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A Marxist Perspective: The Animal Farm

The literary world has long given birth to works that give their own commentaries on the way society is built. They break down the superstructures of society and give it characters to play along with, unconsciously teaching us of the ways of the world. George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blaire) is one genius to have crafted „The Animal farm‟. Generously lending itself to Marxist Criticism, it was created on the heels of World War II, England 1945. It was written to warn the people of Stalinism and expose the dangers of Totalitarianism. Even its characters reflect several important personalities at the time, an example being „Old Major‟, a Middle White Boar that the Joneses exhibited under the name “Willingdon Beauty”. He is 12 years of age, making him a senior among the animals, with an appearance of being “stout… but still a majestic-looking pig”. He claims to “understand the nature of life on this earth as well as any animal now living”. Old Major actually represents Karl Marx, the Father of Communism. In the first part of the story, Old Major calls the farm animals to a meeting and starts a long speech about rebellion and revolution against humans, imparting his ideals about what he calls “Animalism”- which all humans are enemies and all animals are equal. This is similar to Marx‟s ideals and hypotheses about collective effort and rejection of the class and capitalist systems. Another character is Mr. Jones, the farm caretaker. He is described as ruthless, always drunken and does not care much for the animals. He treats the animals harshly, rationing their food. This treatment leads to a revolt by the animals later on in the novel, as encouraged by Old Major‟s successors: Snowball and Napoleon- two pigs who make the ideals of Animalism concrete in „The Seven Commandments of Animalism‟ and later on vie for the top ruling position on the farm. Mr. Jones represents the higher ruling classes of society, mainly the owners of big companies and industries (as well as the government) that employ the lower working classes, practice exploitation and give low wages to their workers. Mr. Jones is often pictured as “drunken and lousy at his job” and shows how the higher ruling classes squander their earnings with luxury and barely do anything to compensate for their worker‟s hard labor. This is evident in most societies, especially in heavy industrialized countries. The employers do what they can to keep their profit to themselves and releasing only a little to give wages to their employees, thus making it hard for the workers to fend for themselves with the increasing prices of commodities. With the death of Old Major days after the first meeting at the barn, two pigs- Napoleon and Snowball- take it upon themselves to take over the governing of the animals. They concretize Animalism under seven commandments: 1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy. 2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend. 3. No animal shall wear clothes. 4. No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets. 5. No animal shall drink alcohol in excess. 6. No animal shall kill any other animal without cause. 7. All animals are equal.

Napoleon represents. represents Joseph Stalin. with the animals entrusting them with the power to ratify laws proposed during the meetings on the barn. The most striking change was for the seventh commandment. Jones. Napoleon. never contributing anything to the revolution. This is where they drive out Mr. He may have used his intelligence and logic to gain loyalty from the animals. Do you know what would happen if we pigs failed our duty? Jones would come back! Surely comrades… surely there is no one among you who wants to see Jones come back?” There is no scientific basis. “It is for your sake that we pigs drink that milk and eat those apples. They give it a hero‟s burial. Although he is most directly modeled on the Soviet dictator. Their only loss is a sheep that dies in battle. Soon after this.Eventually. According to Marx. Napoleon and Snowball rise to power in a premature way. They place the gun by the flagpole and agree to fire it on the anniversary of the battle and of the rebellion. or that they need these to be able to think clearly for the greater good. This is to suit the pig‟s comfort and desires and to justify their actions. to: “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others”. i. living inside the Joneses empty house (symbolic of engagement into luxury). This happens on “The Battle of Cowshed”. but this is changed when he is driven out of the farm as Squealer (another pig) starts to create all sorts of black propaganda against him. virtue and reflexive resolve. Jones‟ rule. A general theme of „Apathy and Acceptance‟ actually surrounds the story. though. The gun represents a successful. Boxer and Snowball each receive medallions engraved: “Animal Hero: first class”. scared that Mr. the political tyrants that have emerged throughout human history and with particular frequency during the twentieth century. these ideals and consciousness are one of the reasons why most lower classes do not fight . contradictory to Marx‟s (Old Major) teachings that the revolution is to be accomplished with integrity. that milk and apples enhance the pigs‟ intelligence. He creates Snowball as a symbol for Leon Trotsky. but violent way of overthrowing Mr. This. Jones‟ gun of which he has dropped in the mud. they accept it and do what they are told.e. From: “All animals are equal”. and even changing the seven commandments of Animalism. degrading to only five commandments. money). but keeps quiet. putting him under an ideal light as a character dedicated to Animalism. but because the other animals lack knowledge of these things. he makes it obvious through his works that he was a Trotskyist by heart. He is presented as a corrupt character. His image may also be due to George Orwell‟s political preference at the time. Though after his death Orwell was fought over by the side of Trotsky‟s followers and Stalin‟s advocates. evident with the way the animals simply accept their tasks and do what they are told. Jones. He attends the meetings. This is again. Napoleon uses methods of propaganda with the help of Squealer to blind the other animals to the truth of what he is doing: hoarding apples (symbolic for resources in an economy. in a more general sense. Jones might come back to the farm and harm them. The animals eventually discover Mr. Orwell‟s stint in a Trotskyist battalion in the Spanish Civil War—at the time he first started to create plans for making a critique on totalitarianism—had a great impact on his creating Snowball as a character in the novel. according to several studies on this novel. injuring him and running him out of the farm. There are also a good number of false ideals and consciousness present in the story. leads to his downfall because he is no match for Napoleon‟s use of brute force. the pigs encourage the other animals to continue Old Major‟s legacy and overthrow Mr.

