Animal Farm: A Timeless Critique of Power and Corruption
Animal Farm is a novel by George Orwell that was first published in 1945. It is a beast fable that tells the story of a group of farm animals who rebel against their human farmer, hoping to create a society where the animals can be equal, free, and happy. Ultimately, however, the rebellion is betrayed by the pigs who take over the leadership and turn Animal Farm into a dictatorship even more oppressive and heartless than that of their former human masters.
The arguement continues down at Animal Farm
The novel is widely regarded as one of Orwell's finest works and a classic example of political satire. It reflects Orwell's criticism of Stalinism and his disillusionment with communism after witnessing its horrors during his involvement in the Spanish Civil War. Through his allegorical representation of the Russian Revolution and its aftermath, Orwell exposes the corruption, hypocrisy, and brutality that often accompany power and ideology.
But Animal Farm is not only a historical allegory; it is also a timeless warning against totalitarianism and corruption in any form or context. The novel shows how easily noble ideals can be distorted and manipulated by those who seek personal gain or glory at the expense of others. It also shows how people can be deceived or coerced into accepting lies as truth, injustice as justice, and slavery as freedom.
In this article, we will explore how the argument continues down at Animal Farm, both in the novel itself and in its relation to historical and contemporary events. We will examine how the animals' rebellion and its aftermath parallel the Russian Revolution and Stalinism, and how the novel can also be applied to understand some of the current political trends and challenges in the world. We will argue that Animal Farm is still relevant today as a critique of totalitarianism and corruption in politics.
The rebellion and its aftermath
The Seven Commandments
The rebellion on Animal Farm is sparked by Old Major, an old boar who has a dream of a world where animals are free from human oppression. He shares his vision with the other animals and teaches them a revolutionary song called "Beasts of England". He also lays down the principles of Animalism, a philosophy based on the idea that all animals are equal and should work together for their common good.
After Old Major's death, the animals decide to carry out his plan and overthrow Mr. Jones, the farmer who neglects and mistreats them. They succeed in driving him away and take over the farm, renaming it Animal Farm. They also establish their own laws, known as the Seven Commandments of Animalism, which are inscribed on the wall of the barn. These commandments are:
Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
No animal shall wear clothes.
No animal shall sleep in a bed.
No animal shall drink alcohol.
No animal shall kill any other animal.
All animals are equal.
These commandments reflect the ideals of equality, freedom, and justice that the animals aspire to. They also serve as a reminder of their common enemy, the humans, and their common bond, their animal nature. The animals hope that by following these commandments, they will be able to create a society where they can live happily and peacefully.
The power struggle between Napoleon and Snowball
However, soon after the rebellion, a power struggle emerges between two pigs who assume the leadership role: Napoleon and Snowball. They have different visions for the future of Animal Farm and often disagree on various issues. Napoleon is a large, fierce-looking boar who is not a good speaker but has a reputation for getting his own way. He is cunning, ruthless, and ambitious, and he cares more about his own power than about the welfare of the animals. Snowball is a young, lively pig who is a brilliant and eloquent speaker. He is intelligent, creative, and idealistic, and he genuinely wants to improve the conditions on the farm.
One of their main points of contention is the windmill project. Snowball proposes to build a windmill that would provide electricity and make life easier for the animals. He draws elaborate plans and gives persuasive speeches to convince the animals of the benefits of the windmill. Napoleon opposes the idea, arguing that it would take time and resources away from more important tasks, such as producing food. He secretly trains a litter of puppies to become his loyal guards and uses them to chase away Snowball from the farm.
After getting rid of Snowball, Napoleon declares himself as the sole leader of Animal Farm and abolishes the meetings where the animals used to vote on policies. He also announces that the windmill will be built after all, claiming that it was his idea all along. He uses Squealer, a pig who is a skilled propagandist, to spread lies and misinformation among the animals and convince them that Napoleon is always right and that Snowball was a traitor who worked for Mr. Jones. He also uses his dogs to intimidate and silence any dissent or opposition.
The deterioration of living conditions
Life on Animal Farm becomes harder and more miserable for most animals under Napoleon's rule. They have to work longer hours, produce more food, and receive less rations. They also have to endure harsh punishments, such as whippings or executions, for any real or imagined crimes. They are constantly lied to and manipulated by Squealer, who tells them that they are better off than they were under Mr. Jones and that they have more freedom than ever before.
Napoleon exploits, manipulates, and abuses the animals for his own benefit. He takes away their offspring, such as the puppies or the hens' eggs, for his own purposes. He trades with the neighboring farms for goods that he wants, such as alcohol or machinery, while depriving the animals of what they need, such as food or medicine. He makes alliances with the humans and even invites them to visit Animal Farm, breaking one of the original commandments.
He also breaks or changes the Seven Commandments to suit his interests.
The parallels with historical and contemporary events
The Russian Revolution and Stalinism
Animal Farm is widely recognized as a political allegory of the Russian Revolution and its aftermath. Orwell himself stated that he intended the book to be a satire on Stalin and his regime. Many of the events and characters in the novel have clear counterparts in real history.
For example, Old Major represents Karl Marx, the founder of communism, who envisioned a classless society where workers would own the means of production and share the fruits of their labor. Mr. Jones represents Tsar Nicholas II, the last monarch of Russia, who was overthrown by the Bolsheviks in 1917. The rebellion on Animal Farm corresponds to the October Revolution, when the Bolsheviks seized power and established the Soviet Union.
Napoleon and Snowball represent Joseph Stalin and Leon Trotsky, two prominent Bolshevik leaders who had a bitter rivalry over the direction of the Soviet Union. Stalin was a paranoid and ruthless dictator who eliminated his opponents and consolidated his power through terror and propaganda. Trotsky was a charismatic and brilliant intellectual who advocated for world revolution and democracy within the communist party. He was exiled by Stalin in 1929 and later assassinated by his agents in Mexico in 1940.
