Russia. Both Napoleon and Stalin uses this opportunity to benefit themselves. Another incidence is when Squealer convinces other animals when the pigs eat and drink milk is beneficial to all. Here the pigs are misusing the power that is given to them. This lesson is relevant in the real world. When one gains absolute power, the first thing to do is to ensure that he is fully satisfied. From there, their desires becomes many and they start doing things that can harm others in order to get what they want. This can be demonstrated by Napoleon’s actions, when he took the dogs from their owners, he claimed that he was protecting them from humans, but he later trained them to protect him and help him in getting his way.
Absolute power corrupts absolutely, Napoleon and his fellow pigs got corrupted when they took control the farm. In maintaining their supremacy within the farm, they had to change some rules to avoid being accused of breaking the law. This is another lesson that the story teaches. When Napoleon took control of the farm he started to change some rules that favored him (pigs in general) and get his way.
In conclusion, the Animal Farm doubles as a “fairy tale” but a lengthy one. In this story, both good and evil are demonstrated, and it has a good moral lesson to all, “absolute power corrupts absolutely”. However, the only place where the story differs from a fairy tale is that it does not have a happy ending or after and those who stand for the good in the society do not get rewarded. This is an indication that for a revolution to occur in the society, some people have to suffer.
- Orwell, G. (1945). Animal farm. Secker and Warburg, London, UK.
- Williams, R. (Ed.). (1974). George Orwell: A collection of critical essays (Vol. 119). Prentice Hall.