He concentrates on his load. at the start of the story. The work is actually very interesting and has a good number of points to ponder on. even adopting the maxim „I will work harder‟ which is an alteration of Squealer‟s suggested maxim: „I will work hard‟. and this is achieved with the ousting of Mr. Old Major. but what he does not realize is that because he has created that maxim for himself. Eventually. we see how corruption seeps into the Animal Farm‟s society. even if there are no scientific basis to the pigs‟ claims that they are mentally superior compared to the other animals. This is a clear deviation to the ideals of Animalism that had originally brought the animals together. Despite the positive start of the novel. is “a form of social control that becomes accepted as „normal‟ after becoming the predominant influence”. Jones. they are unable to prevent a new regime of oppression. Many of the animals praise Boxer for his hard work.back against repressive and oppressive governments and establishments. which then make the animals effectively split themselves into classes. and that all attempts at communism has failed. The animals stare at Napoleon in disbelief as the light reveals that his face has changed. and that he looks much like a human and that there is no difference between Napoleon and the humans at all. The animals are freed from the humans. because they believe that they are too dumb to understand and that they should only work for the benefit of the farm and the pigs. but because they are incompetent in ushering in a real sense of equality among themselves. Boxer is the most hardworking of the animals. The book ends with Napoleon and a human fighting over a poker game. This happens through Hegemony. believing everything Napoleon. Napoleon opens the farm to trade with the humans. Another false ideal in the story is „Classism‟. one has to ask: why did Animalism fail? During the first reading. Again. one would realize that the animals actually do get what they want. Squealer and the rest of the pigs say. along with his family from the farm. gathers the animals to speak of a revolution to free themselves from the humans. It happens as the morals that used to maintain the farm turn into controls. but if one were to look deeper. the animals respond lightly to the event. Hegemony. resulting in the acceptance of these classes with ease by the animals. one would think that totalitarianism is inevitable and that social classes are something too deeply rooted into society to eradicate. With this. Take for example the pigs: they took it upon themselves to rule and follow the teachings of Old Major. . One major false ideal exemplified in the story is „Rugged Individualism‟. This becomes socially acceptable to the animals after some time and is even perceived as normal. This is reflective of how there is no genuine classless society today. he now does not pay attention to what is happening outside of his work. shown very concretely by the character of „Boxer‟. Trade with the humans and the use of money was something that Old Major had always contradicted and had emphasized in his speech. with Squealer again making excuses for Napoleon‟s actions. even taking on some other animals‟ work and is absorbed in it. according to Raymond Williams.