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Animal Farm 2 Essay, Research Paper

The British author George Orwell, pen name for Eric Blair,

achieved prominence in the late 1940’s as the author of two

brilliant satires. He wrote documentaries, essays, and

criticism during the 1930’s and later established himself as

one of the most important and influential voices of the

century. Eric Arthur Blair (later George Orwell) was born in

1903 in the Indian Village Motihari, which lies near to the border of

Nepal. At that time India was a part of the British Empire, and Blair’s

father Richard, held a post as an agent in the Opium Department of the

Indian Civil Service. Blair’s paternal grandfather, too, had been part

of the British Raj, and had served in the Indian Army. Eric’s mother,

Ida Mabel Blair, the daughter of a French tradesman, was about eighteen

years younger than her husband Richard Blair was. Eric had an elder

sister called Marjorie. The Blairs led a relatively privileged and

fairly pleasant existence, in helping to administer the Empire.

Although the Blair family was not very wealthy, Orwell later described

them ironically as “lower-upper-middle class (Gross, p.109).” They

owned no property and had no extensive investments; they were like many

middle-class English families of the time, totally dependent on the

British Empire for their livelihoo! d and prospects. Even though the

father continued to work in India until he retired in 1912, in 1907,

the family returned to England and lived at Henley. With some

difficulty, Blair’s parents sent their son to a private preparatory

school in Sussex at the age of eight. At the age of thirteen, he won a

scholarship to Wellington, and soon after another to Eaton, the famous

public school (Gross, p.112). His parents had forced him to work at a

dreary preparatory school, and now after winning the scholarship, he

was not any more interested in further mental exertion unrelated to his

private ambition. ^At the beginning of Why/Write, he explains that from

the age of five or six he knew he would be, ^must be,^ a writer (Gross,

p.115).^ But to become a writer one had to read literature. But

English literature was not a major subject at Eaton, where most boys

came from backgrounds either irremediably unliterary or so literary

that to teach them English Literature would be absurd. One of Eric’s

tutors later declared that his famous pupil had done absolutely no work

for five years. This was, of course, untrue: Eric has apprenticed

himself to the masters of English prose who most appealed to him,

including Swift, Sterne and Jack London (Gross, p.117). However, he

has finished the final examinations at Eaton as 138th of 167. He

neglected to win a university scholarship, and in 1922, Eric Blair

joined the Indian Imperial Police (Gross, p.118). In doing so he was

already breaking away from the path most of his schoolfellows would

take, for Eaton often led to either Oxford or Cambridge. Instead, he

was drawn to a life of travel and action. He trained in Burma and

served for five years in the police force there. ^In 1927,while home on

leave, he resigned. There are at least two reasons for this. First,

his life as a policeman was a distraction from the life he really

wanted, which was to be a writer. And second, he had come to feel

that, as a policeman in Burma, he was supporting a political system in

which he could no longer believe (Stringer, p.412).^ Even as early as

this, his notions about writing and his political ideas were closely

linked. It was not simply that he wished to break away from British

Imperialism in India: ! he wished to ^ ^escape from … every form of

man’s dominion over man,^ as he said in Road to Wigan Pier (1937), and

the social structure out of which he came dependent (Stringer, 413).^

Back in London he settled down in a gritty bedroom in Portobello Road.

There, at the age of twenty-four, he started to teach himself how to

write. His neighbors were impressed by his determination. Week after

week he remained in his unheated bedroom, thawing his hands over a

candle when they became too numb to write. In spring of 1928 he turned

his back on his own inherited values, by taking a drastic step. For

more than one year he went on living among the poor, first in London

then in Paris. For him, the poor were victims of injustice, playing the

same part as the Burmese played in their country. One reason for going

to live among the poor was to over come a repulsion which he saw as

typical for his own class. At Paris he lived and worked in a working

class quarter. At the time, he tells us, Paris was full of artists and

would-be artists. There Orwell led a life that was far from bohemian.

