George Orwell and Animal Farm: A Critical Analysis

George Orwell is one of the most celebrated English writers in the 20th century (George 1). Orwell’s literature is committed to telling the blatant truth about the violation of people’s freedom and the injustices against the common person (Dedria and Hall 479). Such phrases from his works such as “some animals are more equal than others” have become so popular especially in political dialogues and has shaped peoples opinions regarding the kind of society we live in (Kerala 36).

George Orwell was born as Eric Arthur Blair in India in 1903, where his British father worked as a civil servant. He had gone to school like any other normal child and graduated at Eaton. He worked in the Burma police force and later unsuccessfully tired his hand in a few business ventures but failed. He left for Spain where signed to fight in the Civil War.

His experience at the civil war de-motivated his views abut communalism so much that he decided to live a life of voluntary poverty (Dedria and Hall 479) . This was a deliberate effort to “experience want and the suffering of the oppressed.” He wanted to feel how poor people fell to help in shaping his own theories on socialism.

At this time, he had changed his name to P.S. Burton. His first novel Down and out in Paris was published as a response to his life in voluntary poverty. This was soon followed by Burmese Days and several other essays that questioned the capitalist state. His best novel so far is The Road to Wigan Pier which was published in 1937. It highlighted the pathetic life of the poor.

By this time, he had started gaining prominence as a writer and his works were starting to draw attention. He continued his writing with such other publications as Keep Aspidistra Flying and Coming up for Air followed in 1936 and 1939 respectively. His novel The Animal Farm is his most popular. It is a satirical piece that portrays a society that fully embraces totalitarian rules, much to the chagrin of those who want “individual freedom” (Kerala 36).

All of George Orwell’s novels seem to defend one main theme: socialism. Socialism is a means of production whereby everything is owned communally or by the government. Every one has equal opportunities to everything. The kind of socialism that George Orwell’s socialism advocates for has real life significance as it portrays “revolutionary idealism experienced in Russia and other countries which was betrayed by the revolutionaries themselves, who continue to pat lip service to revolutionary ideas” (Pierce para 6).

His novel then Animal Farm brilliantly employs satire in highlighting shameless betrayal by leaders who promised change (Dedria and Sharon 479). Orwell continues to portray authoritarianism as an enemy to individual freedoms.

There were concerted efforts to bring in a revolution that would save the people but always the new leaders upon tasting power, would betray this revolution. The new leaders would start to dictate what the same people whom they were fighting to save would do, or not do. Such betrayal was the end of socialism in the 20th century. In this light, this paper will analyze one of his prized novels The Animal Farm.

The story begins in Mr. Jones’ farmhouse one night. Old major, a fatherly and respected pig, gathers the animals and informs them that they had endured deplorable conditions for a long period under the leadership of human beings and therefore a rebellion was necessary. Unfortunately, Old Major succumbs to old age. This leaves the other pigs to lead the fights for animal rights (Darell Para 1).

Two pigs, Napoleon and Snowball lead a successful revolution and after Mr. Jones and his family is driven out, Manor Farm is renamed The Animal Farm (para 2). Other farm owners try to attack the Animal Farm but Snowball lead a successful defense in the battle of the Cowshed and gains much worship amongst the animals (para 4). This is the beginning of his downfall. False rumors are spread by Squealer about him and when the conflict heightens he chased off the farm by Napoleons’ guard dogs (para 6).

Squealer is adopted as Napoleons spokes animal, and proposes the construction of a windmill, an idea that Napoleon takes credit for. Unfortunately the windmill is destroyed in a storm but Napoleon blames Snowball and sentences him to death, together with his sympathizers (para 6). Napoleon and the other pigs begin engaging in anti animalism behavior, such as doing business with men and drinking whiskey. To add to this, the food rations to other animals are reduced significantly (para 6).

To concur with his message that new and old leadership is alike; pigs begin to walk on two feet just like humans. They also start claiming, “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.” The novel culminates in the farm being renamed The Animal Farm while napoleon and other pigs initiate friendship with the human owners of the neighboring farm, and they become just like humans (para 8). It portrays the betrayal of the initial comradeship, and the pessimism of revolutionary movements (Hall and Poupard 348).

George Orwell creates characters carefully to fit in the roles that he needs them to play. Some characters play a major role in this novel. Mr. Jones is a tyrant who represents the old corrupt order. In the real world George Orwell model 20th century dictators such as Stalin in Mr. Jones (Novelguide para 1).

Snowball and Napoleon are the two pigs who lead a successful revolution. They were ambitious of leadership and courageously fought Mr. Jones out of the farm (NovelGuide para 7-12). The pigs are symbolic of the calculating leaders who benefit from tyrannical leadership. They are opportunists who do not spare any chance afforded to them to exploit their advantaged position in the society (Hall and Poupard, 348).