The windmill project represents the industrialization and modernization of the Soviet Union under Stalin's Five-Year Plans, which aimed to increase production and improve living standards. However, these plans also resulted in widespread famine, forced labor, and mass repression. The animals' hard work on the windmill is rewarded with less food, more suffering, and more lies.
The other animals on the farm represent different segments of Soviet society or other countries involved in the Russian Revolution and its aftermath. For instance, Boxer, the loyal and hardworking horse, represents the proletariat or working class, who blindly followed Stalin and sacrificed themselves for his cause. Benjamin, the cynical and skeptical donkey, represents the intelligentsia or educated class, who were aware of Stalin's crimes but did nothing to stop them. Mollie, the vain and selfish horse who runs away from the farm, represents the bourgeoisie or upper class, who preferred their comfortable life under capitalism. The sheep, who mindlessly repeat whatever slogan they are taught, represent the masses or common people, who were easily manipulated by propaganda. The dogs, who serve as Napoleon's bodyguards and enforcers, represent the secret police or NKVD (later KGB), who carried out Stalin's purges and terror campaigns. The neighboring farmers, such as Mr. Pilkington of Foxwood and Mr. Frederick of Pinchfield, represent Britain and Germany respectively, who had complex and changing relations with the Soviet Union.
By using these allegorical devices, Orwell criticizes Stalin's dictatorship and its atrocities. He shows how Stalin betrayed the ideals of the revolution and turned it into a nightmare of oppression and violence. He also exposes how Stalin distorted history and reality to suit his interests and justify his actions.
The rise of authoritarianism and populism in the 21st century
Animal Farm is not only relevant to understand the past; it is also useful to analyze some of the current political trends and challenges in the world. The novel can be applied to various cases where authoritarianism and populism have emerged or increased in recent years.
Authoritarianism is a form of government that limits or denies political freedom and civil rights to its citizens. It often relies on a strong leader who exercises absolute power over all aspects of society. Populism is a political movement or style that appeals to popular emotions and sentiments rather than rational arguments or policies. It often claims to represent the interests of "the people" against "the elites" or "the enemies".
Some examples of leaders or movements that use similar tactics as Napoleon to gain or maintain power are:
Vladimir Putin in Russia: He has been ruling Russia since 1999 as either president or prime minister. He has suppressed dissent, controlled media, manipulated elections, expanded his influence abroad, and cultivated a cult of personality.
Hugo Chávez in Venezuela: He was president of Venezuela from 1999 until his death in 2013. He implemented a socialist agenda that nationalized key industries, redistributed wealth, and opposed US intervention. He also undermined democratic institutions, silenced critics, and polarized society.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey: He has been president of Turkey since 2014 and prime minister before that. He has pursued a conservative and nationalist agenda that eroded secularism, human rights, and rule of law. He also cracked down on protests, purged opponents, and attacked minorities.
Donald Trump in the United States: He was president of the United States from 2017 to 2021. He promoted a populist and protectionist agenda that appealed to his base of supporters, especially white working-class voters. He also attacked the media, the judiciary, the intelligence community, and other institutions that challenged his authority or legitimacy.
These are just some of the many examples that illustrate how Animal Farm can be used to understand the rise of authoritarianism and populism in the 21st century. The novel shows how leaders can exploit people's fears, frustrations, and grievances to gain their support and loyalty. It also shows how leaders can use propaganda, censorship, scapegoating, and violence to manipulate public opinion and silence opposition. It warns us of the dangers of losing our critical thinking and our democratic values in the face of tyranny and oppression.
In conclusion, Animal Farm is a novel that continues to argue down at Animal Farm, both in the novel itself and in its relation to historical and contemporary events. The novel depicts the rebellion of the animals against their human oppressor and the subsequent betrayal of the revolution by the pigs who take over the leadership. The novel allegorizes the Russian Revolution and Stalinism, as well as other cases of totalitarianism and corruption in politics. The novel is still relevant today as a critique of authoritarianism and populism in the 21st century.
Animal Farm is a timeless masterpiece of political satire that exposes the dark side of power and ideology. It teaches us valuable lessons about democracy and human rights, as well as about ourselves and our society. It challenges us to question authority, to resist propaganda, to defend freedom, and to uphold equality. It reminds us that all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.
What is the main theme of Animal Farm?
The main theme of Animal Farm is the corruption of power and ideology. The novel shows how power can corrupt those who wield it and how ideology can justify any action or outcome.
Who is the hero of Animal Farm?
There is no clear hero of Animal Farm, as most characters are either corrupted or victimized by the system. However, some possible candidates are Snowball, who tries to improve the farm but is driven out by Napoleon; Boxer, who works hard for the farm but is betrayed by Napoleon; or Benjamin, who sees through Napoleon's lies but does not act against him.
What is the moral of Animal Farm?
The moral of Animal Farm is that people should be vigilant and critical of their leaders and their policies, and that they should not blindly follow or accept what they are told. The moral also implies that people should value their freedom and equality and not let them be taken away by anyone.
What is the significance of the title Animal Farm?
The title Animal Farm refers to both the name of the farm where the story takes place and the type of society that the animals create after their rebellion. The title suggests that the farm belongs to the animals and that they are free from human domination. However, it also implies that the animals are still subject to natural laws and instincts, such as hunger, fear, or violence.
What is Orwell's message in Animal Farm?
Orwell's message in Animal Farm is that people should be aware of the dangers of totalitarianism and corruption in politics. He warns that revolutions can be hijacked by those who seek personal gain or glory at the expense of others. He also warns that people can be deceived or coerced into accepting lies as truth, injustice as justice, and slavery as freedom.