When he eventually got a job, he worked as a dishwasher. Once again his

journey was d! ownward into the life to which he felt he should expose

himself, the life of poverty-stricken, or of those who barely scraped

up a living (Stringer, p.415). When he came back to London, he again

lived for a couple of months among the tramps and poor people. In

December 1929, Eric spent Christmas with his family. At his visit he

announced that he’s going to write a book about his time in Paris. The

original version of Down and Out, entitled ^A Scullion^s Diary,^ was

completed in October 1930 and came to only 35,000 words for Orwell had

used only a part of his material. After two rejections from publishers

Orwell wrote Burmese Days, published in 1934, a book based on his

experiences in the colonial service. We owe the rescue of Down and Out

to Mabel Firez: she was asked to destroy the script, but save the paper

clips. Instead, she took the manuscript and brought it to Leonard

Monroe, literary agent at the house Gollancz, and bullied him to read

it. Soon it was accepted – on condition that all curses were deleted

and certain names changed. ^Having completed this last revision Eric

wrote to Victor Gollancz: ^I would prefer the book to!

be published pseudonymously. I have no reputation that is lost by

doing this and if the book has any kind of success I can always use

this pseudonym again’ (Stringer, p.419).^ But Orwell’s reasons for

taking the name Orwell are much more complicated than those writers

usually have when adopting a pen name. In effect it meant that Eric

Blair would somehow have to shed his old identity and take on a new.

This is exactly what he tried to do: ^he tried to change himself from

Eric Blair, old Etonian an English colonial policeman, into George

Orwell, classless antiauthoritarian (Gross, p.131).^ Down and Out in

Paris and London, was not a novel; ^it was a kind of documentary

account of life about which not many of those who would read the book

at the time would know very much about, and this was the point of it:

he wished to bring the English middle class, of which he was a member,

to an understanding of what life they led and enjoyed, was founded

upon, the life under their very noses (Gross, p.144).^ Here we see two

typical aspects of Orwell as a writer: his idea of himself as the

exposure of painful truth, which people for various reasons do not wish

to look at; and his idea of himself as a representative of the English

moral conscience (Gross, p.148).

His next book was A Clergyman^s Daughter (1935) and Keep The

Aspidistra Flying (1936). He opened a village shop in Wellington,

Hertfordshire, in 1936, where he did business in the mornings, and

wrote in the afternoons. The same year he married Eileen O

‘Shaughnessy. In that year he also received a commission from the Left

Book Club to examine the conditions of the poor and unemployed. This

resulted in The Road to Wilgan Pier. He went on living among the poor

about whom he was to write his book. Once again it was a journey away

from the comparative comfort of the middle class life. His account of

mining communities in the north of England in this book is full of

detail, and conveys to the reader what it is like to go down a mine.

When the Left Book Club read what he had written about the English

class system and English socialism in The Road to Wigan Pier they were

not pleased, and when the book was published it contained a preface by

Victor Gollancz taking issue with many of ! Orwell’s main points. The

Left Book Club wasn’t pleased because in the second half of the book

Orwell criticized the English socialism, because in his eyes it was

mostly unrealistic. Another fact criticized by Orwell was that most of

the socialists tended to be members of the Middle class (Stringer,

p.438). ^The kind of socialist Orwell makes fun of is the sort who

spouts phrases like ^proletarian solidarity^, and who puts of decent

people, the people for whom Orwell wants to write (Stringer, p.439).^

Having completed The Road to Wigan Pier he went to Spain at the end of

1936, with the idea of writing newspaper articles on the Civil War

which had broken out there. The conflict in Spain was between the

communist, socialist Republic, and General Franco’s Fascist military

rebellion. When Orwell arrived at Barcelona he was astonished at the

atmosphere he found there: what had seemed impossible in England seemed

a fact of daily life in Spain. Class distinction seemed to have

vanished. There was a shortage of everything, but there was equality.

Orwell joined in the struggle, by enlisting in the militia of POUM

(Partido Obrero de Unificacin de Marxista), with which the British

Labor Party had an association. For the first time in his life

socialism seemed a reality, something for which was worth fighting for.

He was wounded in the throat. Three and a half months later when he

returned to Barcelona, he found it a changed city. No longer a place

where the socialist word comrade was!

really felt to mean something, it was a city returning to “normal.”

Even worse, he was to find that his group that he was with, the POUM,

was now accused of being a Fascist militia, secretly helping Franco.

Orwell had to sleep in the open to avoid showing his papers, and

eventually managed to escape into France with his wife. His account of

his time in Spain was published in Homage to Catalonia (1938). His

experiences in Spain left two impressions on Orwell’s mind. First,

they showed him that socialism in action was a human possibility, if

only a temporary one. He never forgot the exhilaration of those first

days in Barcelona, when a new society seemed possible, where

“comradeship” instead of being just a socialist was reality. Second,

the experience of the city returning to normal, he saw as a gloomy

confirmation of the fact that there will always be different classes.

