Animal Farm 2


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,


^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.


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^Òs Guide to George Orwell. London: Thanes and Hudson, 
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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