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Monday, February 25, 2013

Animal Farm: A Political Parody of Our Time


A book review

By Heidi Maly



George Orwell’s novel, Animal Farm, is a satire on equality, where all barnyard animals live free from their human master’s “tyranny”, the corruption of socialist ideals in the Soviet Union; the societal tendency toward class stratification, the danger of a naive working class, the abuse of language as instrumental to the abuse of power. Another theme of the story is that it is a spoof of the idea of religion being the “opium of the people” (as Karl Marx famously wrote). Moses the raven and his incessant talk of Sugarcandy Mountain annoys many of the animals, but the animals are hopeful for a better future and therefore ignore Moses’ stories of a paradise elsewhere.

However, as the animals lives worsen, the animals begin to believe him, because “Their lives now, they reasoned, were hungry and laborious; was it not right and just that a better world should exist somewhere else?”


Inspired to rebel by Old Major, an old boar, he teaches the animals the philosophy of Animalism- man is evil. The animals of Manor Farm embrace Animalism and then stage a revolution to achieve an idealistic state of justice. A power hungry pig, Napoleon, becomes the Totalitarian dictator, who leads Manor Farm, later renamed Animal Farm, into a Communistic "nation". Napoleon declares “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.”

Animal Farm is an allegory to life in Communist Russia during the early to mid 1900’s. The rebellions and purges is an analogy to the Bolshevik Revolution(s) and the Stallinist purges.
The seamlessly harmless animal characters, imitates the Russian Revolutionary characters.

Old Major, the old boar, mirrors Karl Marx. Mr. Jones, the owner of the farm, reflects Czar Nicholas II. Snowball, a boar who becomes one of the rebellion’s most valuable leaders, is driven off Animal Farm [Manor Farm]. Snowball reflects the Russian leader Trotsky. Napoleon, a boar, who with Snowball, leads the rebellion against Mr. Jones.
 After the rebellion’s success and Snowball being chased out, Napoleon begins to control all aspects of the farm, until he is an undisputed dictator. Napoleon mirrors Josef Stalin. Squealer, a porker pig becomes Napoleon’s voice. Squealer displays his ability to manipulate the animals’ thoughts by hollow, yet convincing rhetoric and therefore represents a deceitful and artful propagandist. Boxer, a dedicated, but ignorant workhorse who helps with the building of the windmill, collapses from exhaustion and then is sold to a glue-boiler. Boxer represents a strong and dedicated but ignorant worker who is ultimately “thanked” by being euthanized.
Animalism can be paralleled to Marxism or Communism. Moses, the tame raven, boasts about a paradise, called Sugar Candy Mountain. Moses represents an organized religion. The dogs are the bodyguards of Napoleon. The dogs imitate the secret police of Russia.
The events of Animal farm parallels with Russia’s events. The Battle of the Cowshed marks the beginning of the animals’ control. This battle represents the anti-revolutionary invasion by the West. The Battle of the Windmill signifies the Nazi invasion.
The Windmill symbolizes the 5-year plans for agricultural production, which ultimately failed. The animal purges are the obvious parallel to Russia. The drunken party where pigs and humans meet as equals, characterizes the Tehran Conference at which, Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt met to declare their wartime alliance against Germany.
Animal Farm is the only work by Orwell in which the author does not appear clearly as a narrator or major character; it is the least personal of all of his writings. The anonymous narrator of the story is almost a nobody, notable for no individual quirk or prejudices.” Orwell’s story is told from the point of view of the common animals of Animal Farm, though it refers to them in the third person plural as “they”. The tone of the novel is objective, stating external facts and rarely digressing into philosophical meditations.

Animal Farm is the satire of equality, the corruption of socialist ideals in the Soviet Union, the danger of a naïve working class, the abuse of language as instrumental to the abuse of power, and the social tendency to class stratification. Animal Farm is a superb masterpiece, which teaches the reader about the dangers of Communist rule in an easy to read, animal-like fairy tale.

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