He saw that there is something in the human nature that seeks

violence, conflict, and power over others. ! It will be clear that

these two impressions, of hope on one hand, and despair on the other

are entirely contradiction. Nevertheless, despite the despair and

confusion of his return to Barcelona, street fights between different

groups of socialists broke out again, Orwell left Spain with a hopeful

impression (Stringer, p.441-446). In 1938, Orwell became ill with

tuberculosis, and spent the winter in Morocco. While there he wrote his

next book, a novel entitled Coming up for Air published in 1939, the

year the long threatened war between England and Germany broke out.

Orwell wanted to fight, as he has done in Spain, against the fascist

enemy, but he was declared unfit. In 1941, he joined the British

Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) as talks producer in the Indian section

of the eastern service. He served in the Home Guard, a wartime civilian

body for local defense. In 1943, he left the BBC to become literary

editor of the tribune, and began writing Animal Farm. In 1944, the

Orwells adopted a son, but in 1945 his wife died during an operation.

Towards the end of the war Orwell went to Europe as a reporter

(Stringer, p.448-449). Late in 1945, he went to the island of Jura off

the Scottish coast, and settled there. He wrote Nineteen Eighty-four

there. The islands climate was unsuitable for someone suffering from

tuberculosis and Nineteen Eighty-four reflects the bleakness of human

suffering, the indignity of pain. Indeed he said that the book wouldn’t

have been so gloomy had he not been so ill. His wedding to Sonia

Bronwell took place at his bedside in University College Hospital. By

the time of his death in January 1950, he had been judged a major

author by cities on both sides of the Atlantic, and his value as a

cultural critic has been increasingly widely recognized (Stringer,

p.450).

Analysis

^Animal Farm^, Orwell wrote, ^was the first book in which I tried, with

full consciousness of what I was doing, to fuse political purpose and

artistic purpose into one whole (Hopkinson, p.12).^ Orwell^s purpose

of writing this book was to write a book in simple language with

concrete symbolism so that ordinary English people, who had enjoyed a

tradition of justice and liberty for centuries, would realize what a

totalitarian system, like Russia^s government, was like. His

experience in Spain had shown him how easily totalitarian propaganda

can control the opinion of enlightened people in democratic countries.

Orwell^s style in composing a cynical novel in simplistic manners

allows the reader to easily relate the plot and characters to the

events and leaders of the Russian government from 1917 to the middle

1940s. Orwell wrote Animal Farm to destroy the Soviet myth that Russia

was a true socialist society. ^He attacks the injustice of the Soviet

regime and seeks to correct Western misconception about the Soviet

Communism. Orwell^s Animal Farm is based on the first thirty years of

the Soviet Union, a real society pursuing the ideal of equality

(Atkins, p.120).^ His book argues that a society where men live

together fairly, justly, and equally hasn^t worked and couldn^t work.

Animal Farm, a brief, concentrated satire, subtitled ^A Fairy Story^,

can also be read on the simple level of plot and character. It is an

entertaining, witty tale of a farm whose oppressed animals, capable of

speech and reason, overcome a cruel master and set up a revolutionary

government. They are betrayed by the evil power-hungry pigs,

especially by their leader, Napoleon, and forced to return to their

former servitude. Only the leadership has changed. On another, more

serious level, of course, it is a political allegory, a symbolic tale

where all the events and characters represent issues and leaders in

Russian history since 1917, ^in which the interplay between surface

action and inner meaning is everything (Atkins, p.125).^ Orwell^s

deeper purpose is to teach a political lesson. Orwell uses actual

historical events to construct his story. Each animal stands for a

precise figure or representative type. The pigs, who can read and

write and organize, are the ^Bolshevik intellectuals who came to

dominate the vast Soviet bureaucracy (Iftinkar, p.731).^ Napoleon is

Stalin, the select group around him the Politburo, Snowball is Trotsky,

and Squealer represents the propagandists of the regime. The pigs

enjoy the privileges of belonging to the new ruling class, which

include special food and shorter working hours, but also suffer the

consequences of questioning Napoleon^s policies. The other animals

represent various types of common people. Boxer, the name suggesting

the Boxer Rebellion of 1900 where revolutionaries tried to expel

foreigners from China, is the decent working man, fired by enthusiasm

for the egalitarian ideal, working overtime in the factories or on the

land, and willing to die to defend his country. Clover is the eternal

motherly working woman of the people. Molly, the unreliable, frivolous

mare, represents the ^White Russians who opposed the revolution and

fled the country (Iftinkar, p.732).^ The dogs are the vast army of

secret police who maintain Stalin in power. The sheep are the ignorant

public who repeat the latest propaganda without thinking and who can be

made to turn up to ^spontaneous demonstrations (Orwell, p.108)^ in

support of Napoleon^s plans. Moses, the raven, represents the

opportunist Church. He flies off after Mr. Jones, but returns later,

and continues to preach about the Sugarcandy Mountain (heaven), but the

pi! gs^ propaganda obliterates any lingering belief. Benjamin the

donkey, the cynical but powerless average man, never believes in the

glorious future to come, and is always alert to every betrayal.

