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In his beast fable, “Animal Farm,” Gorge Orwell fulfills his thematic purposes through the creative use of various literary devices such as symbolism, style, and characterization. The satirical allegory carries the central theme of authoritarian power and the corruption of socialism, demonstrating how the two cannot complementarily work together. The authorship of the fable applies the narration style using simple language that contradicts the manipulative use of language by the characters. Animal Farm is a symbol of a state like Russia that helps develop the themes of oppressive power and corrupt socialist ideals. George Orwell successfully fulfills his thematic purpose using a simple style with symbolism through the characters.
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Throughout “Animal Farm,” the desire for freedom and equality sees tyrannical power move from one embodiment to another. Instead of ending oppressive power, it moves from Manor Farm owner, Mr Jones, to Snowball, and finally, Napoleon (Orwell, 2021). The theme of tyrannical power sits at the heart of this beast fable through its satirical symbolic nature, where autocratic leadership is a criticized vice. Old Major, the boar, introduces socialist ideals whose centrality is equality and freedom for all. However, the concentration of power among a group of people exchanged this utopic ideal with tyrannical power that steered Animal Farm to a worsened life than they were escaping from.
The corruption of socialism is another domineering theme complimenting the criticism of tyrannical power. The allegorical novel mirrors the corrupt socialistic ideals of Russia that transferred oppressive leadership from an outside force to one of their own, exchanging their desired freedom and equality in socialism with further oppression and autocracy. Like in Animal Farm, communism in Russia rose in the spirit of overthrowing an oppressive power through a democratic agreement among the people, unconsciously focusing tyrannical power on Joseph Stalin (Malia, 2019). Karl Marx, the father of socialism, inspired Leon Trotsky, whom Joseph Stalin overthrew (Carver, 2017). Old Major, Snowball, and Napoleon respectively allegorized these three individuals. The consolidation of power among the pigs in the socialistic spirit corrupted Old Major’s utopic ideal of equality and freedom for all animals, bringing a communist result that was oppressive.
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Orwell achieves the communication of the above themes using a narrative style with straightforward language. The fable’s language contrasts with the one used by the characters to demonstrate the intentional manipulation of language by authoritarian leadership. Using a beast fable to convey the themes allows Orwell to use narration, a style of simply giving information to the readers in the context of a story. Although the novel centers its themes in a political milieu, Orwell avoids political terminologies to stick to clear and straightforward language.
The novel’s clarity contrasts this cynical use of language by the characters Napoleon and Squealer, showing how tyrannical powers use language to apply autocratic force on subjects. Furthermore, the use of passive voice in the story further develops the two themes, where statements like “it was noticed” place no accountability on the one who noticed (Orwell, 2021). Therefore, no one could be held accountable for such. For instance, when Snowball and Napoleon consumed the milk, they could not be held accountable, just like how resources in the corrupt socialist USSR disappeared with no one accountable for the same (Orwell, 2021). In other words, the simplicity and straightforwardness of Orwell’s narration contrasting with the cynical language used by the pigs, develop the themes by identifying language as a tool to oppress subjects.
Animal Farm symbolizes a state, with a government, law enforcement, and state rituals attempting to attain freedom and equality. Like a state, Animal Farm has a government: the pigs Snowball, Napoleon, and Squealer (Orwell, 2021). The nine puppies secluded for “education” symbolize the police, who are secluded for training to enforce the law. Like tyrannical leaders using the police, the dogs are tools to suppress the people, terrorizing all individuals opposing these leaders. Animal Farm also symbolizes Russia, which had a tyrannical rule under the communist party led by Joseph Stalin, symbolized by Napoleon. Joseph Stalin used the military, symbolized by the dogs, to push for his oppressive communist policies. All that opposed, that is, through siding with a capitalist ideology, faced the wrath of the police and military, like how the hens refusing their eggs sold by Napoleon experienced. In short, Orwell’s crafty use of symbolism develops the themes by explaining the complex state of socialism and tyranny in Russia.
Napoleon is not only an embodiment of the USSR’s Joseph Stalin but also a representation of the tyrants before him and those that emerged after him. Napoleon displays the characteristics of all tyrants and aristocrats. Napoleon, like other tyrants, is interested in consolidating power to himself and only takes an interest in actions that will help achieve this power. For instance, he trains the dogs for personal use to amass power, like Joseph Stalin trained the Red Army to enforce communism (Whitewood, 2015). Similarly, Adolf Hitler trained the Hitler Youth to further participate in the Nazi’s principles to propel his tyrannical policies (Bartoletti, 2016). Eventually, Napoleon joined the very humans Animal Farm rebelled against to the amazement of the animals. The themes of oppressive power and socialism fully develop with the character Napoleon, the pig.
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As shown above, Animal Farm is a critique of the failed socialism in Russia, which tyrannical power corrupted, birthing an oppressive regime worse than they were escaping. The three pigs took the utopic idea of a place with equality for all by Old Major, representing Karl Marx, to consolidate power on themselves. Consequently, the authoritarian power corrupted the socialistic ideals on Animal Farm through different tools like language. Napoleon further ferries the core themes by embodying the tyrant character oppressing his subjects.
- Bartoletti, S. C. (2016). Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler Shadow: Growing Up in Hitler’s Shadow. Scholastic Inc.
- Carver, T. (2017). Making Marx. Journal of Classical Sociology, 17(1), 10-27.
- Malia, M. (2019). To the Stalin mausoleum. In Eastern Europe, Central Europe (pp. 283-338). Routledge.
- Orwell, G. (2021). Animal farm. Oxford University Press.
- Whitewood, P. (2015). The Red Army and the Great Terror: Stalin’s Purge of the Soviet Military. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas.