Animal Farm: Political Issues
Eric Arthur Blair, better known by his psuedonym George Orwell, is an
English author commonly known to write about political issues. Orwell has been
highly acclaimed and criticized for his novels, including one of his most
famous, Animal Farm. In a satirical form, George Orwell uses personified farm
animals to express his views on stalinism in the novel Animal Farm.
Throughout Orwell's early novels, democratic socialism kept the author
from total despair of all humans(Greenblatt 104). After his better experience
in the Spanish Civil War and the shock of the Nazi-Soviet pact, Orwell
developed Animal Farm. The socialism Orwell believed in was not a hardheaded
"realistic" approach to society and polotics but a rather sentimental, utopian
vision of the world as a "raft sailing through space, with, potentially, plenty
of provisions for everybody"(Grennblatt 106).
Animal Farm is a satirical beast fable which has been heralded as
Orwell's lightest, gayest work(Brander 126). It is a novel based on the first
thirty years of the Soviet Union, a real society pursuing the ideal of equality.
His book argues that this kind of society has not worked and could not (Meyers
102). Animal Farm has also been known as a an enter-taining, witty tale of a
farm whose oppressed animals, capable of speech and reason, overcome a cruel
master and set up a revolutionary government(Meyers 103). On another, more
serious level, it is a political allegory, a symbolic tale where all the events
and characters represent events and characters in Russian history since
Orwell uses actual historical events to construct Animal Farm, but
rearranges them to fit his plot. Manor Farm is Russia, Mr. Jones the Tsar, the
pigs the Bolsheviks who led the revolution. The humans represent the ruling
class, the animals the workers and the peasants. Old Major, the inspiration of
the rebellion, is a combination of Marx, the chief theorist and Lenin, the
actual leader(Meyers 105). Old Major dies before the rebellion just as Lenin did
in the Russian revolution. In actuality Stalin and Trotsky argue over power
after Lenin's death, which Orwell satirizes in Napolean and Snowball.
In Animal Farm, Orwell immediately establishes the Soviet political
allegory as Old Major (Marx/Lenin) describes the exploitation of animals by
humans and the statement "all animals are comrades." The animals continuous
singing of "Beasts of England" can be seen not only as a symbol of the decay of
communist notions of a perfect state, but also as Orwell's more general comment
on the decline of true liberty and equality in the west (Gardner 99).
The progress of the revolution from a common idealism to a state system
of leader, police, and workers happens rather rapidly. The animals take over the
farm and the pigs ( Bolsheviks ) emerge as natural organizers. The pigs rduce
the principles of animalism in seven simple commandments and develop a green and
white version of the Russian hammer and sickle flag. Instead, theirs has "a hoof
and horn which signifies the future Republic of the animals which would arise
when the human race had been finally overthrown"(Orwell 89). Orwell demonstrates
both the greed and the hypocracy involved in the urge to power when the clever
pigs contribute to none of the work and keep for themselves all the milk and
During the novel, the pigs continue to gain more and more power. In the
pigs uprise of power, the Seven Commandments are an effective structural device.
Their different alterations resemble the pigs' progressive rise to power. The
pigs' gradual acquisition of priveleges- apples, milk, house, whisky, beer,
clothes- leads to the final identification of pig and human, Communist and
The blurring of the past and the hardening shape of the present, grim,
greedy, or just pragmatic, are accompanied by betrayal of the spirit of the
revolution exemplified in the ammendments made into the "Seven Commandments" of
"Animalism"(Gardner 102). Costantly these are changed by one of the deceiving
pigs, Squealer. The puzzled animals can not figure out with trying to keep pace
with the pigs increasing authority. So the commandments such as, "No animal
shall sleep in a bed" becomes, when the pigs move into the farmhouse, "No
animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets." Also, after the savage killings "No
animal shall kill another" is modified by the addition of "without a cause."
Each event that occurs in Animal Farm has a historical parallel(Meyers
106). The Rebellion is the October 1917 Revolution, the Battle of the Cowshed is
the subsequent Civil War, Mr. Jones and the farmers represent the loyalist
Russians, the hen's revolt stands for the brutally suppressed 1921 mutiny of the
sailors, Napolean's deal with Whymper represents Russia's 1922 Treaty of
Rapallo with Germany(Meyers 106). The most significant of all the events is the
building of the windmill, which in Soviet terms represents
industrialization(Meyers 107). Orwell ends the novel with a satiric portrait of
the Teheran Conference of 1943, the meeting of Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin
who are now allies (Raymond).
Throughout the entire book, the pigs gradually gravitate towards the
human world. First, through trade and alliances with Mr.Frederick. The selling
of timber to Mr. Frederick of Pinchfield is the animal equivalent of the short-
lived Nazi-Soviet nonaggression pact of 1939(Gardner 105). Then as the pigs
celebrate the Pyrrhic victory at the Battle of the Windmill, they drink alcohol.
More and more has Napolean, now "elected" president, become the remote object of
a personality cult in a system marked by "readjustment" of rations for workers
and the empty "dignity of" more songs, more speeches, and more
processions(Gardner 105). Despite this, all the animals, except the pigs, still
hope for days before the Rebellion. They figured if they worked hard, at least,
they worked for themselves. "No creature among them went upon two legs"(Orwell
36). "No creature called another creature 'Master'"(Orwell 38). "All animals
were equal"(Orwell 62).
Orwell finishes Animal Farm with a surprise ending. He demonstrates the
pigs' complete corruptness as they walk on their hind legs. The pigs train all
the young sheep to walk on their hind legs and chant "Four legs good, two legs
better." Orwell throws in irony throughout the novel to show that not all the
animals are fair and equal.
On the whole, Orwell's intentions to discredit the Soviet system by
showing its inhumanity and its back-sliding from ideals is achieved. It is
Orwell's sharpness of visualization and emotional resonance that have ensured
Animal Farm what seems to be a permanent place in literature(Gardner 107).
Graham Greene rightly noted in his review that we "become involved in the fate
of the animals. We care about them too much merely to translate events into
their historical equivalent." There is no such possibility in Animal Farm, nor,
by the end , can we escape the weight of the book's sadness by thinking that
these things have only happened to animals(Gardner 107). We look from the
oppressed animals in the book to the oppressed human beings outside and back
again, and can see no difference (Gardner 107).
DISCovering Authors, Gale Research Inc., 1993 .[computer]
Gardner, Averil. George Orwell. Boston, G.K. Hall and Co.: 1987.
Meyers, Valerie. Modern Novelists George Orwell. St. Martin's Press: New York,
Orwell, George. Animal Farm. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Inc., 1946.
Schorer, Mark. "An Indigent and Prophetic Novel." The New York Times Book Review,
Williams, Raymond. George Orwell; A Collection of Critical Essays. New Jersey,
Prentice- Hall, Inc.: 1974.
Woodcock, George. The Crystal Spirit: A Study of George Orwell. Little, Brownn,
and Company, 1966.