Animal Farm by George Orwell recounts the tragic tale of a revolution gone awry. Initially, the story centers on Manor Farm, where a group of animals led by the pigs, Snowball and Napoleon, rise up against their human oppressor, Mr. Jones. Inspired by the visionary boar, Old Major, the animals dream of a future free from human control and toil tirelessly for this utopia.
Following Old Major’s passing, the rebellion takes place just three months later when the animals’ hunger reaches a breaking point due to Mr. Jones’s neglect. Driven by desperation and Old Major’s spirit, the animals unite and successfully overthrow their oppressor. However, their newfound self-governance proves to be a daunting challenge.
Snowball and Napoleon, the leading pigs, constantly clash over leadership, with Snowball being an eloquent speaker and Napoleon a cunning strategist lacking in charisma. Their disagreements make the Sunday meetings chaotic and unruly. The most divisive issue arises when Snowball proposes the construction of a windmill to generate power, an idea vehemently opposed by Napoleon.
During the crucial vote on the windmill, Napoleon signals his attack dogs to chase Snowball away, solidifying his position as the unquestioned authority on the farm. To everyone’s surprise, Napoleon later decides to build the windmill himself, revealing that his objection was driven by personal ambition rather than genuine opposition to the project.
Gradually, Napoleon transforms into a ruthless dictator, supported by a propaganda apparatus managed by Squealer, his image-maker, and enforced by loyal dog guards. The pigs and dogs rise as the privileged class, enjoying excesses of food without contributing to the farm’s productivity. The initial principles of equality, love, and collective well-being crumble, replaced by discrimination, tyranny, and oppression.
Animals like Clover and Benjamin, who possess insight and thoughtfulness, question whether this oppressive regime aligns with Old Major’s dream of a golden future. Eventually, the cycle completes itself as Napoleon establishes connections with the human community and renames the farm Manor Farm, blurring the distinction between pigs and men.
In the end, the animals realize that they have merely exchanged one form of tyranny for another, unable to differentiate between the oppressive nature of both pigs and humans, both physically and psychologically. The tragic tale of Animal Farm serves as a cautionary allegory, illustrating the potential for power to corrupt even the noblest of revolutions.
Some of the identifiable themes in George Orwell’s Animal Farm are power and corruption, class discrimination, propaganda, and hero-worship.
Theme of Power and Corruption
The corrupting nature of power is the most obvious theme in George Orwell’s allegorical novel. Animal Farm portrays the destructive relationship between power and corruption.
The novel serves as a stark reminder of the well-known adage that “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This theme revolves around the character of Napoleon, who seizes control following the successful revolution against Mr. Jones, only to become a more oppressive and tyrannical ruler than Man.
The animals’ hope for a better life on Animal Farm quickly diminishes as they find themselves subjected to a level of cruelty far surpassing what they experienced under Man’s rule. The mistreatment and exploitation inflicted upon one another by the animals themselves become even more distressing than the previous oppression by Mab. Ultimately, the farm reverts to its original state as Manor Farm, with a vengeance, leaving the animals facing a future even bleaker than their grim past.
In exploring this theme, it is crucial to highlight Napoleon’s actions in expelling Snowball, suppressing all dissent, and systematically dismantling the laws and principles upon which Animal Farm was initially founded. These actions vividly depict the corrupting influence of power, as Napoleon becomes increasingly dictatorial and manipulative, ultimately betraying the very ideals that drove the animals to rebel against their human oppressors.
Animal Farm demonstrates the potential for power to corrupt and destroy even the most well-intentioned revolutions.
Theme of Class Discrimination
An integral theme in George Orwell’s Animal Farm is that of class discrimination and the emergence of a social hierarchy. From the outset of the revolution, the pigs, led by Snowball and Napoleon, assert themselves as a privileged class, enjoying exclusive privileges and benefits that are withheld from the other animals. This unequal treatment becomes evident early on, such as the mysterious disappearance of the five buckets of milk the day after the rebellion.
As the story progresses, this theme reaches its zenith when the pigs, driven by their desire for power, begin indulging in luxuries and vices that separate them completely from the rest of the animals. They go as far as drinking alcohol and even adopting the posture of walking on two legs, a stark contrast to the principles of equality and unity that initially fueled the revolution.
This theme serves as a mirror reflecting the class discrimination prevalent in human society, which Orwell masterfully satirises through the allegory of Animal Farm. The pigs’ transformation into an oppressive ruling class highlights the insidious nature of power and the tendency for those in positions of authority to exploit their privilege at the expense of the less fortunate.
