“Animal Farm” by George Orwell – A Novel Review
July 15, 2021
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Many people in the modern world are concerned about the existence of totalitarian regimes in the past of many countries and in some modern states. Totalitarian regime causes significant social, mental, and economic curtailment of freedom. The majority of people living under this regime are oppressed despite the fact that there is a certain layer of the population that has privileges and uses the resources of the country. This problem also worried many historians and writers of the twentieth century because the contemporary events clearly showed how totalitarianism affects the position of people in the society. One of the figures who studied and analyzed the era of totalitarianism in the USSR that began after the Russian revolution is George Orwell. His book Animal Farm analyzes the totalitarian regime through the form of a fairy tale and shows such acute problems of totalitarianism as tyranny, the low position of the working class in the society, the use of religion for propaganda, deception and hypocrisy through promises, and corruption through satire, which proves that this work can be correlated with the revolutionary events on the territory of modern Russia.
George Orwell is a pseudonym of a world-famous British writer Eric Arthur Blair who lived in the 20th century. He used the pseudonym not to hide his identity but to show the observer’s opinion on the challenges in the community. The writer believed that this could allow him to assess what is happening in the world more objectively (Woodcock para. 2). He wrote stories that told about the life of ordinary people in difficult conditions. In this way, the author showed the reader his interest in social problems and conflicts that can happen in the society. George Orwell was the main opponent of the totalitarian regime in the USSR. Many of his works are about the propaganda of freedom, private rights, and other liberal values (Roelofs 11). One of the major works devoted to this topic is Animal Farm.
The novel Animal Farm brought George Orwell great world fame because of its plot and subtexts. It is worth noting that the book was not published for a long time because many publishers were afraid of publishing a story which seemed to be unpopular at first glance. Nonetheless, a British publisher agreed to make an attempt in November 1945, and the book reached the United States in August 1946 (Lucas 259). Thus, the general public appreciated this novel more than many publishers because the concepts discussed in the book were better perceived by lower classes. Nevertheless, with regard to the plot, George Orwell talks about the life of a small community of farm animals that are tired of how the owners treat them and thus decide to organize a revolution and create their own management over the farm. Although this story may seem very simple and fabulous, there are aspects that make it very socially important and serious if the reader is familiar with the historical factors that were interesting to George Orwell.
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First of all, in order to unveil the image of the USSR’s totalitarian regime in Animal Farm, it is important to evaluate the characters of the novel, in particular those that were portrayed as tyrants. One of the main themes that George Orwell discusses in the fable is “man’s vulnerability to man’s greed for power” (Robb para. 14). The main character that reveals the idea of tyranny in this work is a pig named Napoleon. This character is the author’s way of showing officials and rulers through the prism of satire and ridiculing their main negative qualities, such as greed and betrayal of interests of others. Thus, Napoleon steals milk and apples on the farm and claims that these products are necessary for pigs as they contain essential nutrients for their body (Orwell 15). Although he claims his action has an altruistic goal, the reader realizes that Napoleon is lying because he simply enjoys his power and substitutes concepts in order to eat food that is better than that of other farm residents. Moreover, he lies about the reasons for the escape of Snowball and says that he was a traitor that worked for the farmer and used animals for his purposes. Thereby, Napoleon tries to use the situation to his benefit and deceives other animals.
Moreover, Napoleon uses and changes laws only to his benefit. He changes one of the basic rules when he starts walking on two legs and poses himself as superior to other animals when he says: “Four legs good, two legs better!” (Orwell 56). In this way, although the animals decided to conduct a revolution and overthrow the owners, who were cruel and greedy towards them, the new rulers, the pigs, did not become a good substitute because they were as greedy and imitated human beings as the previous owners. This excerpt can be correlated with the events and causes of the Russian revolution. Thus, George Orwell teaches the reader an antitotalitarian lesson that reveals the main flaws of this regime (Grofman 15). Thereby, the author shows the basic antagonism between the working class and capitalists through the metaphor.
Secondly, George Orwell’s work contains not only a description of totalitarian tyrants but also an illustration of people who admitted to the power of such rulers, had no personal needs and desires and needed total power and control. The novel is a large mirror that through animal characters, shows how communism and tyranny in general made people miserable because of their own wrong choice (Brown 2). Each character in this book contributed to the fact that such tyrants as Napoleon came to power and controlled them in different ways.
Mollie is one of the characters who indirectly help Napoleon to rise to power and occupy the role of a pre-emptor over all animals. This character pursues clear selfish and material goals that are aimed only at personal gain. She does not care about others even if subsequently, she can help the whole society in which the character lives. Due to her selfishness, Molly is apolitical and does not have her own opinion on Napoleon and his actions. In this way, the character does not resist the new leader and has no desire to help others understand that he is mistreating them. Boxer is another character who significantly influenced Napoleon’s attempts to assume power over the farm. Thus, “his two slogans, ’I will work harder‘ and ‘Napoleon is always right,’ seemed to him a sufficient answer to all problems” shows that he is dependent on slogans and propaganda; therefore, cannot compose his own political opinion and voice it (Orwell 27). Although this character tries to do only good things, his political ignorance and unquestioning obedience to the ruler are the negative sides of his character. Since he does not resist Napoleon, he helps him to strengthen his power.
The donkey Benjamin also helped the new authorities triumph despite the fact that he was aware of negative aspects of the rule. He states that “life would go on as it had always gone on — that is, badly” regardless of the leader (Orwell 22). Nonetheless, he does not protest against the new regime and the swine rulers. In addition, he makes hardly any attempts to warn animals and reconciles himself to the fate similar to other animals. In this way, although this story contains animal characters, George Orwell speaks primarily about people who blindly believed new leaders and became disappointed in the revolution when they realized that the working class and the ruling elite cannot be equal.
