Title: Author(s): Publication Details: Source: Document Type:
Animal Farm Exposes Orwell's Sexism
Daphne Patai Readings on Animal Farm. San Diego, Calif.: Greenhaven Press, 1998. Short Story Criticism. Ed. Joseph Palmisano. Vol. 68. Detroit: Gale, 2004. p116126. From Literature Resource Center. Critical essay
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[(essay date 1998) In the following essay, originally published in 1984, Patai provides a feminist interpretation of Animal Farm.] Although Animal Farm is mentioned in scores of studies of Orwell, no critic has thought it worth a comment that the pigs who betray the revolution, like the pig who starts it, are not just pigs but boars, that is, uncastrated male pigs kept for breeding purposes. Old Major, the "prize Middle White boar" who has called a meeting to tell the other animals about his dream, is initially described in terms that establish him as patriarch of this world: "He was twelve years old and had lately grown rather stout, but he was still a majestic-looking pig, with a wise and benevolent appearance in spite of the fact that his tushes had never been cut." In contrasting his life with those of the less fortunate animals on the farm, Major says: "I am one of the lucky ones. I am twelve years old and have had over four hundred children. Such is the natural life of a pig." Orwell here repeats the pattern we have seen in his other fiction, of stressing paternity as if the actual labor of reproduction were done by males. Authority comes from the phallus and fatherhood, and the sows, in fact, are hardly mentioned in the book; when they are, as we shall see, it is solely to illustrate the patriarchal control of the ruling pig, Napoleon. Leaders, then, may be good (Major) or bad (Napoleon)--but they must be male and "potent." Contrasting with the paternal principle embodied in Major is the maternal, embodied in Clover, "a stout motherly mare approaching middle life, who had never quite got her figure back after her fourth foal." Clover is characterized above all by her nurturing concern for the other animals. When a brood of ducklings that had lost their mother come into the barn, Clover "made a sort of wall round them with her great foreleg," and they nestled down inside it. Though Clover works along with Boxer--the enormous cart horse "as strong as any two ordinary horses put together" whom Orwell uses to represent the working class, unintelligent but ever-faithful, to judge by this image--she is admired not for her hard labor but rather for her caring role as protector of the weaker animals. Orwell here attributes to the maternal female dominion over the moral sphere but without any power to implement her values. As in Nineteen Eighty-Four, this "feminine" characteristic, though admirable, is shown to be utterly helpless and of no avail. In addition, this conventional (human) division of reality restricts the female animal to the affective and expressive sphere and the male to the instrumental. Ambivalent Imagery
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Literature Resource Center - Print
Orwell at times utilizes the same imagery in opposing ways; imagery relating to passivity, for example, is presented as attractive in "Inside the Whale" and repulsive when associated with pansy pacifists. This ambivalence is demonstrated as well in Orwell's use of protective maternal imagery. Clover's protective gesture toward the ducklings, viewed positively in Animal Farm, is matched by Orwell's ridicule of a similar image in his verse polemic with Alex Comfort in 1943, about half a year before Orwell began composing Animal Farm. Falling into his familiar tough-guy rhetoric, Orwell angrily defended Churchill against pacifist gibes. ... The protective environment must be rejected if manly status is to be...