Chapter 1 Analysis
Although Orwell aims his satire at totalitarianism in all of its guises—communist, fascist, and capitalist—Animal Farm owes its structure largely to the events of the Russian Revolution as they unfolded between 1917 and 1944, when Orwell was writing the novella. Much of what happens in the novella symbolically parallels specific developments in the history of Russian communism, and several of the animal characters are based on either real participants in the Russian Revolution or amalgamations thereof. Due to the universal relevance of the novella’s themes, we don’t need to possess an encyclopaedic knowledge of Marxist Leninism or Russian history in order to appreciate Orwell’s satire of them. An acquaintance with certain facts from Russia’s past, however, can help us recognize the particularly biting quality of Orwell’s criticism (see Historical Background). Because of Animal Farm’s parallels with the Russian Revolution, many readers have assumed that the novella’s central importance lies in its exposure and critique of a particular political philosophy and practice, Stalinism. In fact, however, Orwell intended to critique Stalinism as merely one instance of the broader social phenomenon of totalitarianism, which he saw at work throughout the world: in fascist Germany (under Adolf Hitler) and Spain (under Francisco Franco), in capitalist America, and in his native England, as well as in the Soviet Union. The broader applicability of the story manifests itself in details such as the plot’s setting—England. Other details refer to political movements in other countries as well. The animals’ song “Beasts of England,” for example, parodies the “Internationale,” the communist anthem written by the Paris Commune of 1871. In order to lift his story out of the particularities of its Russian model and give it the universality befitting the importance of its message, Orwell turned to the two ancient and overlapping traditions of political fable and animal fable. Writers including Aesop (Fables), Jonathan Swift (especially in the Houyhnhnm section of Gulliver’s Travels), Bernard Mandeville (The Fable of the Bees), and Jean de La Fontaine (Fables) have long cloaked their analyses of contemporary society in such parables in order to portray the ills of society in more effective ways. Because of their indirect approach, fables have a strong tradition in societies that censor openly critical works: the writers of fables could often claim that their works were mere fantasies and thus attract audiences that they might not have reached otherwise. Moreover, by setting human problems in the animal kingdom, a writer can achieve the distance necessary to see the absurdity in much of human behaviour—he or she can abstract a human situation into a clearly interpretable tale. By treating the development of totalitarian communism as a story taking place on a small scale, reducing the vast and complex history of the Russian Revolution to a short work describing talking animals on a single farm, Orwell is able to portray his subject in extremely simple symbolic terms, presenting the moral lessons of the story with maximum clarity, objectivity, concision, and force. Old Major’s dream presents the animals with a vision of utopia, an ideal world. The “golden future time” that the song “Beasts of England” prophesies is one in which animals will no longer be subject to man’s cruel domination and will finally be able to enjoy the fruits of their labours. The optimism of such lyrics as “Tyrant Man shall be o’erthrown” and “Riches more than mind can picture” galvanizes the animals’ agitation, but unwavering belief in this lofty rhetoric, as soon becomes clear, prevents the common animals from realizing the gap between reality and their envisioned utopia. Chapter 2 Analysis
By the end of the second chapter, the precise parallels between the Russian Revolution and the plot of Animal Farm have emerged more clearly. The Manor Farm represents...
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