Another important idea of totalitarianism in the USSR that George Orwell develops in Animal Farm is the theme of religion and its relationship with people who live in the era of totalitarianism. It is a well-known fact that many adherents of the communist regime rejected religion because they believed that it is harmful to the mind and a fairy tale, or a relic of the past which all people on the planet should abandon. The same idea is revealed in George Orwell’s work. Thus, there is a prophet Moses among the farm animals; however, no one believes and listens to him.
In this way, the name of the character, Moses, speaks for itself. Thus, he is a prophet on the farm who tells magical stories about another world that is a paradise for all. At the beginning of the story, “the pigs had an even harder struggle to counteract the lies put about by Moses, the tame raven” (Orwell 8). Nevertheless, in the future, the pigs allow Moses to stay and even encourage him to tell stories to other animals. In this way, it is important for pigs to make everyone happy even if the only way to do this is lying about religion. It is vital for them to retain power by any means; therefore, they are ready to use fairy tales to make their animals think that their efforts will pay off in the future. Thus, through the attitude of animals to Moses, George Orwell satirically demonstrates how many rulers in the totalitarian regime used cults and religion in order to rule people. In addition, this aspect shows that greedy leaders can abandon their principles easily in order to retain power, which is also typical of totalitarian regimes.
In addition, George Orwell also reveals the idea of relations between people who get power and use it only for their own purposes. The theme of false allegiance runs through the whole book with the help of relationships of the characters with each other. Throughout the story, Orwell shows the reader that despite all the promises and slogans of the pigs, they will betray their people. Besides, this topic is also revealed in the relationship with the human characters of the book.
Despite the fact that Frederick listens to Jones in the Red Leo, he secretly rejoices that the neighbor had a misfortune (Orwell 16). Moreover, although Frederick pretends to sympathize with the neighbor, he hopes that someone else’s failure can bring him benefit. In addition, Frederick participates in the deal with Napoleon, which also shows that he is unreliable and seeks benefit only for himself. He negotiates with the pig about buying wood at a bargain price and uses his stupidity to pay for the purchase with counterfeit coins (Orwell 42). Further, the relationships between Pilkington and Napoleon also show that people who hold full power have low moral values. Throughout the book, they conduct friendly conversations and flatter each other; however, their relationship is built on lies that are covered up by a fictitious friendship. It is important to note that in the last scene, “Napoleon and Mr. Pilkington had each played an ace of spades simultaneously” and deceived each other (Orwell 60). This card game between the two friends reveals that people who have power tend to exploit all the individuals, even their friends. Through the analysis of all the relationships between the characters, it is possible to say that George Orwell strongly condemns individual rulers who do not conform to moral norms in relation to other people.
Furthermore, Animal Farm contains direct indications of the connection between the Russian Revolution and the totalitarian regime in the USSR, which are important to note in the analysis. First of all, in the preface to the Ukrainian version of this book, George Orwell pointed out that this story is based on his thoughts on the Russian revolution and shows his attitude towards totalitarian tyranny and people affected by the revolution (Letemendia 128). In this way, although George Orwell hides his attitude by creating a pseudonym and uses a fairy-tale form for telling the story, he does not deny the fact that he describes certain events in the life of the USSR. Hence, everyone who read this book compared the facts in history with events from the life of animals on the farm.
Additionally, there are coincidences in dates and in the process of changing power in regard to the facts of the Russian revolution and the events of the book. According to the words of many historians, the main causes and issues of the Russian revolution were the wrong choice of the people and the lies of the new rulers (Masson 308). Thus, neither the new state nor the old one had the purpose to help the people and make their lives better. Moreover, most people opted for a totalitarian regime because they did not have enough information about what it was and how it would affect their lives. All these factors can be compared with what was described in the analysis of Animal Farm. Similar to the events of the Russian revolution, the characters of the book are ignorant, politically inactive, and their new pig rulers only think about their own welfare and wealth and neglect the desire of other animals for a better life.
At the same time, it is important to note that the plot of the book develops in the same order in which the Russian revolution occurred. First of all, George Orwell writes that the rebellion of animals on the farm begins with a battle against farmers, the battle of the barn, and the seizure of power by pigs, which require everyone to work more for the well-being of the farm without people. The Russian revolution also began with the forcible seizure of power by the tsar and the slogans that all people should belong to the working class. Secondly, George Orwell creates a conflict between the two main rulers, Snowball and Napoleon, which may remind the reader about the disagreements that subsequently occurred between Trotsky and Stalin. Subsequently, the reader can also learn about Snowball’s escape, the help of dogs to Napoleon, the large construction on the farm, and the final deal with Pilkington. All these events can also be correlated with the events that were happening in the Soviet Union. The events in the book occur in the same order as Lenin’s death, the appearance of the secret police, the beginning of industrialization, and the treaty with Hitler. In this way, George Orwell describes the events of the Russian revolution using satire and fairy-tale characters in order to convey his thought.
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In conclusion, George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm is one of the major works that analyze the lives of people in a totalitarian regime. The use of a pseudonym and a fairy-tale motive in this serious book helps the author not only to convey information about the events of the Russian revolution reliably but also allows him to use the satire to describe the heroes and the situation. Through the story of animals, Animal Farm describes the problems that existed in the USSR, particularly the lies of the rulers, misunderstandings in the field of political education, propaganda, tyranny, and other aspects that adversely affected people’s lives. In this way, this book not only analyzes the events of the animal revolution in the same sequence in which the Russian revolution occurred but also investigates the reasons why people have chosen a wrong path for the development of the country.