Orwell^s allegory is comic in its detailed parallels: the hoof and horn

is clearly the hammer and sickle, the Communist party emblem. ^Beasts

of England^ is a parody of the ^Internationale^ the Communist party^s

song. The Order of the Green Banner is the ^Order of Lenin, and the

other first- and second-class awards spoof the fondness of Soviet

Russia for awarding medals, for everything from exceeding one^s quota

on the assembly line or in the harvest to bearing a great many children

(Iftinkar, p.732).^ ^The poem in praise of Napoleon (Orwell, p.90 -

91)^ imitates the sycophantic verses and the mass paintings and

sculptures turned out to glorify Stalin. Each event of the story has a

historical parallel. The Rebellion in chapter 2 is the October 1917

Revolution, and the Battle of the Cowshed in chapter 4 is the

subsequent Civil War. Mr. Jones and the farmers represent the loyalist

Russians and foreign forces that tried, but failed, to dislodge the

Bolsheviks. The hens^ revolt in chapter 7 stands for the brutally

suppressed ^1921 mutiny of the sailors at Kronstadt, (Iftinkar, 732)^

which challenged the new regime to release political prisoners and

grant freedoms of speech and the press. Napoleon^s deal with Whymper,

who trades the farm^s produce at Willingdon market, represents

^Russia^s 1922 Treaty of Rapollo with Germany (Iftinkar, p.733).^

Orwell emphasizes Napoleon^s decision to trade because it breaks the

First Commandment, that ^whatever goes upon two legs is an

enemy^(Orwell, p.33). ^Official Soviet policy was hostile to Germany,

a militaristic, capitalist nation, but the Treaty revealed that the

Communist regime h! ad been trading arms and heavy machinery, and

would continue to do so (Iftinkar, p.734).^

The Windmill stands for ^the first Five-Year Plan of 1928,

which called for rapid industrialization and collectivization

of agriculture (Iftinkar, p.734).^ In chapter 6 a terrible

storm caused ^the windmill to fall to ruins^ (Orwell, p.71),

which symbolizes the grim failure of this policy. Chapter 7

describes in symbolic terms the famine and starvation which

followed. The hens^ revolt stands for the peasants^ bitter

resistance to collective farming, when they burned their crops

and slaughtered their animals. The animals^ false confessions

in chapter 7 are the Purge Trials of the late 1930s. The false

banknotes given by Mr. Frederick for the corn represent

Hitler^s betrayal of ^the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939 (Iftinkar,

p.735),^ and the second destruction of the Windmill, by Mr.

Frederick^s men, is ^the Nazi invasion of Russia in 1941

(Iftinkar, p.735).^ The last chapter brings Orwell up to date

of the book^s composition. He ends with a satiric portrait of

the Teheran Conf! erence of 1943, the meeting of Churchill,

Roosevelt, and Stalin, ^who were planning to divide the world among

themselves (Atkins, p.163).^ The quarrel over cheating at cards

predicts the downfall of the superpowers as soon as the war ended.

