George Orwell (1903-1950) was a British writer who lived in the first half of 20th century and believed in socialist ideology. Orwell was later disappointed of the transformation of Soviet socialism into an authoritarian and oppressive system. George Orwell was a very successful writer who wrote in many different genres; but his satirical novels Animal Farm and 1984, his two main chef d’oeuvres making criticism of Soviet version of socialism and authoritarian regimes in general, became masterpieces of 20th century literature and even leading materials for anti-communist propaganda. This assignment aims to make a detailed analysis of Orwell’s Animal Farm novel as a political satire. In order to analyze his famous novel, Orwell’s life and conditions of his period will be explained briefly. Then, we will focus on the summary and detailed analysis of the novel.
George Orwell was born as Eric Arthur Blair in 1903 in India. His father was a civil servant of British government working in India. Orwell’s India adventure lasted very short and he moved to England with his mother and sister in 1907. He was a writer from birth and he began to write at very early ages. During his years at college, he appeared to be “a rebel and intellectual” (Trilling, 1952: 36). After his failure to win a university scholarship in England, he went to Burma to work as a member of Indian Imperial Police. He observed the working and consequences of imperial system personally. He never liked this imperial job and soon returned to Europe. He worked in low-paid jobs and lived in difficult conditions. In 1928, he decided to become a professional writer. He published Down and Out In Paris and London and Burmese Days. In Burmese Days, he criticized British imperialism severely by using his observations in Burma. At those years, Orwell became a defender of socialism. He wrote Keep the Aspidistra Flying in order to criticize spoiled and interest-based relationships that are inevitable in a commercial society and capitalist regime. Orwell also went to Spain during the Spanish Civil War as a reporter. During the war, as a true socialist, he took the side of the United Workers Marxist Party militia and fought alongside with the communists, but was mortally wounded. He saw the ugly face of communism during the Spanish Civil War when USSR refused to help Spanish communists and Spanish communists from different factions (Stalinists versus Trotskyites) fought with each other. He wrote a book called Homage to Catalonia expressing his disillusionment with communism during his years in Spain. Gradually, Orwell began to lose his faith in Soviet socialism and prefer democratic socialist views defended by Labour Party in Britain. In the 1940s, during the Second World War, Orwell first tried to fight for his country against Nazi Germany, but due to his poor health, he started to work as reporter for BBC (British Boarding Company). He left BBC late in 1943 and focused on his new projects. He finished and published his masterpieces Animal Farm and 1984 at those years and also wrote in Tribune, a socialist newspaper in England. Orwell died from tuberculosis on 21 January 1950.
George Orwell, like many of his contemporaries, lived in the bloodiest, most cruel and complicated period of human history; that is the first part of 20th century. Orwell witnessed the peak and negative aspects of imperialism and later its decline, two world wars and Nazi madness in Germany, a vicious civil war in Spain, a hopeful but also bloody revolution losing its innocence day by day in Russia, the emergence of two new super-powers USA and USSR following the Second World War and increasing tensions between different social segments and classes of European societies. After the Second World War, the rise of socialism gained enormous speed and socialist movements took the support of many European intellectuals. Hatred towards Fascism and Nazism after the war also played a big role in the rapid rise of socialist thought. Orwell also was a supporter of socialism, a true believer who even fought in the Spanish Civil War. However, Orwell saw the unwillingness of Stalin to help Spanish communists, his methods used to suppress the opposition and his nonaggression pact with Hitler. He totally lost his hope for USSR and unlike many of his contemporaries making the imitation of “sun” for “Comrade Stalin”, he criticized the totalitarian aspects of Stalinism. 1984 and especially Animal Farm are clear political satires of Stalinism showing mistakes made by the USSR under the total control of Joseph Stalin. In the preface of Ukrainian edition of Animal Farm, he wrote “Nothing has contributed so much to the corruption of the original idea of Socialism as the belief that Russia is a socialist country and the very act of its rulers must be excused, if not imitated” (“Satire And The Novel”: 78). Orwell hated imperialism and observed its effects directly when he was in Burma. He never lost his passion for fighting against injustices and inequalities, but chose the way of democratic socialism instead of Stalinism. His anti-Stalinist thoughts were used for anti-communist propaganda by European states and USA, thus, Orwell was often accused of being a British spy. However, he never accepted these accusations and claimed that the establishment of a collectivist system avoiding oligarchy was still possible. Orwell loved Trotsky and the idea of “international communism” (exporting revolution), but he was disappointed of his failure against Stalin and the idea of “socialism in one country”. George Orwell was a real bold and foresighted person who estimated and expressed many things decades before other intellectuals. He defended socialism in Britain when the majority of British people were still defending imperialism. In the 1940s, when majority of people began to gain sympathy for USSR and Stalin, he criticized the hypocrisy and opportunism of Stalinism boldly. His anti-Stalinist ideas were no doubt used by capitalist states as anti-communist propaganda, but this does not show that Orwell was not a socialist. Orwell always wrote for giving a message, for criticizing something disadvantageous for the society. In “Why I Write”, in 1946, he wrote “I write because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing” (Woodcock: 121). Orwell wrote for the society with specific political ideas and ideals.
