Animal Farm is a fable by George Orwell. It was first published in the year 1945 right after the Second World War. The plot of the novella revolves around a group of animals who revolt against their authoritarian rulers. They strive to establish a society where everyone can be equal and free. The most unique aspect of this work is the reflection of Orwell’s political ideology in his representation of mere farm animals.
Animal Farm has gained worldwide recognition and won many accolades. Time magazine’s list of 100 best English language novels (1923-2005) featured the text, and it won a Retrospective Hugo Award in 1996 as well.
What is an Allegory?
An allegory is a literary device used as a narrative wherein characters and events in the story represent broader issues in the real world. It serves as a subtle message conveying the symbolic meaning implied in the obvious one. For instance, William Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ is also an allegorical text.
The storyline of the Animal Farm
The story revolves around animals of the poorly maintained Manor Farm. They continuously complain about their irresponsible and alcoholic owner Mr. Jones. This soon manifests into a rebellion to overthrow the humans, after which two young pigs, namely Snowball and Napoleon, take charge of running the farm. They also rename it to ‘Animal Farm’ and build their own Animalist Commandment.
Snowball is white, and Napoleon is black. This indicates Snowball as a good character and Napoleon as an evil one. Both of them are always in direct opposition, having different ideologies and goals. Snowball wanted to modernize the farm and improve the lives of the animals. However, Napoleon chased Snowball away, declared himself the leader, and continued to inflict his twisted policies upon other animals.
The story consists of numerous instances representing hypocrisy of rulers, spreading of propaganda, cons of unrestricted power, corruption, and political dogma in the Animal Farm.
The Underlying Message in Animal Farm
The book is a perfect political satire representing the 1917 Russian Revolution and the development of communism under Joseph Stalin. There is also an uncanny resemblance between the flags of the Animal Farm and the Communist Soviet Union.
The original owner of the farm, Mr. Jones represents Tsar Nicholas II, who was overthrown by Vladimir Lenin.
The character of Snowball as the good politician represents Leon Trotsky, who was Vladimir Lenin’s second-in-command. His assassination in the woods by Napoleon’s dogs is similar to Trotsky’s assassination by Stalin’s KGB agents in Mexico. Orwell built Napoleon’s character to represent Stalin, the general secretary of the Soviet Union’s Communist Party. Moreover, it is representative of all totalitarian rulers everywhere, like the real-life Napoleon Bonaparte, who was the dictator of France in the 19th century.
The character of Squealer represents the USSR’s propagandists who spread persuasive messages in support of the ruler and confused the animals with his bigotry.
Napoleon’s amending the Animalist Commandment shows how rulers often distort rules and regulations to satisfy their whims. For example, ‘all animals are equal’ became ‘all animals are equal, but some are more equal than the others’.
Both Animal Farm and the Soviet Union started with good intentions and later on crumbled in the dust.
Orwell’s Animal Farm: Reception and Criticism
Although one can say that Orwell’s work has immense creativity and symbolism, the political nature of the text became an issue. His attempt to combine the artistic purpose with the political purpose met with great criticism.
During the dangerous times of the Cold War, Orwell’s Animal Farm was an outright rejection of the USSR regime. On the one hand, it received official and quasi-official approval in America. On the other hand, many countries banned the text as it was too controversial for circulation. For example, Britain didn’t want to tarnish its ties with USSR. As for the USSR, it banned the text until 1988 for defaming their ruler as a pig. The text is still illegal in North Korea, Cuba, China, and Vietnam for its involvement with communism.
Censorship of Animal Farm
Animal Farm by George Orwell is one of the many examples of literary intelligentsia suppressed by the people in power. Where there is a need to silence the educated, there lies a threat to the core foundations of society. Censorship of thought-provoking pieces such as the Animal Farm leads us to wonder how influential literature can be.