The plot^s circular movement, which returns the animals to

conditions very like those in the beginning, provides occasions

for vivid irony. In the first chapter they lament their forced

labor and poor food, but by chapter 6 they are starving, and

are forced to work once more. In chapter 1 Old Major predicts

that one day Jones will send Boxer to the butcher, and in

chapter 9 Napoleon fulfills this prophecy by sending him to the

slaughterhouse. In chapter 7, when various animals falsely

confess their crimes and are summarily executed by the dogs,

^the air was heavy and the smell of blood, which had been

unknown there since the expulsion of Jones (Orwell, p.83).^

These ironies all emphasis the tragic failure of the

revolution, and support Benjamin^s view that ^life would go on

as it had always gone on ^ that is badly (Orwell, 56).^ Though

all the characters are representative types, Orwell

differentiates the two most important figures, Napoleon and

Snowball, so that they resemble their real-life counterparts

both in the broad lines of their characterizations and in their

two major disagreements. Like Stalin, Napoleon, having ^a

reputation for getting his own way (Orwell, p.25),^ takes

charge of indoctrinating the young, sets up an elaborate

propaganda machine, cultivates an image of omnipotent

portraying charismatic power, and surrounds himself with

bodyguards and fawning attendants. Like Trotsky, Snowball is

an intellectual, who quickly researches a topic and formulates

plans. He is a persuasive orator, but fails to extort the

leadership from Napoleon. Napoleon and Snowball^s quarrel over

the Windmill represents their dispute over what should take

priority in developing the Soviet Union. ^Stalin wanted to

collectivize the agriculture; Trotsky was for developing

industry. Ultimately Stalin adopted both programs in his first

Five-Year Plan (Iftinkar, p.736),^ just as Napoleon derides

Snowball^s plans, then uses them as his own. ^Their most

fundamental disagreement was whether to try to spread the

revolution to other countries, as classical Marxism dictated,

or confine themselves to making a socialist state in Russia

(Meyers, p.137).^ Napoleon argues for the latter, saying that

the animals must arm themselves to protect their new

leadership. Snowball says that they must send more pigeons

into neighboring farms to spread the news about the revolution,

so at the end Napoleon assures the farmers that he will not

spread the rebellion among the animals. ^Expelled from the

Politburo in 1925, Trotsky went into exile in 1929 and was

considered a heretic. His historical role was altered; his

face cut out of group photographs of the leaders of the

revolution. In Russia he was denounced as a traitor and

conspirator and in 1940 a Stalinist agent assassinated him in

Mexico City (Iftinkar, p.737).^ Similarly, Snowball is blamed

for everything that goes wrong in Animal Farm, and the animals

are persuaded that he was a traitor from the beginning. It has

been said that the very act of reducing human characters to

animals implies a pessimistic view of man, and that in Animal

Farm the satiric vision is close to the tragic. ^Orwell turns

elements of comedy into scenes of tragic horror (Connolly,

p.176).^ In chapter 5, Napoleon comically lifts his leg to

urinate on Snowball^s plans. But shortly afterwards, he

summons the dogs and orders them to rip out the throats of

those who confess their disloyalty. In one instance Napoleon^s

contempt is amusing, in the next it is horrifying. The

beast-fable is not only a device that allows Orwell^s serious

message to be intelligible on two levels; the use of animals to

represent man is basic to his whole theme. We can readily

grasp that animals are oppressed and feel it is wrong to

exploit them and betray their trust. Orwell counts on our

common assumptions about particular species to suggest his

meaning. The sheep and their bleating are perfect metaphors

for a gullible public, ever read to accept policies and repeat

rumors as truth. We commonly believe pigs are greedy and

savage, even to the point of devouring their young, which

describes the power-hungry government officials of the 1917 ^

1945 interval. In chapter 3, ^the work of the farm went like

clockwork (Orwell, p.36)^ when the animals were in charge; into

this simple fabric Orwell inserts a word with Marxist

overtones: ^with the worthless ^parasitical^ human beings gone,

there was more for everyone to eat (Orwell, p.36).^ The

simplicity of his vocabulary adds to the creativeness and

ingenuity Orwell displays through the double meanings in his

writing. The political allegory of Animal Farm, whether

specific or general, detailed or allusive, is persuasive, thorough and

accurate, and the brilliance of the book becomes much clearer when the

satiric allegory is compared to the political actuality of Russia^s

historic government. Critics who write, ^It makes a delightful

children^s story^ are completely oblivious to the sophisticated,

underlying meanings the parable satires. The pleasure of reading

Animal Farm lies in recognizing the double meanings, the political and

historical parallels, in the story that George Orwell cleverly

disguised through creative symbolism. Some critics say that Orwell^s

satire is over-exaggerated. But to those critics I would ask then why

did ^customs officials at the Moscow International Book Fair in 1987

clear the British exhibitors^ shelves of Animal Farm (Meyers, p.241).^

I believe there is no better certification of the book^s truth.

Bibliography

Ahmad, Iftinkar, Herbert Brodsky, et al., World Cultures: A Global Mosaic. Englewood

Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1993.

Atkins, John. George Orwell. London: Calder and Boyers, 1954.

Connolly, Cyril. Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism. Vol. 31. Detroit, Michigan: Gale

Research Inc., 1986.

Gross, Miriam. The World of George Orwell. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1971.

Hopkinson, Tom. George Orwell. New York: Longmans, Green and Co., 1953.

Meyers, Jeffery. A Reader^?s Guide to George Orwell. London: Thanes and Hudson,

1975.

Orwell, George. Animal Farm. New York, New York: New American Library, 1946.

Stringer, Jenny. The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Literature in English.

Oxford: New York, 1996.


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