Animal Farm Essay, Research Paper
Books tell stories. Novels tell long stories of fictitious characters. Non-fiction recounts real persons in actual circumstances and situations. George Orwell’s novel, Animal Farm, depicts fictional characters that journey through circumstances and situations that mirror Russian history, namely the Bolshevik Revolution that brought communism from the mind of a disenchanted member of the working class into the realm of politics on the world stage. Specific characters in this novel actually stand for people who really lived, the situations they faced are very comparable to true events in history, and all this eventually led to the corruption of the original tenants of communism and brought about a hellish, restrictive, and totalitarian military state.
Symbolism plays an enormous part in this novel. As was previously stated, certain characters in Animal Farm stand for specific historical figures. Animal Farm is the story of farm animals that rebel against an abusive human owner. After ousting this man, the animals attempt to establish a perfect, classless society based on the political theory of Animalism. Such an attempt is eerily similar to events in Russian history. Key characters in the novel that represent actual people are Snowball, the enthusiastic leader pig who constantly butts heads with Napoleon, his calculating and manipulative arch rival, and Old Major, the elderly boar that reveals his theory of Animalism upon his deathbed. As Howard Bloom clearly states, “Napoleon is Stalin, and Old Major and Snowball are Lenin and Trotsky” (10). Other symbolic characters are the sheep, the dim-witted and gullible herd that represents the trusting and easily fooled masses of society (53). The vicious dogs that Napoleon raises to be his personal enforcers blatantly reveal themselves to be the equivalent of the KGB, or the secret police (Orwell 93). Benjamin the donkey clearly represents the few people always present in a decaying situation that clearly recognize the existence of a problem but are unable to do anything about it. Bloom’s Notes puts it as, “best of all is the donkey [Benjamin] that says little, but is always sure that the more things change, the more things stay the same” (23). Modern Critical Interpretations says that “…in his cynicism, Benjamin would come to see but will be incapable of changing the reality of the situation.” (11). Unfortunately, few share Benjamin’s lack of faith in Animalism. Lastly comes Boxer, the poor, ill-fated horse that literally works himself to death for the farm’s sake. Boxer is a tragic hero, representing the hard working people of communist Russia that did their very best to make life for themselves and others better but were only pawns in the hands of those that controlled them. Boxer, like the Russian people, is loyal to his government. His loyalty is made evident in his commentary throughout the story. Whenever conditions worsen, Boxer says, “I will work harder” (Bloom, Interpretations 116). Whenever anyone doubts the pigs’ leadership, Boxer replies, “Comrade Napoleon is always right” (120). These are some of the symbolic characters that are included in Animal Farm.
The new animal owners of the farm do not always get along with their human neighbors. While the animals try to exist peacefully with human beings, more than once does the situation become violent (Bloom, Interpretations 10). Gradually, “the warring farms and farmers around Manor Farm naturally come to stand for Germany (Fredrick) and the Allies (Pilkington)” (10). Although peaceful relations are finally reached, these transpire at the tale end of the novel (Orwell 128). Although outright war is never brought about, Animal Farm’s situation mirrors that of the Soviet Union towards its global neighbors.
Animal Farm is a satire of sorts. It uses simple farm animals to act as real historical figures and the situations they face parallel Russian history. Modern Critical Interpretations plainly says that, “certain events in the story are said to represent events in history (10). Bloom’s Notes takes a more levitous approach by writing “there is plenty in the USSR to satirize, and Mr. Orwell does it well. The author continues to say, “his latest satire, beautifully written, amusing and, if you don’t take it too seriously, is a fair corrective of much silly worship of the Soviet Union” (23). The satire becomes apparent in the connections between Russia’s actual historic leaders and the ficticious animals of Orwell’s fantasy. Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin are influenced by the writings of Karl Marx, just as Squeeler, Napoleon, and Snowball adopt Old Major’s ideas into animalism (10). The connection between Orwell’s story to events in the history of Russia is plain to be seen (31). The animals rebel against their tyrannical and abusive master just as the Bolsheviks rebelled against the tyrannical and abusive Czarist government of Russia (Orwell 39, Dalziel 114). Bloom’s Notes makes the connection clear by writing, “How deftly the fairy story of the animals who, in anticipation of freedom and plenty, revolt against the tyrannical farmer, turns into a rollicking caricature of the Russian Revolution (Bloom, Notes 23). Orwell’s reason for compiling Animal Farm is clearly visible, and the situations he wrote about in his fantasy novel are no doubt pertinent to actual events.
