Russian Revolution: Animal Farm

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Although Orwell aims his satire at dictatorship—Communism, Fascism, and Capitalism—Animal Farm has its structure largely based on the events of the Russian Revolution that took place between 1917 and 1944, when Orwell was writing the novella. Much of what happens in the novella symbolically describes specific developments in the history of Russian Communism, and several of the animal characters are based on real participants in the Russian Revolution. Due to the universal relevance of the novella’s themes, we do not need to possess an encyclopedic knowledge of Marxist Leninism or Russian history in order to appreciate Orwell’s satire of them. Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas investigated in a literary work. Animal Farm is most famous in the West as a harsh analysis of the history and language of the Russian Revolution. Retelling the story of the emergence and development of Soviet communism in the form of an animal fable, Animal Farm allegorizes the rise to power of the dictator Joseph Stalin. In the novella, the overthrow of the human oppressor Mr. Jones by a democratic coalition of animals quickly gives way to the consolidation of power among the pigs. Much like the Soviet intelligentsia, the pigs establish themselves as the ruling class in the new society. The struggle for domination between Leon Trotsky and Stalin emerges in the enmity between the pigs Snowball and Napoleon. In both the historical and fictional cases, the idealistic but politically less powerful figure (Trotsky and Snowball) is expelled from the revolutionary state by the wicked and violent usurper of power (Stalin and Napoleon). The purges and show trials with which Stalin eliminated his enemies and solidified his political base find expression in Animal Farm as the false confessions and executions of animals whom Napoleon distrusts following the collapse of the windmill. Stalin’s tyrannical rule and eventual abandonment of the founding...
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