Animal Farm, which is often accepted as Orwell’s best work, is a political satire written in the form of a fairy tale. Satire is a method used by many writers starting from ancient Menippeans to criticize political events sarcastically (“Satire And The Novel”: 4). Jonathan Swift’s Travels of Gulliver or Rabelais’ Gargantua and Pantagruel are great examples of political satire written before Animal Farm. Affected by another political satire, Ignazio Silone’s Fox work, Orwell narrated the Bolshevik Revolution and the rise of Stalin in the form of fable. Richard Rorty wrote that, in Animal Farm, “Orwell attacks the incredibly complex and sophisticated character of leftist political discussion by retelling the political history of this century entirely in terms suitable for children” (Ingle, 1998: 235). Animal Farm is the story of the rebellion of animals living in the Manor Farm, which is owned by drunkard Mr. Jones who behaves animals terribly. Old Major, a pig who is considered as the wisest and most respected animal on the farm, one night convenes all the animals to the barn. He tells other animals about his miraculous dream, his death coming soon and his ideas about their miserable situation in the farm. He blames human beings to force animals to work like slaves, to steal products of animals without producing anything. He teaches all animals a march called “Beasts of England” and makes an enthusiastic speech encouraging other animals to demolish human tyranny by making a revolution. Old Major dies few days later, but his revolutionary ideas and spirit continue to spread out among animals in the Manor Farm. Two of the pigs, Snowball and Napoleon emerge as the leaders of animals and they begin to prepare plans for making a revolution. Another pig called Squealer appears as the orator making vigorous speeches about revolution. Napoleon and Snowball determine principles of “Animalism” ideology and Squealer announces them to all animals. All animals try to understand and learn these principles except sheeps who only memorize sentences and always repeat them. Napoleon and Snowball make necessary preparations but revolution comes out of a sudden, earlier than expected, a night when Mr. Jones is too drunk to feed animals and lock doors of shed. Suddenly, all animals attack Mr. Jones and his men with vengeance and they drive them away from Manor Farm.
Revolution is successfully made by animals and the name of the farm is changed into Animal Farm. Two leaders Napoleon and Snowball prepare Seven Commandments, simplified principles of Animalism. Seven Commandments are written on a wall with big letters. However, soon, pigs, which are accepted as most intelligent animal kind and governors of Animal Farm, begin to favor themselves. In addition, problems appear between two pig leaders Snowball and Napoleon. Snowball seems much more dynamic, intelligent than Napoleon, but Napoleon knows how to acquire power. Napoleon takes the puppies of Jessie and Bluebell and nobody protests this. Animalist regime begins very positively; all animals begin to work less and eat more, at the same time they enjoy the animal pride and the feeling of self-governance. They make a flag for their farm and every Sunday they organize festivals to celebrate their glorious revolution. Snowball initiates an education program which gains great success but some animals like the strong horse Boxer could not even learn the alphabet. However, Boxer works more than anyone else on the farm and always says “I will work harder”. “Four legs good, two legs bad” becomes the slogan of Animal Farm always repeated by sheeps. Other farms in England owned by Mr. Pilkington and Mr. Frederick soon learn what happened in Manor Farm and they are afraid of the same kind of a revolution in their farms. Mr. Jones takes the support of Frederick and Pilkington and attacks to Animal Farm. However, animals successfully defend themselves at the Battle of the Cowshed. Snowball is awarded because of his bravery in the war.
