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Flynn AP English-2 12/8/06 The Russian Revolution and Animal Farm In Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf he writes, “All propaganda has to be popular and has to adapt to the perception of the least intelligent of those whom it intends to direct itself.” No one proves this more than George Orwell in his book Animal Farm. This book, posing as a children’s fairy tale is actually a rebellion against the Russian Revolution and Stalin. Orwell shows how people can be fooled by tyrants to believing anything; in doing so and he attacks modern totalitarian governments around the globe. The animals in the story who act as the main characters may seem like regular animals to a child, but upon closer examination and historical reference these are actually representatives for Communist leaders, such as Joseph Stalin, Leon Trotsky, and others. Critic Bernard Grofman puts it best, “No reader can fully enjoy the book without knowing, for example, that the pig Snowball represents Trotsky and the pig Napoleon represents Stalin” (Grofman 5). This book was not just a fictional story but a complete and utter attack on totalitarianism. The story Animal Farm begins with a boar named Old Major gathering all the animals together to tell them of a dream he experienced. He tells them that he dreamt of a world where all animals lived together and there were no humans to rule over them. He tells the animals that they must work towards establishing this paradise. After he dies, three pigs- Napoleon, Snowball, and Squealer develop a concept called “Animalism.”
JOHNSON 2 Animalism is in reality fictional substitute for Karl Marx’s communist vision. Soon all the animals revolt and overthrow Mr. Jones’s farm. They rename it Animal Farm. Animal Farm is an early success; in a collective effort, every animal works hard and remains content. Later Mr. Jones returns with friends to reclaim the farm. However the humans, the former ruling class, are rebuffed by the animals’ collective spirit at the Battle of Cowshed. Shortly thereafter that Animal Farm begins to collapse as internal politics intervenes. Napoleon and Snowball start fighting with one another about the future of the farm, and over who should have the most power. Tragically one day, during a debate over whether the animals should build a windmill, Napoleon’s dogs chase Snowball from the farm. Snowball is never seen again. Napoleon, now in an uncontested position of power over the Animal Farm, reviles his corrupt nature. He changes his stance on the windmill building, declares pigs the supreme animal, and starves the other animals to further his own means. As problems arise, Napoleon blames them on Snowball. Specifically, when the windmill tragically topples over, he tells all the animals that Snowball did it, emphasizing that they need to blame him. Soon Napoleon begins executing any animal that “conspires with Snowball.” He convinces the animals how evil Snowball is and his efforts to make Animal Farm fail. Snowball must be stopped. As time passes, Napoleon acts more and more like a human, departing from the original Animal Farm rules. Squealer justifies this behavior to the other animals by convincing them that everything Napoleon does is in the farm’s best interest. The situation gets progressively worse. The pigs begin wearing clothes, drinking alcohol, carrying whips, and walking like humans. By this time, the animals’ laws are
JOHNSON 3 gone; the only law remaining is, “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.” Deceivingly, George Orwell’s Animal Farm is a political book. Critic Bernard Grofman says, “There are two common mistakes in reading Animal Farm. The first is to confuse the simplicity of form with simplicity of idea; the second is to fail to understand the importance of the events in Animal Farm as a form of political history” (Grofman 6). The novel brilliantly portrays the fundamental follies of communist Russia. “His book, besides a parody of Stalinist Russia, intends to show that Russia was not a true democratic Socialist country,” Critic Howard Unger explains, “The novel is deeply paralleled with the Russian Revolution and Stalin’s rule.” As George Orwell said himself, “Animal Farm was the first book in which I tried, with full consciousness of what I was doing, to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole.” This furthers the point that this book was not just written for pleasure, but was written was a solid goal in mind. Animal Farm draws parallels between the characters in the book to the leaders in the Russian Revolution. Old Major mirrors Karl Marx because Old Major envisioned “Animalism” while Marx devised Communism. Animalism is comparable to Communism; both declared everyone equal, no owners, no rich, and no poor. In addition, both died prior to their revolutions. One of the main characters, Snowball, can be best compared to Leon Trotsky. Both were very smart, genuinely wanted to improve life for all, and were chased away. Snowball was chased away by Napoleon’s dogs while Trotsky was chased away by the KGB. Napoleon represented Joseph Stalin. Both were poor speakers, corrupt, power hungry, and not as smart as their counterparts. Napoleon used