Squealer is Napoleons manipulative tool in the farm. The dogs are a symbol security only that this security is used negatively. They are also another group of loyalist who are misused by the system to gain advantage over the common person (NovelGuide para 20- 22). However, other characters only play minor roles. Old major represents the good father figure in the society who can be relied upon to give concrete advice. He is respected by other animals who take to his advice without question (NovelGuide para 4).

Boxer and Clover in contrast are dedicated workers who spent all their life serving the society (They are also foolishly gullible in that they believe in all the propaganda spread by Squealer who is a “manipulative and persuasive figure” (Hall and Poupard 348). Just like Squealer, Moses is another manipulative and cunning character in the novel (NovelGuide para 7, 8; 13, 14). Benjamin is an enigmatic character who continues to do his work without care of what is happening (NovelGuide para 17).

The Animal Farm is a classic example of how governments exploit and deny citizens of their basic rights. At the beginning of the novel, the animals are united under the banner of exploitation by Mr. Jones. They manage to fight and install their own leaders in Napoleon.

However, Napoleon turns to be worse that Mr. Jones and “perverts the first commandments he helped make” (Pierce para 7). For example, he reduced food rations for the other animals other than the fellow pigs. Some animals as Boxer worked so hard, believing in their leaders but instead of being rewarded, were exploited for the benefit of the same leaders they served (Grade saver para 15-17). These governments use totalitarian rules, to stay in power and subvert justice.

The pigs lead a revolution against Mr. Jones totalitarian rule, but ends up worse. They not only “end up in Mr. Jones House and position but also in his clothes.” Some critics have used this evidence to explain that The Animal Farm is another successful attempt by the society to kill dissent (Hall & Poupard 349). Propaganda is also used to intimidate those who question the abuse of human rights. Napoleon manipulates information and deceives the animals when he gains full power.

He spreads false accusation against snowball leading to his expulsion from the farm. Squealer, Napoleons spokes animal, is the face of propaganda in this novel. He represents governments’ spokes people who are responsible of spreading rumors that help their government to gain a tighter grip on power (Grade saver para 9-11). As a last result, totalitarians use violence and terror, to silence the rebels. Its effect I that it makes people submit to such government. These who do not are either forcefully exiled or killed.

Such excesses were practiced against Snowball and his sympathizers. Terror can also be propagated through propaganda. Squealer instills fear into anyone who tries to question napoleons unethical conduct, with Mr. Jones return (Grade saver para 12-14). Another major theme highlighted with importance is Education. Unfortunately, it is present in a very negative light. In its essence education is supposed to enlighten people. However in this novel, those in power “manipulate those that are governed” by the use of education.

Take the case of the pigs as an example. They realize the intellectual vulnerability of the other animals and take advantage of it by manipulating the seven commandments to their advantage. Napoleon also uses education negatively when he teaches new pigs his oppressive doctrines (Grade saver para 7, 8). This mis-education cast the other animals deeper into oppression.

In conclusion, George Orwell manages to highlight the fact that the biggest political problem is not capitalism but authoritarian rules. Whether under capitalism of socialism authoritarianism is inevitable this is because of the insatiable nature of human beings. The novel The Animal Farm will continue to be relevant for eons to come it.

It explicitly portrays the “class struggles and exploitation in the human society” (Hall & Poupard, 348). New leaders, like Napoleon, who assume power on the platform of change, abandon the idea as soon as they come to power. Most of them end up being worse of than the ones they replaced. They are just turn coat revolutionaries who take advantage of people’s naivete to fulfill their selfish personal ambition. Because of the effect his works have achieve he one of the best authors in the 20th century.

Works Cited

Darrell, Victor. Plot Summary: Animal Farm, by George Orwell. N. d. 26 January, 2011.
http://www.helium.com/items/1178839-plot-summary-animal-farm-by-george-orwell

Dedria, Bryfonski & Hall, Sharon.Twentieth century literary criticism: George Orwell. Michigan: Book Tower. 1979. Print.

“Grade saver.” Animal Farm Themes. 2010. 26 January, 2011.
http://www.gradesaver.com/animal-farm/study-guide/major-themes/

Hall, Sharon & Poupard, Dennis. Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Michigan: Book Tower,1982. Print

Kerala, Calling. From Eric Blair to George Orwell, Biography. London: Sage, 2003. Print.

“NovelGuide.” Novel Analysis: Animal Farm, Characterization. 2010. 26 January, 2011.
http://www.novelguide.com/animalfarm/characterprofiles.html

Pearce, Robert. ‘Orwell, Tolstoy, and ‘Animal Farm’. The Review of English Studies, 1998. Retrieved from: http://www.netcharles.com/orwell/ctc/docs/tolstoy.htmStorgaard, Claus. Opinion Essays : George Orwell, Socialist, Anarchist or what…? 2004. 26 January, 2011. www.k1.com/Orwell/site/opinion/essays/storgaard1.html