Animal Farm: The Meaning of Equality Essay
In George Orwell’s Animal Farm, he examines the impact of communism and the post-war anxiety of World War II. Orwell uses allegories to thoroughly explain the pain and worry following the clash between countries. He uses farm animals and a farm to represent the major events and figures in the time of Stalinism and the Soviet Union. The animals want to “get rid of man” (Orwell 30), and man stands for capitalist society. Communism, or “Animalism” as the animals call it, starts out as a society of equals, but gradually mutates into a dictatorship. The leaders created a dystopian world where everything they had planned took a turn for the worse instead of the originally planned utopia. All of the animals (except for the pigs/leaders) ultimately lose all of the power they believed they had gained. Post-war anxiety plays a large role in the novel, Soviet Russia, and around the world. In the years following WWII, America was constantly in fear of Russia bombing them and Russia was afraid that America was going to invade.
In Animal Farm, the animals wake up every day with the anxiety of the humans coming back to retake the farm. The humans (both Mr. Jones and the owners of other farms), on the other hand, are afraid that their animals will follow suit and revolt against them. Russell Baker explains how Orwell experienced the war first hand and how he believed that the decent people of Western Europe were being tricked into thinking that Soviet reality was remarkable in his “Preface” of Animal Farm. Orwell called the book a fable, but it is also a “satire on human folly” (Russell vi) and has numerous lessons for human morality. Post-war anxiety was tremendous in both the ‘50s and the 60’s and George Orwell found this out when he went searching for a publisher. Stalinism and the Soviet Union were so popular that neither British nor English publishers wanted to hear any criticism of his ideas. It seemed like the West had readily put on blinders because of the defeat of Hitler’s army.
Everyone had a great deal of praise for the Soviet Union and its forces. Stalin and his political system significantly benefited from all of this. Orwell marched to the beat of his own drum and has an “insistence on being his own man” (Russell ix). The preface to Animal Farm helps the reader understand why Orwell developed such a candid critique of Stalinism. Although he was a socialist, Orwell believed that Stalin and his comrades perversely transformed the meaning of socialism and equality. Without reading the “Preface”, one would assume that this novel is simple and childish. George Orwell hid his disgust in the political terror and totalitarianism going on in Russia at the time behind the many farm animals in his novel. In addition to the “Preface” by Russell Baker, C.M. Woodhouse tells the reader that the novel was offered to the general population in the same month as the atomic bombs dropped on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the “Introduction.”
Woodhouse goes on to explain that this “fairy-story” (Woodhouse xix) has a moral, and teaches us lessons about life. It does not take place in our world, but in a world beyond. The fairy stories are set in a place without good and evil. Woodhouse believes that Orwell has brought back the words equality, democracy, and peace. All of these words have been deceitfully changed into “shibboleths of political warfare” (Woodhouse xxii). Woodhouse also explains that it is impossible for those that have read Animal Farm to not regularly think about the fact that some people are more equal than others. He goes on to say that George Orwell’s novel may not alter the course of history in a short amount of time. It could take decades more for his novel to contribute to the world. What we do know is that Orwell successfully predicted the future of Stalin, the Soviet Union, and his ideas. George Orwell’s legacy as a prophet will undoubtedly carry on for the rest of time.
Post-war tension plays a large role in Animal Farm, and represents the tension that was present around the world in the ‘50s and ‘60s. The leaders of the farm instilled fear in the animals, as did the leaders of Soviet Russia to their citizens. In the novel, the animals constantly have the fear that the neighboring farms are going to attack them and vice versa. Their apprehension forces them to go along with Napoleon’s ideas because the ideas give them a false sense of security. Napoleon also develops an anxiety that involves his fear of counter-revolutionaries, or people that want to overthrow him and the farm’s new ideals. Both Napoleon and Stalin executed everyone who didn’t have the same “morals” as them. They both purged their countries of people that they considered as enemies.
