Animal Farm, written by George Orwell, is better stated as more of a fable than as a novel. Its theme is centered around the basic nature of human being portrayed by animals. Orwell demonstrates the qualities of animals that we as humans share, such as: stupidity, greed, fear, and laziness. In Animal Farm, Orwell uses animals instead of humans to show the reader the way in which power can corrupt. Although, the animals initially rebel against such qualities in humans, they themselves become more and more like the humans they despise. As the animals demonstrate this behavior, we begin to see the correlation between this story and the rise and fall of socialism in the Soviet Union and the dictatorial rule of Joseph Stalin.
Throughout the story, Orwell creates animal characters, especially the pigs, which mimic human behavior with their use of language to influence the other farm animals’ behavior. This influence gives power to the pigs to be able to deceive the animals into doing exactly what they want them to do. The barnyard animals of Manor Farm discuss a revolution against their master, Mr. Jones. Old Major, an aging boar, gives a powerful speech, convincing the animals to overthrow the farmer and rely on themselves to keep the farm running and profitable. The pigs, lead by two of the smartest pigs in the group, Snowball and Napoleon, are able to successfully and execute a plan for the revolution. This is where the story starts to take on the same characteristics of the period of history in the Soviet Union.
The story reflects the Russian Revolution, with Orwell comparing the Manor Farm as being Russia, Mr. Jones as the tzar, the pigs as the elite class of citizens, Snowball as Leon Trotsky, Napoleon as Stalin. The corruption of absolute power becomes the major theme in Animal Farm. All the animals want to create an ideal place where welfare is based on equality of all the barnyard animals. However, this doesn’t take place due to the greed of the pigs. Through their use of trickery and misleading, they are able to manipulate the animals into basic slavery. Along this same theme, Orwell was highlighting a basic principle of human nature that there are those who are willing to be more ruthless, ambitious and able to be in power and just the opposite of those who are willing to give all those things up and let others grab all the power.
Another theme throughout Animal Farm is there are dangers of a naïve working class when language is being abused to gain control of the naïve. When Squealer cried, “Comrades! You do not imagine, I hope, that we pigs are doing this in selfishness and privilege? Milk and apples contain substances absolutely necessary to the well being of a pig. We pigs are brain workers; the organization of the farm totally depends on us” (31). This abuse of language makes the animals believe that the pigs should be given the best of the food in order to do the best job. According to Squealer, mental work is far more exhausting than the physical work the other animals are having to do. This again is showing how Orwell refers back to the time period of the Russian Revolution when Stalin took over Russia and he didn’t want to follow Marx’s ideas, as Napoleon didn’t want to follow the ideas of Animalism. Stalin destroyed any and everything in his path and changed laws to benefit his goal, as Napoleon did throughout the book.
Also, the hens are requested to give six hundred eggs a week to Napoleon. “One Sunday morning Squealer announced that the hens, who had just come to lay again, must surrender their eggs” (55). The hens refused and their food rations were further reduced causing multiple hen to die. Ultimately the hens gave into the request which demonstrated more absolute power among the naivety of the barnyard animals to the pigs. Napoleon sends the sheep out and about to talk about the increased rations from the fake food bins he has filled with sand instead to make them appear full. Orwell seems to feel anger about how unfair the Russian Revolution was and how a naïve society can easily be manipulated in believing anything those in power profess.
After the expulsion of Snowball, who wished to win support through his ideas and articulateness, Napoleon decided to create his own power and government, by ignoring what the real idea of Animalism that Old Major created. He ignores these ideas because he wants a more totalitarian government. He makes himself President when really he is becoming a dictator. “In April, Animal Farm was proclaimed a Republic, and it became necessary to elect a President. There was only one candidate, Napoleon, who was elected unanimously” (80). The workers never saw or enjoyed the fruits of their labor because the capitalists claimed the profit for themselves. Napoleon’s plan represents Stalin’s plan, in Animal Farm, Napoleon has the animals working harder than even Mr. Jones did and they are still starving. Like Stalin, Napoleon conceals this from the outside world with trickery.
In the end, Orwell ultimately tells the reader that absolute power and corruption doesn’t work and provides a very important lesson for all who read it. Too much power brings the worst out in everyone and any amount of power also corrupts. Great or little power corrupts those in a way that only seems natural to the instincts of animals. Although the characters in the novel are animals and could be considered unintelligent, the novel sends the message that humans are no better at exploiting one another with the power of words. “As we starred through the window it was no question now. The animals outside 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” (95).
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