George Orwell's novel, Animal Farm, is a deceitfully simple story about
a group of farm animals who, tired of toiling for the benefit of humans, rebel
and create their own way of life only to find themselves, several years later,
toiling for the benefit of one of their own kind, the pigs. Because of the
simplicity of this novel, many people consider it to be a children's story.
However, beyond it's lighthearted surface, it is truly a satirical attack
against Stalinism. "It is also a lament for the fate of revolutions and the
hopes contained in them." Adding to the complexity of the book, it also shows
man's willingness to compromise the truth. In the short scope of this novel,
Orwell expresses many of his ideas about men and politics.
Major, an elderly pig, is the one who plants the seed of rebellion in
the minds of the other animals by sharing with them a song which he had learned
as a young pig, but which he has just recalled during a dream. This song
"Beasts of England" describes a peaceful life where all animals will live in
harmony, no longer enslaved by humans.
Riches more than mind can picture,
Wheat and barley, oats and hay,
Clover, beans and mangel-wurzels
Shall be ours upon that day.
Bright will shine the fields of England,
Purer shall its waters be,
Sweeter yet shall blow its breezes
On the day that sets us free. (pp. 7-8)
The character of Major symbolizes the Soviet Union leader, Vladimir Ilich Lennin.
Lennin too had caused his comrades to rise up in rebellion against the Czarist
form of government in the hope of creating a country where everyone would be
equal. Before he saw his ideas fully enacted, he died.
After the death of Major, the power is left in the hands of two other
pigs, Snowball and Napoleon. Napoleon, who, without anyone else discovering,
had raised a litter of puppies into fierce dogs, now uses them to chase Snowball
off the farm. This shares many similarities with the way a leader came into
power to succeed Lennin. Lennin's choice was Leon Trotsky, but Stalin, who is
represented by Napoleon, uses tactful maneuvers to work his way into government
and establish a totalitarian system.
As the only leader, Napoleon quickly begins to abuse his power. Using
his superior intelligence, he soon has the other animals doing all the farm work
while he and the other pigs take on the roles of supervisors. The attitudes of
the animals, especially Boxer, with his motto, "Napoleon is always right," are
representative of the way people in a totalitarian state blindly follow their
leader. One of the most important reasons for this blind faith is fear.
Napoleon creates this fear through the use of his dogs, who make sure there is
no opposition to his rule. Fear alone, though, does not keep the animals loyal;
rather it is the combination of fear and the hope that their original dreams
will still come true.
None of the old dreams had been abandoned.
The Republic of the Animals which Major had
foretold, when the green fields of England
should be untrodden by human feet, was still
believed in. (p. 85)
This is the general feeling of the animals and keeps them working hard to reach
Over time, we see the pigs becoming more and more like humans. First we
see them sleeping in beds, then drinking alcohol, and finally walking on two
legs. Everyone of these things is strictly prohibited in the seven
commandments; however, Napoleon has bent the rules to help himself, so when the
other animals check the rules, they have miraculously changed. This is a trait
inherent in most of mankind... they seem only to follow the truth when the truth
suits them. If it does not, they change it to meet their needs.
What begins as a wonderful dream where animals would control their own
lives, free of human control, ends with the animals under the control of an even
more oppressive ruler. Lennin's overthrow of the oppressive Czarist government,
in the end, led to the tyrannical and totalitarian reign of Stalin. As long as
there are such beliefs as, "All animals are equal, but some animals are more
equal than others," (p. 88) all rebellions for equality will fail because there
will always be some group to fill the role of superiority.