Orwell’s portrayal of class discrimination serves as a scathing critique of societal inequality and the inherent flaws in systems that allow for the consolidation of power and the marginalization of certain groups. By depicting the pigs’ gradual divergence from the egalitarian ideals of the revolution, Animal Farm unveils the dangers of unchecked hierarchy and the erosion of principles in the pursuit of personal gain.
Theme of Propaganda
The theme of propaganda is demonstrated through the character of Squealer, who serves as Napoleon’s chief propagandist and image-maker. Propaganda plays a pivotal role in dictatorship.
The novel delves into how Squealer employs various deceitful tactics, including misinformation, disinformation, distortion of facts, and outright lies, to maintain control over the rest of the animals.
Squealer’s mastery of propaganda is exemplified by his ability to transform falsehoods into perceived truths. He skillfully tarnishes Snowball’s reputation, reversing all of the achievements attributed to him in Animal Farm. Through his persuasive speeches, Squealer effectively convinces a majority of the animals to accept these fabrications, keeping them ignorant of the truth. The success of his propaganda campaign is measured by his ability to turn Snowball into an “enemy” and consolidate Napoleon’s power.
While many animals fall under Squealer’s spell, a few, like the insightful old Benjamin, see through his deceptive tactics. Despite their awareness, they are unable to mount any meaningful opposition against Napoleon’s oppressive regime. Their understanding of the propaganda’s manipulation does little to challenge the ruthless administration.
Orwell explores the insidious nature of propaganda, highlighting its role in shaping public perception and controlling the narrative. Through Squealer’s character, the novel cautions against the dangers of blindly accepting information without critical examination. It exposes the vulnerability of individuals to manipulation when they lack access to accurate and unbiased information.
Theme of Hero-worship
George Orwell’s Animal Farm explores the pitfalls of hero-worship. It highlights the animals’ susceptibility to manipulation and their desperate desire for a savior figure to protect them from the potential return of Mr. Jones.
Boxer, the hardest-working animal on the farm, embodies this theme, deriving inspiration from his personal mantras: “I will work harder” and “Napoleon is always right.”
Through coercion, intimidation, and flattery, Napoleon gradually ascends to a position of ultimate authority, becoming revered as the infallible leader and protector of all the animals.
From a simple name, he transforms into “our Leader, Comrade Napoleon,” adorned with countless titles such as “Father of All Animals,” “Terror of Mankind,” “Protector of the Sheep-Fold,” and even “Ducklings’ Friend.” The poet Minimus goes to the extent of composing a poem in his honor.
The irony lies in the fact that these flatterers, praise-singers, hero-worshippers, and sycophants unwittingly prolong the dictator’s grip on power far beyond what is desirable. Their blind adoration sustains the oppressive regime, allowing Napoleon to consolidate his authority and suppress any dissent or opposition.
The animals’ desire for a savior blinds them to the reality of Napoleon’s self-serving agenda and the erosion of their own freedoms.
“Animal Farm” as an Allegory
Animal Farm is a powerful allegory that employs animals on a farm as symbols for the figures and events of the Russian Revolution. While it may initially appear as an animal fable or fairy tale, a deeper analysis reveals its representation of a specific human society and its social classes. The animals in the novel correspond to the working class and the ruling class in human communities.
The connection between Animal Farm and human society becomes apparent when Mr. Pilkington, during a visit to the farm, compares the animals’ struggles to the challenges faced by lower classes in human society. This reveals that the story’s relevance extends beyond the Russian Revolution and applies to any community governed by dictatorship. The novel serves as a satire, using devices such as irony and sarcasm to expose the perils and vices of absolute power.
George Orwell skillfully utilizes allegory to critique the corruption and abuses of power that characterized the Soviet regime. The characters in the novel represent historical figures, with Old Major symbolizing Karl Marx and his revolutionary ideals, Napoleon representing Joseph Stalin, Snowball standing for Leon Trotsky, and other animals embodying different societal segments. Through this allegorical approach, Orwell illuminates the dangers of totalitarianism and conveys his political message effectively.
The events in Animal Farm parallel key moments from the Russian Revolution, including the overthrow of Mr. Jones mirroring the Russian monarchy’s fall. The subsequent rise of Napoleon and the manipulation of propaganda, purges, and class divisions among the animals reflect the tactics and inequalities witnessed in the Soviet regime.
By using animals as symbolic representations, Orwell presents a relatable narrative that enables readers to grasp complex political concepts. The simplicity of the animal characters serves as a vehicle for critiquing the abuse of power, totalitarian regimes, and the risks associated with unrestrained authority.