After the war, the leadership struggle between Napoleon and Snowball increases. Snowball puts forward the project of a windmill that will allow all animals to work less and produce more. However, Napoleon strongly rejects this idea. Snowball also wants to export their revolution to other farms whereas Napoleon claims that they should defend their farm primarily. When the project of the windmill will be put into vote, Napoleon gives a signal and all of a sudden wild dogs appear and attack on Snowball. Snowball hardly escapes from dogs but nobody sees him around the farm anymore. However, Napoleon often accuses Snowball for making nocturnal visits to Animal Farm. Napoleon with the help of these dogs that he took when they were babies, acquires the leadership of Animal Farm. Although many of the animals become sad of what happened to Snowball, they continue to believe in Napoleon. Boxer continues to say “I will work harder”, but he also begins to say “Comrade Napoleon is always right”. Napoleon soon blames Snowball for being a traitor and gradually he tries to change the past and Seven Commandments. He decides to implement Snowball’s windmill project and convinces all animals that in reality this was his idea. He forces all animals to work like slaves in order to finish the windmill. However, the windmill collapses when Animal Farm is attacked by Frederick’s men. Although they lose the windmill, they are able to defeat Frederick’s men at the Battle of Windmill. Napoleon engages in politics and communicates with the outside world with the help of his man Mr. Whymper. He starts the windmill project again and forces all animals to work harder and harder. He also kills some animals by accusing them for supporting Snowball.
Pigs and dogs respectively become the dominant groups of Animal Farm. Napoleon rules the farm like a dictator, he changes all commandments and Squealer convinces other animals in the rightness of Napoleon’s policies. They finally change the commandment “All animals are equal” into “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal”. Life standards become even worse than Mr. Jones’ period and all animals lose their enthusiasm of the revolution. Pigs begin to act, dress and live like human beings. Napoleon changes the name of the farm into Manor Farm again. At the end, it becomes very difficult for other animals to separate pigs from humans when they sit together, drink whiskey and play cards.
Analysis of Animal Farm
It is very clear that Animal Farm is written for satirizing the degeneration of Bolshevik Revolution under the rule of Stalin. By using his imagination, Orwell created a brilliant satire in the form of a fable. Orwell was very successful; because he achieved to create a meaningful whole by finding always appropriate similes. All the characters, events in the fairy tale are meaningful and Orwell’s genius lies in his success of creating a perfect “satiric balance”. “If the animals are mere animals, the novel becomes a treatise or sermon. The art of the novelist lies in the selection of details, which will enable him to maintain what Greenblatt calls satiric balance” (“Satire And The Novel”: 80). Old Major represents both Lenin and Marx as founders of the Marxist theory and early leaders of the struggle. Old Major’s enthusiastic speech at the beginning of the novel reminds us some lines from Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto. “Man is the only creature that consumes without producing” (Orwell, 1951: 4), “Why, work night and day, body and soul, for the overthrow of the human race! This is my message to you, comrades: Rebellion!” (Orwell, 1951: 5) lines are very similar to Marx’s some sentences like “Let the ruling classes tremble at a communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win” in the Communist Manifesto. In that respect, The Old Major represents both Marx and Lenin as the ideologues of Animalism and the first leader of the rebellion. The song Beasts of England and its frequent usage in ceremonies remind us famous socialist marchs like Internationale. As Orwell very clearly showed, Napoleon represents Stalin whereas Snowball symbolizes Trotsky. Orwell, by giving characteristics of Stalin and Trotsky to these imaginary protagonists, made very easy for us to follow the novel. Like Trotsky, Snowball is a perfect orator, a war hero and the defender of exporting revolution idea. Similarly, Napoleon has Stalin’s characteristics such as acquiring power, suppressing the opposition by coercion, defending socialism in one country ideology and becoming a bloody dictator. Also, problems between Stalin and Trotsky, which resulted in the murder of Trotsky in Mexico by a KGB agent are reflected in the story. Mr. Jones represents capitalism and Tsarist regime as the ex-hegemon of the farm. Moses, the raven who always tells stories about a place called Sugar Candy Mountain, represents the religion and the Orthodox Church. After the revolution, nobody dares to listen his stories about this unknown place to where he says all animals will go after death. Boxer represents the honest, faithful, devoted proletariat class of USSR. Boxer always works harder and harder and believes in animalism and the rightness of comrade Napoleon. However, one day he gets weak because of his non-stop labor and Napoleon sells him to a slaughterhouse to earn money. Mollie, the spoilt horse who wears a ribbon and always wants to be caressed by humans, represents Russian aristocracy