Animal Farm Themes and Analysis

‘Animal Farm’ is a political allegory based on the events of the Russian revolution and the betrayal of the cause by Joseph Stalin.

The novel echoes the corrupting nature of power through the themes and symbols. It is a satire on totalitarianism and dictatorship.

Animal Farm Analysis

Animal Farm Themes

Totalitarianism

Orwell’s use of Totalitarianism as the theme demonstrates, without education and true empowerment of the lower classes, any revolution led would only be led into oppression and tyranny. Initially, the results of the revolution look promising, as the animals get the direct benefit of their labor. Soon, the pigs adopt human ways and make business deals with farmers that benefit them alone. But, only negative changes happen in the life of the other animals. Still, they continue to work as their leader Napoleon bid them. In the end, the revolutionary leaders become as corrupt and incompetent as the government they overthrew.

Power of Language

Language has the power to engage and disengage. In Animal form, Orwell excellently depicts the power of language through the pigs, only animals with a strong command of language. In the beginning, singing “Beasts of England,” taught by the Old Major, infuses the emotional response.

Also, Snowball compiles the philosophy of Animalism and with his eloquent speech persuades his fellow animals on the farm to follow it. Similarly, Squealer with his adept skill of oration controls the animals on the farm. At the same time, the animals’ adoption of slogans like “Napoleon is always right” or “Four legs good, two legs bad” underlines their lack of understanding and easy to be manipulated nature.

Class structures

From time immemorial class division seems to be a major issue of human society. George Orwell comments on the same through the class division in ‘Animal Farm‘ before and after the revolution. He ironically presents the human tendency to have class structures even though they speak of total equality. When the story begins, class division is evident with the human beings being on top of every animal as the rulers of Manor Farm.

During the revolution, they vow not to treat any animal inferior. Soon it all changes, when the pigs, so-called “brain workers”, assume the role of leader and superiors start to control other animals. Evidently, Orwell points out the threat the class division imposes on society when they aim to have democracy and freedom.

Power leading to corruption

“Power leading to corruption” is another major theme Orwell explores in ‘Animal Farm’. Many of the characters, predominantly the pigs after the humans demonstrate the theme in the novel. Initially, humans exploit their power over animals. Later following the revolt, the pigs start to fill in the gap created by the eviction of man. They manipulate their position of leadership to exploit other animals. Though Napoleon is presented as the villain of the novel, neither Snowball nor the Old Major is immune to corruption.

As brain workers, the pigs, including Snowball, take advantage of the animal and keeps milk and apple away for them. Even Old Major, who brings forth the idea “all animals are equal,” lecturing from a raised platform, symbolically presents an idea of him being above the other animals on the farm. Altogether, it is made clear that the desire for power, evidently corrupt people.

The Failure of Intellect

Orwell presents a sceptical view on intellect that doesn’t produce anything of importance. In the novel, the pigs, identified as the most intelligent animals, use their intelligence only to exploit other animals than making their life better. Similarly, Benjamin, who is good, acts indifferent towards using the knowledge and speaks philosophically of moral values. Also, the dogs, equally intelligent like the pigs, don’t use their knowledge except to read “the Seven Commandments”. Thus, intelligence is often being unused or ill-used.

The Exploitation of Working Class

Animal Farm‘ more than being an allegory of the ways humans exploit and oppress one another, throws light upon how they exploit and oppress animals. In the first chapter, through Old Major’s speech, we get a detailed picture of how humans exploit the animals and rob them of their productions.

Also, in the second chapter, when the animals break open the harness-room at the end of the stables, they see “the bits, the nose-rings, the dog-chains, the cruel knives” with which Mr Jones extracted cruelty on the animals. Much like this, during the conversation between Mr Pilkington and Napoleon in chapter 10, he loosely comments “If you have your lower animals to contend with […] we have our lower classes!” Ultimately, it gives a perspective that, in the views of the ruling class, animals and workers are the same.

