If you haven’t read George Orwell‘s Animal Farm, I highly recommend that you do so! This is one of the best allegories I’ve read so far, which was written in the light of a very different political atmosphere and yet, it remains worryingly true to this day. Animal Farm is a big eye-opener. I believe George Orwell attempted to wake up his readers by letting them see themselves from another perspective. As a futurist, he knew his novel would live to see the same events repeat over and over again.
Animal Farm; source: emaze.com
The story begins with Old Major, a well-respected boar and the oldest animal in Manor Farm. Feeling that his end is near, Old Major gathers all other animals to a meeting to share his revolutionary ideas. In a passionate speech, he teaches them that all humans are bad and refers to them as enemies. The animals are convinced they need to revolt and build a new and better, human-free world for themselves where they live by the principles of Animalism. Upon Old Major’s death, the Revolution begins with two young pigs- Napoleon and Snowball leading the uprising. The old boar’s dreams come to life and the animals win the farm for themselves, getting rid of Mr Jones and his family. The name Manor Farm is replaced with Animal Farm and a few simple rules in accordance with the ideology of Animalism are set for all animals to follow. These are called the Seven Commandments and include:
- Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
- Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
- No animal shall wear clothes.
- No animal shall sleep in a bed.
- No animal shall drink alcohol.
- No animal shall kill any other animal.
- All animals are equal. (Chapter 2)
As leaders of the uprising, Napolean and Snowball remain in charge of the farm. Snowball even leads the defence of Animal Farm when Mr Jones and his neighbouring farmers try to take it back. United by these events, the animals live harmoniously in the beginning, free of the slavery set upon them by the humans. However, as the time passes, the pigs start to violate the Seven Commandments and the principles of Animalism.
The rivalry between Napoleon and Snowball is growing bigger by the day. It culminates in the brutal expulsion of Snowball from the farm. As the time passes, Napoleon becomes more and more authoritarian, oppressing the other animals with the help of his elite dog squad. He moves into the house, sleeps in a bed, eats fine food, drinks alcohol, privately educates his children, commands the killing of other animals, starts business relationships with humans and this way violates all Seven Commandments.
Now what’s most interesting about Animal Farm is what each character personates. Most of them represent key players in the Russian Revolution and the totalitarian regime that followed after. Mr Jones, for instance, embodies Tzar Nicholas II, who was ignorant of his people’s suffering and paid a high price for it. Old Major, the so-called founder of ‘Animalism’ is inspired by Karl Marx, whose theories led to the creation of Communism and the abuse of its power. He dreamed of all people being equal but never lived to see that dream come true, just like Old Major. Napoleon, one of the leaders of the Uprising, is the personification of Joseph Stalin. He removed from power his main rival Leon Trotzky (Snowball), thus becoming the sole leader of the Empire (Animal Farm).
Just like Stalin, Napoleon made his people obedient through fear and terror and violated all principles of Animalism. His Dog Squad (inspired by KGB) made sure no one stepped out of the line and if someone did, they would lose their life to Napoleon’s dogs. A pivotal moment in the novel is Boxer’s death, who served Animal Farm all his life, going by two mottos – ‘I must work harder‘ and ‘Napoleon is always right‘. He never stepped out of the line and yet was sent to the Slaughter House, instead of being allowed to retire and live the rest of his life in dignity, as promised.
George Orwell is a genius of his time. He foresaw political regimes changing in name but not in nature and always the same one paying the high price- the people. This is why he chose pigs to personify the politicians and leaders of his time; because power corrupts men and turn them into pigs or in the case of Animal Farm, turns pigs into men.