and bourgeoisie. Like the disappearance of Russian bourgeoisie after Bolshevik Revolution, Mollie escapes from the farm and does not come back. We can further discuss the role of sheeps. Sheeps are probably used to symbolize uneducated and indoctrinated Russian people who were not able to interrogate the regime in their country and defended Stalin’s dictatorship. The role of old donkey Benjamin is to represent the ex-generations of Russian people who suffered a lot in Tsarist regime and was not that enthusiastic after the revolution. Benjamin always speaks with pessimism and does not care too much of what happens in the farm. Orwell’s use of Mr. Pilkington and Mr. Frederick is also meaningful in the novel. Mr. Pilkington is an old-fashioned, capitalist exploiter like Winston Churchill of England whereas Mr. Frederick is a tough, foxy man symbolizing Adolf Hitler and Germany. The Battle of Cowshed is invented by Orwell to represent the Russian Civil War in which Russian forces that were loyal to Tsar took the help of British and French and resisted against the Red Army. The windmill project of Snowball symbolizes Trotsky’s plans for industrialization that later put into action by Stalin. Napoleon’s decision to execute some animals and send Snowball in exile represents Stalin’s “show trials” and purges in the Communist Party. The Battle of the Windmill also represents the Second World War in which Frederick’s men violently attacked to animals, destroyed the windmill and killed some animals (similar to the defense of Stalingrad in the Second World War when USSR was attacked by Hitler’s Nazi Germany). Dogs also constitute an important part in the story. Dogs represent KGB which was used for eliminating opposite voices by Stalin. In the end of the novel, we see that dogs and especially pigs become dominant groups in the farm. Pigs represent the ruling class, the bureaucracy which was guarded by KGB. Pigs’ privileges are used to represent the autonomy of Soviet bureaucracy. Commandments changed by Napoleon are clear examples of the privileges of high-level members of the Communist Party and also the degeneration of the regime by Stalin. The role of Squealer is also important for the novel because it probably represents the state-controlled media of USSR. We see that, Orwell, both in 1984 and Animal Farm, shows us how media and language can be used for brainwashing people and changing the past. His years in BBC also could have affected him to form this opinion. In Animal Farm, Squealer changes the events in the past such as the bravery of Snowball in the Battle of Cowshed transforming into his treason in the war. In 1984 also, by using newspapers and television “The Big Brother” changes the past and manipulates people.
We can further analyze principles of Animalism here for finding similarities with socialism. “Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy” clearly symbolizes the absolute intolerance of socialists towards capitalist or bourgeois class. However, later Napoleon sits together with humans and engages in bargain, commerce. “No animal shall kill any other animal” is like one of the peaceful messages of socialism defending equality and liberty of people. However, later Napoleon changes it into “No animal shall kill any other animal without cause”. The last principle that is changed into “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others” is a brilliant invention of Orwell showing the emergence of new upper class of bureaucrats after 1917 Revolution. This phrase has become a very famous sentence and has been using in politics since the first publication of the book. We can also find sentences showing the cult of personality of Stalin in the novel. “Napoleon was now never spoken of simply Napoleon. He was always referred to in the formal style as our Leader, Comrade Napoleon and the pigs liked to invent for him such titles as Father of All Animals, Terror of Mankind, Protector of Sheepfold, Ducklings’ Friend and the like” (Orwell, 1951: 62). Also, the last scene, in which Napoleon and some other pigs sit together with humans and play cards, symbolizes the meeting between Churchill, Stalin and American president Roosevelt after the Second World War. So, we can say that this meeting represents Yalta Conference (February 1945) in which the new world order and partition were decided by these three leaders. Playing cards may also symbolize the beginning of Cold War and hard bargain between these three sides.
Finally, George Orwell’s Animal Farm is a simple but a great novel that appeals to everyone and shows how influential writing and literature could be if it is done properly. The novel reminds me of Lord Acton’s famous dictum “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely” while criticizing authoritarian regimes brilliantly. The novel also amuses the reader because of Orwell’s magnificent imitations. For example, the idea of exporting revolution by sending messenger pigeons is very original and well-thought. The manipulation of commandments by changing or adding some words is also a great idea. Orwell achieves to attract attention and give his message without boring the reader. His language is very simple, but also elegant. Together with 1984, Animal Farm is one of the greatest works of political satire ever written. These two books are still on the education program of schools in many countries.
Assist. Prof. Dr. Ozan ÖRMECİ
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