Analysis of Key Moments in Animal Farm

  • Old Major shares his dream of a life without humans. He also teaches the animals “Beasts of England” a song that inspires them.
  • Few months after the Old Major’s death, the revolt breaks out when Mr Jones forgets to feed the animals and a fed-up cow pushes her way into the store-shed to look for food. The animals rejoice in their victory. They change the name of the farm to ‘Animal Farm’ and decide on seven commandments to live by.
  • The animals are happy and they work well together more efficiently than Mr Jones ever did. Boxer, the horse, puts in a huge effort, with the motto ‘I will work harder!’.
  • The Battle of the Cowshed establishes Snowball as a hero. He also sets up ‘committees’ focused on education, reading and writing.
  • Napoleon, however, thinks educating the old animals is a waste of time. He focuses on the youngsters and removes the puppies of Jessie and Bluebell, to educate himself which foreshadows his guile nature.  
  • At one point, Napoleon drives Snowball out of the Farm with the help of the puppies, who are now grown-up dogs. But, Squealer convinces the other animals that Snowball was a traitor.
  • Napoleon announces himself to be the leader. And, he keeps making changes in the seven commandments. Finally, they have only one commandment that says, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
  • Later, he announces that the farm will be trading with neighboring farms. This comes as a shock to the animals as it goes against their commandments of Animalism.
  • In the final image, the animals in the Farms are confused and bewildered when they realize that they cannot tell the difference between man and pig. Both have been sublimated into each other.

Style, Tone, and Figurative Language

The style and language of Animal Farm‘ are simple as it involves Animal characters. The dialogues are delivered in short sentences, including the conclusion of the novel: “It was a pig walking on his hind legs […] He carried a whip in his trotter” (Chapter 10).  Further, Orwell has written the sentences in the passive voice, emphasizing the characters (animals) lack of control over the incidents that are happening.

To speak about the tone, it is playful and lighthearted in the beginning. It opens like any other fable where the animals could speak. Also, a tint of excitement could felt, as the animals win over their human suppressers and have hope for a beautiful future of their own. Soon, the tone turns bitter and monotonous in accordance with the story unfolds.

Two of the dominant figurative language use in ‘Animal Farm‘ is “onomatopoeia” and “Allusion”. Orwell employs animal sounds and movements to describe the actions. For example, while “stirring” and “fluttering” speaks of their movement, “cheeping feebly” and “grunting” explains their way of communications. 

Animal Farm,’ being an allegorical novel, alludes to Russian Revolution, through its settings and characters.  The character of the Old Major, Snowball, and Napoleon, alludes respectively to Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky, and Stalin. Also, the events following the revolution: Battle of the Cowshed, Snowball being chased off the Farm, and the slaughter of the hens allude to Trotsky’s exile and the Moscow trials of 1936-38.  Though, the character of Napoleon is an allusion to Joseph Stalin, Russia’s totalitarian dictator, his name attributes to Napoleon Bonaparte, the French world conqueror.

Analysis of Symbols

Animal Farm’ uses symbols prevalently as it is more than a story of animals. From the Farm to the animals represent the People and events of the Russian Revolution. Unlike a narrative fiction in which the author decides on which events or characters to highlight, here he carefully standardized his plot to evoke the desired response from the readers. are not driven by the plot as in. Instead, his choices are carefully calibrated to evoke a desired response from the reader.

Whiskey

“Whiskey” symbolizes corruption in the novel. The changing perspective of the pigs over, consuming Whiskey delineates how steadily they fall prey to corruption. In the beginning, when Animalism is founded, one of the commandments read: ‛No animal shall drink alcohol.’ For the animals suffered in the hands of humans. But, when Napoleon and the other pigs come to enjoy whiskey, they change the commandment ‛No animal shall drink alcohol to excess’. Finally, when Napoleon uses the money received by selling Boxer, embodies his corrupted nature similar to that of human beings.

The Windmill

The windmill in the novel represents the attempt to modernize Russia. Initially, when Snowball proposes the idea of a Windmill, Napoleon protests against it. Later, he claims it as his own idea. Also, the product coming out inferior in quality refers to the general ineptitude of Stalin’s regime.

Boxer

Boxer’s character in the novel symbolizes the Russian working class. With his strength, he does most of the work on the farm. Similarly, the working-class people of the Soviet Revolution were exploited for their energy. Like Boxer and the other animals betrayed by the pigs, the people were betrayed by the intellectuals. On the whole, communism was not as beneficial for the working class as it was originally intended to be.

About Miz Alb
Miz Alb is a passionate reader of literature. She loves to look deep through the nuances of a literary work. She has secured her post-graduation in English Literature. With her learning as a background, she is analyzing the literary works down the ages.

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