Animal Farm – Social Criticism
Writers often use social criticism in their books to show corruptness or weak points of a group in society. One way of doing this is allegory which is a story in which figures and actions are symbols of general truths. George Orwell is an example of an author who uses allegory to show a social criticism effectively. As in his novel Animal Farm, Orwell makes a parody of Soviet Communism as demonstrated by Animal Farm’s brutal totalitarian rule, manipulated and exploited working class, and the pigs’ evolution into the capitalists they initially opposed.
Totalitarianism is a political regime based on subordination of the individual to the state and strict control of all aspects of life. It was used by Stalin and the Bolsheviks in Russia during the 1920’s and 30’s and is parodied in Animal Farm by Napoleon, the “almighty” leader, and his fellow pigs and their ridiculous propaganda and rigorous rule. In the book, Napoleon is deified and made superior to all other animals on the farm, for example he is called emperor or leader while everyone else was referred to as a “comrade”, and all the pigs were given higher authority then the rest of the animals. An inequality between the pigs and rest of the farm was that the pigs lived in the farm house while the other majority had to sleep in pastures. A certain pig Squealer who could “turn black into white” was in charge of propaganda, and he would often change the commandments of the farm so that they would fit the actions of Napoleon or the “upper class” of the farm which was supposedly classless. For example, at one time a commandment read “No animal shall drink alcohol”(P. 75), but soon after Napoleon drank an abundance and almost died the commandment was changed to “No animal shall drink to excess.” which made it seem as though Napoleon was within the rules. Another instance where Napoleon showed severe rule was when everyone on the farm who had either pledged for or showed support at one time for Snowball, the exiled former leader, was executed on the spot. This act was a humorous resemblance of The Great Purge in Russia where all opposition was killed off. The governing system of the Animal Farm was truly corrupt, but it did not stop with the propaganda and executions.
At first on the Animal Farm, it was promised to the majority of the animals who were neither Napoleon or a pig, or the so-called “working class”, that “from each according to his ability to each according to his needs”, no more, no less. In other words, if all the animals worked to their capabilities they would get the work back in rations. This system worked for a while, but stopped when Napoleon and his Totalitarian government took over, and the system was manipulated. Napoleon and his fellow pigs gave the animals unfair hours of labor and unfair rations for their work which corrupted the….. system. Napoleon attempted to keep the animals intact by inspiring them with slogans, “Napoleon is always right.” and “I will work harder.”(P.40) This seemed to work because no animal would refuse to do their job because of the fear of their food supply being cut as a penalty. As an example, Napoleon announced that all animals would have to work voluntary Sunday afternoons, but any animal who absented himself from it would have his ration reduced by half(P. 42). Napoleon gave the animals long, many hour days so that the farm could move toward industrialization with the building of a windmill, much like The Five Year Plan of Russia. This act was made comical because much like in Russia the plan kept on failing, but the government proceeded in actions anyway. The so-called “working class” of the Animal Farm which at first had a bright future was turned into more of a “slave class”.
Animal Farm started with a dream, a dream of old Major’s which was for the animals of England specifically the Manor Farm to rebel against the humans, take over the farm, and live at peace amongst themselves. This dream soon became a reality for the animals of the Manor Farm as they defeated their master, Mr. Jones, in the Battle of Cowshed with their battle cry “Four legs good, two legs bad”, and took over the farm which they renamed Animal Farm. The first leader was Snowball who ruled along with his fellow pigs and kept Major’s dream alive, only to be expelled from the farm soon after he took over. The next leader was Napoleon, who brought a whole new type of Totalitarianist government to the Animal Farm. The farm which was supposed to be equal and free of class had a distinct governing body or “upper class” with the pigs and a distinct “working class” or majority which was everyone, but the pigs. The “working class” was manipulated and old Major’s dream was going away. Eventually, the seven commandments which were set forth at the beginning were changed in to one commandment that read “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others”. Indeed, the pigs had become like their worst, most hated enemy, the human, and Major’s dream and the hard work of the majority of the animals on the farm had been wiped away much like Lenin’s dreams for Russia were.
In fact, Animal Farm and the Russian Revolution were alike in many ways. Both started with bright ideas for a future and ended with a corrupt government taking over only to turn the colony into what it initially opposed. The setting of a farm with animals to represent revolutionary figures in an extreme country seems outrageous, but the idea can be perceived very well in this novel. Orwell combines some great humor into this symbolic story to give a bad effect on Russia in the time of its Revolution, making a mockery of Totalitarian rule, the “working class”, and idealization for the future.