Analyse - Animal Farm

Analyse av novellen "Animal Farm" by George Orwell. Grade: B+
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Animal Farm by George Orwell is a political allegory mainly to the Russian Revolution and the totalitarian regime under Joseph Stalin. It was written in 1945, during the early years of the Cold War. The story reads as an independent fairy tale, but as you puzzle the pieces together, it is almost impossible to read it without referencing it back to the idea behind it. You realize that the story is not just about a farm overtaken and run by animals, but about something greater and darker. How can this story about Animal Farm make us reflect upon our own human society?

The story takes place on a farm in England, run by a man named Mr. Jones. He is an alcoholic, and overall just an unsympathetic farmer. The animals develop a common resentment towards mankind as a whole, and the eldest pig, Old Major, calls in for a meeting with all the animals present. He encourages them to work towards a revolution, and to demonize all of mankind as a whole. He dies three days later, and the other pigs start the rebellion at this time. Soon, the animals take over. They call the new farm Animal Farm, and the ideology they follow Animalism. The animals decide on seven commandments they must follow in order to achieve the best possible society. As the story goes on, we realize that the animals are far from equal in practise. The pigs gain more and more control, whilst the others work harder for less resources. The commandments are changed one by one over time in favour of the pigs, but no one seems to take action to stop it. In the end, the pigs act terrifyingly human like, and the other animals can´t seem see the difference between pigs and humans. 

Orwell´s choice to tell the story through the personification of animals is a clever one. This makes the fairy tale more into a fable, and also helps pick apart and simplify the complexity of a totalitarian society. The animals represent different classes and groups in society. Pigs represent the leaders and their propaganda, the dogs represent the devoted military forces, the sheep represent the naïve and easily steered people in society, and the horses represent the working class. The individual animals also represent more specific characters in history.

Old Major is the eldest pig on the farm, and he is wise and well respected by the others. He presents the idyllic idea of Animal Farm, a farm run by equal animals, and he is praised by the others for this encouraging speech. Old Major earns the credit for being the mind behind the revolution, but he dies before he gets to experience the revolution and the further escalation of the ideology. Old Major is in this story a symbol for Karl Marx, whom just as Old Major, presented an ideology which was later perverted into something completely different. Though he only appears in the first chapter, he plays an incredibly important part in the story as he becomes starting point for the evolution of Animal Farm.

Napoleon is another pig with an essential role in the novel. He appears as a power-seeking opportunist, who only waits for a chance to claim credit rightfully belonging to others. After the rebellion, Napoleon subtly takes more and more control over Animal Farm, until he eventually becomes the President. The animals suffer greatly under Napoleon´s regime, but lack capacity to remove him. Napoleon is a symbol for the Russian dictator Joseph Stalin, and the way he ruled the Soviet Union parallels with Napoleon´s ways. 

At first, the other main pig Snowball is side by side with Napoleon in terms of power, and they rule Animal Farm together. Snowball was important for preserving the democracy on Animal Farm, as he for instance was a great believer in the Sunday meetings. Snowball´s understanding of Animalism is largely based on Old Major´s ideas. Though we generally see Snowball as a positive character, especially compared to Napoleon, Orwell makes sure to give him some flaws. He recognizes the pigs as being the superior species and accepts the injustice along with this. He also seems to have little regard for the amount of hard labour and stress the animals go through in order to build the windmill. Snowball is the mind behind the idea of the windmill, which Napoleon first repels, then later claims credit for. Napoleon feels threatened by Snowball, and during the presidential election, Snowball is chased off the farm by Napoleon´s orders. When the windmill is found in ruins, Napoleon seizes the chance to blame it on Snowball. The windmill represents the huge industrialization that happened in the Soviet Union, which isn´t historically regarded as a sustainable success. Snowball is based on the Soviet revolutionary Leon Trotsky, who lead the opposition against Stalin, and was later killed by the KGB (the Soviet intelligence service and security police).

The pig Squealer represents the communist propaganda, as his job is to constantly reassure the animals that Napoleon is doing a phenomenal job, and that all failures are due to Snowball. The hardworking horse Boxer and his companion Clover represent the working class that were promised a better life after the revolution, but in reality, were even more exploited and taken advantage of. This composition of characters shows us that a dictator like Napoleon did not gain the overall power just by himself, but with help from many, both directly and indirectly. 

A comparison presented for readers at some point in the novel, is the comparison between Mr. Jones’ Manor Farm, and Napoleon´s Animal Farm. Orwell highlights this question for the readers to reflect upon it for themselves. Which regime undermines the animals the most?

Mr. Jones´ regime was horrible indeed, but transparent. The animals knew and felt the unfair power dynamic between man and animal, and this was never camouflaged. It is because of this that the rebellion succeeded so smoothly. There was clear consensus that Manor Farm needed to be replaced. Napoleons regime on the other hand, was mainly based off psychological manipulation through fear and propaganda. He imposes strict rules for the animals under him to follow, while he allows himself to trade and do business with men; the enemy. He hides behind the facade of being a believer in Animalism, an ideology for the working animals and for unity, but lets the hardest worker of them all, Boxer, die alone. Napoleon´s Animalism slowly brainwashes the animal’s perspective of what a healthy society looks like, and they become unable to recognise the core of the problem. We see this especially in the way the commandments all slightly change one by one. When it first happened, there was little interest and concerned shown by the others, and it was seen as just a bagatelle. The commandments that once were supposed to represent the difference between man and animal, are in the end turned into one single idea: All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others. By the time the animals would have realized what had happened, it would have been too late. This is also why Napoleon was never overthrown. I think this point is highly relevant when relating it back to history and understanding why someone like Joseph Stalin was able to gain the amount of power that he did.

We follow the animals from the start of the revolution, a time where they felt in desperate need of a new system, to the end, when the ancient Manor Farm suddenly seems harmless in contrast to Napoleons totalitarian regime. This fate of Animal Farm mirrors what happened to the Russian empire during the first half of the 20th century. The suffering of the Russian working class under rule of the Tsar, sparked a national longing for social and political change. In that sense, a revolution was necessary for uplifting the lower class. The problem emerges in tandem with human greed and the hunger for power, which has often been the case in the forming of a society throughout history. This is why Animal Farm isn´t explicitly an allegory for the Russian Revolution, but to all revolutions corrupted by greed. It shows us how dangerous power can be when the wrong people get their hands on it, but also how the people around can hold responsibility for letting it happen. 

Orwell´s perspective is that all true revolutions have the same fate, no matter who stands behind it. This is where I part my ways with Orwell. I don’t believe the problem lies in a revolution itself, but in the quality of the people behind them and their intentions. A revolution lead by people of good faith can in my opinion change society for the better. I would for example argue that the situation would be different in Animal Farm if Old Major continued to live on, and influence with his democratic values. Old Major genuinely saw Animalism as being the best alternative in order for all animals to be equal and had the traits of a good and just leader. Unfortunately, Napoleon ended up in power, as did Stalin. I see Marxism as being what Old Major was in favour of, and Communism/Stalinism as being the polluted and malicious version of this. 

Revolution means a completed cycle; you end up where you began. The novel ends with Napoleon changing the name from Animal Farm back to Manor Farm, resulting in true revolution by definition. The sad fact is that the animals end up in a worse position than before, and now also lacking the one thing that made ever made a revolution possible; hope.



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