JOHNSON 4 dogs and Squealer to rule the animals while Stalin used the KGB and propaganda to control the people. Napoleon’s right hand man, Squealer is much like the Propaganda Department of Lenin’s government. Squealer talked a lot, convinced animals to follow Napoleon, and manipulated the laws. The Propaganda Department worked to support Stalin’s image, lied to convince people to support him, and benefited from controlled education. Lastly, the dogs were much like the KGB. Both used fear to gain support, both killed any and all opponents, and both were incredibly loyal. Orwell wrote Animal Farm to truly make a difference. He wanted people to realize that there is a better way, and he wanted people to recognize the follies of the past. Robert Lee claims, “Though it resembles the Russian Revolution and the rise of Stalin, it is more meaningfully an anatomy of all political revolutions, where the revolutionary ideals of justice, equality, and fraternity shatter in the event” (Lee 109). Orwell not only wanted Russia to learn from the story, but he wanted all people to understand political revolutions. Orwell strived to explain how power corrupts well intention revolutionaries. The Times Literary Supplement explains it best: “Dictatorship is evil, argues Mr. Orwell with a pleasant blend of irony and logic while busily telling of his fairy story, not only in that it corrupts the characters of those who dictate, but in that it destroys the intelligent and understanding of those dictated to until there is no truth anywhere and fear and bewilderment open the way for tyranny ferocious and undisguised” (Orwell 401). George Orwell was wise beyond his years. He saw the horrible effects of the Communist government and realized that a change had to be made.
JOHNSON 5 In spite of the controversy this book caused, it remains one of the most paramount books of all time. As Critic Spencer Brown proclaims, “I find Animal Farm a tour de force, but one of such extraordinary ease and realism in every phrase and incident that it is a masterpiece apart from the satire, and also a masterpiece of satire in which moral purity and breadth of human sympathy are combined with crushing wit” (Brown 71). Animal Farm, once a challenge to get published, is now a historical classic. In the September 1946 review of Animal Farm Newsweek states, “When it was published in England it created a minor stir. It was bitterly attacked from the far Left and cheered from the far Right. When it was offered for publication in this country, two important publishers rejected the book on the ground that it was dull reading.” In conclusion, Animal Farm is more than a mere children’s story, it’s an elegant statement on Stalin and Communism. Orwell urges his readers to always think independently, and avoid being susceptible to government propaganda. “No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures 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” (Orwell 139).
Brown, Spencer. "Mealymouthed Critics Ignore Animal Farm's Anticommunist Flavor." Readings on Animal Farm (1998): 70-81. Grofman, Bernard. "Pig and Proletariat: Animal Farm as History."San Jose Studies. 2nd ed. 1990. Halas, John. "Animal Farm Review." Newsweek 9 Sep 1946 1 Dec 2006 <http://home.planet.nl/~boe00905/OrwellReview2.html>. Hitler, Adolf. Mein Kampf. Vol. 1. Mariner Books, 1925. Lamont, George A. "Animal Farm: Comparison of Characters to the Russian Revolution." 5 Dec 2006 <http://barney.gonzaga.edu/~sbennet3/mead/lessonplans/animalfarm.htm>. Lee, Robert A.. "Orwell's Fiction." University of Notre Dame Press (1969): 109 Orwell, George. Animal Farm. New York, NY: Penguin Group, Inc., 1996. Orwell, George. "Times Literary Supplement." Review of Animal Farm 25 Aug 1945: 401. Peters, Michael. "Animal Farm Fifty Years On."Contemporary Review. 1995. Unger, Howard M.. "Animalism vs. Marxism." University of New York at Binghamton (1994)