Political Allegory in 'Animal Farm'

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Political Allegory in Orwell’s Animal Farm: A Note
Arpan Adhikary

In Animal Farm (1945) George Orwell adapts and subverts the conventional form of ‘Fairy Story’ while satirizing the ethico-political irony in between the theory and practice of revolution with implicit reference to the Stalinist regime in the USSR from the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 onwards. Though it can be read as a critique of any kind of totalitarian doctrine and political hypocrisy, Animal Farm abounds with numerous judiciously moulded allegorical references to certain historical personalities and incidents – which resist its being generalized as an abstract fable of political morality. Orwell here employs the fantastic form of bestiary and an elaborate Aesopian symbolic pattern – both of which aptly serve the satiric purpose of the work. Orwell was thoroughly disillusioned at the unfair manipulation of the rhetoric of the doctrine of Socialism and the reinforcement of a dictatorial system during the regime of Joseph Stalin in Russia. However, himself being an admirer of the political ideology propounded by Marx and Engels, Orwell does not satirize the socialist doctrine as such, but he does obliquely point at the utopianism inherent in this theory through the presentation of its corrupt implementation. All the same, Orwell does not in any way support or prioritize the ideology of capitalism. Rather, he exploits the ethical dialectics of the form of fable to critique any kind of political absolutism and ideological duality. Animal Farm begins by giving an allegorical account of the tyranny meted out by the capitalist and feudal Tsarist system, and ends on a cynical and pessimistic note with symbolic of the socialist revolution’s final dissipation into hypocrisy and tyranny. In a letter to Dwight Macdonald dated 5th December, 1946, Orwell writes, “Of course I intended it [Animal Farm] primarily as a satire on the Russian revolution. But I did mean it to have a wider application in so much that I meant that that kind of revolution ... can only lead to a change of masters. ... What I was trying to say was, ‘You can’t have a revolution unless you make it for yourself; there is no such thing as a benevolent dictatorship.’”. Orwell deeply sympathizes with the poor working class people, especially those of Russia, who in this novel are symbolized by Boxer and Clover. Orwell shows that it is the poor, unintelligent, working people who serve for the revolution most dedicatedly and it is they whose interests are finally deceived and thwarted by the leaders they worked for. Even after his relentless labour for the Animal Farm, when Boxer becomes useless, he is sold to the butcher by Napoleon. This parallels the condition of the working class in the USSR during the regime of Stalin – which was same as or even worse than the condition during the rule of the feudal Note made by Arpan Adhikary Page 1

lords. Poor people were made to pay the price for the revolution they had accomplished with much anticipation. Orwell’s point of satire is this very discrepancy in between the ideology of revolution and its real, corrupt form, as exemplified in Russia. In Orwell’s beast allegory human beings in general are representative of capitalists. Mr. Jones represents Tsar Nicholas II who thrown out of power during the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. The driving away of Jones corresponds to the execution of Nicholas II and his family in 1918. The name ‘Manor Farm’ indicates the pre-revolution Russia, and ‘Animal Farm’ stands for its post-revolution status. The hoof and horn flag is a clear allusion to the hammer and sickle flag of the Communist Party, and the colour green ironically suggests its opposite colour. The figure of Old Major represents none but Karl Marx who propounded an honest but somewhat impractical ideology of revolution that, if successfully accomplished, would emancipate the poor from the tyranny and exploitation of capitalist system. The dream of Old Major...
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