Animal Farm and a Tale of Two Cities: Social Criticism

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Many authors receive their inspiration for writing their literature from outside sources. The idea for a story could come from family, personal experiences, history, or even their own creativity. For authors that choose to write a book based on historical events, the inspiration might come from their particular viewpoint on the event that they want to dramatize. George Orwell and Charles Dickens wrote Animal Farm and A Tale of Two Cities, respectively, to express their disillusionment with society and human nature. Animal Farm, written in 1944, is a book that tells the animal fable of a farm in which the farm animals revolt against their human masters. It is an example of social criticism in literature in which Orwell satirized the events in Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution. He anthropomorphises the animals, and alludes each one to a counterpart in Russian history. A Tale of Two Cities also typifies this kind of literature. Besides the central theme of love, is another prevalent theme, that of a revolution gone bad. He shows us that, unfortunately, human nature causes us to be vengeful and, for some of us, overly ambitious. Both these books are similar in that both describe how, even with the best of intentions, our ambitions get the best of us. Both authors also demonstrate that violence and the Machiavellian attitude of "the ends justifying the means" are deplorable.

George Orwell wrote Animal Farm, "... to discredit the Soviet system by showing its inhumanity and its back-sliding from ideals [he] valued ..."(Gardner, 106) Orwell noted that " there exists in England almost no literature of disillusionment with the Soviet Union.' Instead, that country is viewed either with ignorant disapproval' or with uncritical admiration.'"(Gardner, 96) The basic synopsis is this: Old Major, an old boar in Manor Farm, tells the other animals of his dream of "animalism": " ... Only get rid of Man, and the produce of our labour would be our own. Almost overnight we would become rich and free.'" (Orwell, 10) The other animals take this utopian idea to heart, and one day actually do revolt and drive the humans out. Two pigs emerge as leaders: Napoleon and Snowball. They constantly argued, but one day, due to a difference over plans to build a windmill, Napoleon exiled Snowball. Almost immediately, Napoleon established a totalitarian government. Soon, the pigs began to get special favours, until finally, they were indistinguishable from humans to the other animals. Immediately the reader can begin to draw parallels between the book's characters and the government in 1917-44 Russia. For example, Old Major, who invented the idea of "animalism," is seen as representing Karl Marx, the creator of communism. Snowball represents Trotsky, a Russian leader after the revolution. He was driven out by Napoleon, who represents Stalin, the most powerful figure in the country. Napoleon then proceeded to remove the freedoms of the animals, and established a dictatorship, under the public veil of "animalism." Pigs represent the ruling class because of their stereotype: dirty animals with insatiable appetites. Boxer, the overworked, incredibly strong, dumb horse represents the common worker in Russia. The two surrounding farms represent two of the countries on the global stage with Russia at the time, Germany and England.

Orwell begins his book by criticizing the capitalists and ruling elite, who are represented in Animal Farm by Mr. Jones, the farmer. He is shown as a negligent drunk, who constantly starved his animals. "His character is already established as self-indulgent and uncaring." (King, 8) Orwell shows us how, "if only animals became aware of their strength, we should have no power over them, and that men exploit animals in much the same way as the rich exploit the proletariat."(Gardner, 97) What was established in Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution was not true communism ("animalism"), which Orwell approved of, where...
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