Old Major envisions a classless society where all animals could exist freely and in harmony with other animals. Unfortunately, his dreams are perverted by manipulative leaders, not unlike the now deceased Karl Marx. The problems that plague Animal Farm do not necessarily stem from the animals that work there. They do their work without question and respect the very ideal of such a place as Animal Farm (Bloom, Reviews 37). The problem’s roots stem from the swine of the farm. From the very beginning of the tale, the pigs control everything. Modern Critical Interpretations addresses this accusation by stating that “the destiny of the revolution is predetermined by the pigs’ knowledge of reading, which resembles man and goes against Old Major’s instructions (Bloom, Interpretations 13). Near the beginning of the story Old Major passes away (Orwell 35). Before this happens, he sets seven definite commandments that govern how animals should interact with each other. They are as follows:
1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
2. Whatever goes upon four legs or has wings is a friend.
3. No animal shall wear clothes.
4. No animal shall sleep in a bed.
5. No animal shall drink alcohol.
6. No animal shall kill another animal.
7. All animals are created equal. (Orwell 43)
In addition to the seven commandments, Old Major tells the other farm animals not to imitate man nor take his habits (31). No, the problem rests not in ideals or workers, but it is the leaders of Animal Farm that corrupt it.
Old Major’s dream of a peaceful farm controlled by animals is dashed by Napoleon and his assistants. Napoleon and those that are close to him conspire on many occasions and eventually succeed in removing all freedom from those who dwell in Animal Farm. One such account is when the pigs begin to alter Old Major’s commandments that are written on the wall of the barn. They start with alcohol (Bloom, Review 103). The pigs then change other commandments. They alter the rule concerning the sleeping of animals in human beds (Orwell 79). They also change the rule about the killing of other animals (Orwell 98). The swine decided to award themselves special food, like designating all milk and apples for their consumption only (43). When Napoleon introduces his attack dogs they “wagged their tails at Napoleon like the dogs used to wag their tails for Mr. Jones” (58). Eventually, the pigs begin to walk on their hind legs (121). Finally, the pigs erase the last of Old Major’s commandments and paint a new, comprehensive commandment in its place (Orwell, 133). Bloom’s Notes sums this up fairly well by saying that, “the very best thing in Mr. Orwell’s story is the picture of the puzzled animals examining the original principals of the revolution, and finding them altered: all animals are equal, said the slogan; to which is added, ‘but some animals are more equal than others’ ” (Bloom, Notes 23). Old Major’s dream is completely dissipated after years of Napoleon’s pulling strings and calculating strategies. His inspired vision is completely corrupted and resembles a perfect, classless society no more than the human-operated farm he wished to rebel against himself.
Orwell penned a true literary work of art with his publication of Animal Farm. Never before or since has anyone written such an instantly respected and loved satire of such a serious recounting of history. Animal Farm is by no means any child’s story to be dismissed as children’s literature. It is in fact a memorable and informative satire of the ethics and inherent problems that undoubtedly occur within any revolution, no matter how noble the original intent of the rebellion is. Animal Farm embraces many distinct characters based on real persons. It features situations that seem to come strait out of a history book. These situations parallel themselves to actual events in Russian history. These characters and events all tell the true life story of how one individual’s idealistic dream of a perfect world can be twisted and perverted into something that no longer resembles its original form and in fact becomes the opposite of what that individual actually wanted. Animal Farm is a fantastic fable that has not lost its purpose with the fall of the Soviet Union. It serves as a reminder to all peoples to ensure that ideals must be protected and society must never accept change without thinking or facing the consequences of their actions, or lack thereof.
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