Following my read of Orwell’s ‘1984’, a truly phenomenal and enlightening novel, I was eager to pursue ‘Animal Farm’. Having heard some rather strange opinions on it and the failure of many to look beyond the surface of talking animals, I was intrigued to form my own opinions and delve deeper into the Orwell’s evident aversion towards totalitarian regimes. “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others” plastered across the blurb of the novel had me immersed from the onset.
‘Animal Farm’ begins with the uprising of Mr Jones’ animals on the previously named “Manor Farm”, later renamed “Animal Farm”, succeeding the animal rebellion. They have hopes for a better life, as presented by Old Major, as the animals hold that “the life of an animal is misery and slavery: that is the plain truth.” Three young pigs develop the Old Major’s principles of animal independence, following his death, thus forming the philosophy of Animalism. Snowball attempts to develop the reading skills of the other, rather naive animals, who are evidently lacking in the capacity for knowledge, compared to the wiser, more cunning pigs, for example cart-horse Boxer, who is focused on two maxims alone: “I will work harder” and “Napoleon is always right” (a doctrine born out of Napoleon’s seemingly dictatorial leadership, evidenced later in the novel). Whereas Napoleon decides to train the new-born puppies. Mr Jones reappears, in attempt to reclaim the farm, however it results in an animal victory, in what is known as “the Battle of the Cowshed”.
As the pigs suggest the construction of a windmill, Napoleon appears to be strongly against the idea, whilst Snowball tries to convince the other animals of its potential benefits to their society. Napoleon feels increasingly threatened by Snowball and declares him a traitor, resulting in his viciously trained puppies running him out of the farm. Napoleon is a character of great fluctuation, or rather lies and deceit. On many occasions his opinion is changed, but he consistently argues that he held such beliefs all along, for example his actual desire for the development of the windmill Napoleon asserts his authority over the remaining farm animals, suggesting that only the pigs are in the position of decision making, Snowball is now the common enemy, Squealer is his loyal propagandist. As a result of the oblivion of the other animals, Napoleon is successfully able to manipulate their every thought. The pigs frequently defy the principles of Animalism, however Squealer continues to rewrite such principles, in order to justify Napoleon’s actions.This, in turn, goes unnoticed by the naive animals of “Animal Farm”, as the vast majority of animals are unable to read, for example Napoleon’s evident display of human activity- sleeping in a bed, drinking alcohol and trading with human farmers.
Additionally, such farmers, namely Mr Frederick, cheat Napoleon and dynamite the completed windmill. Many years into the dictatorship pass, the pigs now wear clothes and walk on their hind legs, clearly embodying the human characteristics of superiority. The disillusionment of the animals is strong, as they “ found it comforting to be reminded that, after all, they were truly their own masters and that the work they did was for their own benefit”, in addition to their indoctrinated belief that “the truest happiness…lay in working hard and living frugally”. The farmer Mr Pilkington meets with the pigs, to agree on their allied forces, as the farm is renamed its previous name “Manor Farm” and the farm underwent a changing of the flag. Furthermore, their Seven Commandments were abolished and replaced with “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others”. As the animals stood watch outside, they “looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again: but already it was impossible to say which was which” (as you all know by now, I’m a big fan of ending lines and this is most-certainly a favourite of mine, leaving a lasting impression on the reader without a doubt).
Orwell’s novel serves as an evident criticism of totalitarian regimes, as emphasised through Napoleon- a symbol of tyranny, dictatorship and hypocrisy. Stalin, is that you? For Orwell, Napoleon represents total corruption and is purposefully named after the French general, who betrayed the principles of democracy- no coincidence there! Personally, I’m no real history buff but research leads me to believe that Snowball, Napoleon’s clear enemy, bears parallels to Leon Trotsky. I’ve had to do my homework on this mind, but Leon Trotsky played a great role in the Bolshevik seizure of power in Russia. However, Trotsky lost his strive for power, at the hand of none other than one of the most renowned, infamous Commies- Joseph Stalin. Is this starting to become a light-bulb moment now? It sure is for me! (Side note: I am by no means a fountain of knowledge, I too have to look into such historical happenings, I should be ashamed of my ignorance of the past… hey well-played Orwell, I’m becoming enlightened). Anyhow, no explaining of the significance of Snowball and Napoleon should be needed here, given that little seed of knowledge. Corruption. Corruption everywhere! Ultimately, Snowball’s downfall is as a result of his pure optimism and unrealistic idealism. The irony lies in Orwell’s depiction of those in power as meagre pigs, connoting filth, idiocy and greed. Yet in the wise words of Socrates, “it’s better to be a human dissatisfied, than a pig satisfied”!
Now Boxer is a character I have seldom mentioned. Boxer is an embodiment of the working class; he undergoes exploitation, he is the most laborious of all of the other farm animals, he is loyal, naive and dedicated. Thanks for depicting the vulnerability and even idiocy of the working class Orwell… Boxer’s death was truly heartbreaking. Who knew I’d cry over a fictional horse being carted away to the glue factory? However, it successfully serves as the ultimate form of betrayal against even the most-dedicated of supporters. Who knew that those in power aren’t often to be trusted, eh?
There are so many characters and themes I wish to further discuss, but alas this review is already running away with itself. Overall, Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ serves as an eye-opening warning against not only the corruption of powerful, authoritative figures, but the dangers that present themselves as a product of Socialist ideals. Ultimately, Orwell attempts to educate the naive, pliable public of their submission to the dominant, overbearing totalitarians.
Comment: Yes, this is a day earlier than I usually post. Just to let you all know, I fly to South Africa on a school trip tomorrow, therefore there will be no blog post next week unfortunately. However, I have posted this post a day early, so not to miss another week. I cannot guarantee that I’ll be able to post the week after I return either because I’ll have to catch up on missed work and my mock examinations are due. I’ll try my best though! Also, sorry if there are mistakes; I haven’t had a chance to proof read.