These mass executions set a miserable, melancholic tone amongst all of the citizens of both Animal Farm and Russia. Both revolutions morphed and the “children” of the revolution became everything they hated. The tension and anxiety came from fear of attack, mass murders designed by the leaders, and a society where everyone was supposed to be equal but some were “more equal than others” (Orwell 133). The three pigs in the novel, Squealer, Snowball, and Napoleon, all represent tyrants from Soviet Russia. They each attempt and succeed at instilling fear in the other animals on the farm. Snowball is intellectual, passionate, and also considerably less devious than Napoleon. Although Snowball gains loyalty, trust, and respect from the other animals, he still creates a hidden sense of fear within the nation. His ideas and speeches are confusing to the animals, but they accept them without knowing what they mean exactly. On the other hand, the other pig creates fear directly.
The other pig is Napoleon, and he uses his trained watchdogs, which are his military force, to consolidate power and frighten the other animals. Napoleon is a despot in every sense of the word. He even chases off his counterpart, Snowball, using his military. When Snowball and Napoleon disagree about building a windmill, Napoleon sets his dogs loose and has them “[dash] straight for Snowball” (Orwell 67). Snowball encounters a close brush with death, until he escapes. This situation greatly troubles the other animals, and Napoleon is basically letting them know not to cross him or else they will be sentenced to death. Squealer, although not as significant as the two leaders, is the epitome of those in power who use speech and language to twist facts and gain control of society and the government. Squealer spreads Napoleon’s propaganda and justifies everything Napoleon says by using false truths. Squealer became so persuasive that many of the animals “accepted his explanation” (Orwell 72) about why Napoleon was now for the windmill without asking any questions.
Overall, Snowball, Squealer, and Napoleon are allegories for different leaders in Soviet Russia. They use techniques such as propaganda, military force, and persuasion to instill fear in the animals on the farm. There are parallels between Orwell’s Animal Farm and the ugly truth behind Soviet Russia. Stalin, a cruel and overbearing leader, used all three of these techniques to achieve his overall goal of controlling the country. There are extreme parallels between Animal Farm and the reality of Soviet Russia. In both Soviet Russia and on the farm, tension was great and the leaders instilled fear in their citizens. The article “Stalin’s Revolution” on flowofhistory.com explains these parallels in depth. Stalin, like Napoleon, launched a “campaign to build up” (flowofhistory.com) his communist union. Stalin gained the support of the country by saying that everything would get much better if he was the leader.
This was also Napoleon’s tactic. Joseph Stalin was an extremely paranoid man, as was Napoleon, and thought that everyone was conspiring against him. Napoleon used a mass execution to “purge” the farm of the animals that he saw as traitors. Stalin also did this. In 1936 he persecuted and executed an extreme amount of the citizens that he considered threats to his administration. In both cases the inhabitants of the areas were put on trial, but the trials were nothing but a sham. They were forced to confess their alleged crimes, and then were sentenced to death. Although communism was supposed to create a society of equals, it instead made even more social divisions. Both Russia and the farm experienced the fact that some people are just more equal than others. All of these facts led to “rising political tensions” (flowofhistory.com) around the world. Although the tyrants of Russia, or in this case the animals of the farm, had not tried to devise a scheming plan to take down the citizens of their country, this is what they ultimately accomplished. Stalin and his followers seized the power away from the working class.
Just as Stalin tried to turn Russia against capitalism, the leaders of the farm try to turn the animals against humans by telling them that the “only good human is a dead one” (Orwell 59). Although at first they stood for pure equality, they soon seemed to stand for the notion that some people are more equal than others. Orwell explains how detrimental Stalin and his cause were to Russia by using animals as an allegory and explaining the idea of communism in more simplistic terms.
The leaders of Animal Farm fill the “worker” animals with fear just as Stalin and his comrades instilled fear into the working class of Russia. The animals were inspired by this idea of everyone being equal and this ultimately encouraged them to go along with the dictators’ ideas. At first, all of the animals supported the idea with their own free will but eventually only support it out of pure terror. Anxiety of the characters in Animal Farm closely matches up with the concern of everyone in the world post-WWII.
Baker, Russell. “Preface.” Animal Farm. By George Orwell. New York: Signet Classic, v-xii. Print. Orwell, George. Animal Farm. New York: Signet Classic, 1996. Print. “The Flow of History.” FC130B: The Communist Dictatorships of Lenin & Stalin (1920-39). Web. 04 Dec. 2012.
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