an observation on Animal Farm

Topics: Nineteen Eighty-Four, Totalitarianism, George Orwell Pages: 5 (1670 words) Published: March 16, 2014
 An Observation of Human Society through Animal Society in Animal Farm “The importance of enlightenment to resist totalitarianism” Like LIU
Lingnan(University) College, Sun-Yat-Sen University

Abstract:Totalitarianism (or totalitarian rule) is a political system in which the state holds total authority over the society and seeks to control all aspects of public and private life whenever necessary. 1Is totalitarianism an unavoidable nightmare? Through three questions pointing towards Animal Farm, I want to figure out the importance of enlightenment to resist totalitarianism.

Key words:Enlightenment/reason/totalitarianism

It is acknowledged that George Orwell seemed to hold the pessimistic belief that totalitarianism was inevitable even in the West. According to Russell Baker, who wrote the preface to Animal Farm’s 1996 Signet Classics version, Orwell’s pessimism stemmed from his having grown up in an age of dictatorship. Witnessing Hitler’s and Stalin’s movements from afar, as well as fighting totalitarianism in the Spanish Civil War, Orwell came to believe in the rise of a new species of autocrat, worse even than the tyrants of old.2 This cynicism is reflected in two of his highly successful novels, Animal Farm and 1984. Both of the two novels reveal Orwell’s deep desperate pessimism towards the inevitability of totalitarianism. After reading Animal Farm I fell into deep thought and was wondering whether there was still any possibility to resist totalitarianism. Then I relate the story to the reality, including notorious autocrats and representative revolutions in all ages. And I personally generate three questions about this novel, trying to provide some inspiration for the solution of “the inevitability of totalitarianism”. The first one is, why it happens to be the pigs that first bring forward the commandments and lead the rebellion rather than the dogs, the cats or any other animals? Second, how does the pigs manage to manipulate the animals without any obvious obstacles? Third, what if, all of the other animals realized the totalitarianism as soon as it had appeared?

Next three parts each tries to answers the three questions.

“Pigs are the cleverest of the animals”
Old Major is older and wiser than the other animals, which is an undeniable fact that enables him to play a role of an authoritative philosopher, creating a delicate model for an ideal society in the future. After Major’s death, they are the pigs that take on the task of organizing and mobilizing the other animals because they are “generally recognized as being the cleverest of the animals”. By the sharp contrast, however, the other animals are so stupid that they do not even realize Jones has been exploiting them. The worse thing is, that most of the animals never learn more than a few letters of the alphabet. Revealing that they have taught themselves to read and write from an old children’s book, pigs definitely become the only ones that have the ability to translate Major’s vision of the future into the Seven Commandments of Animalism. And once the pigs set up their status as the educated elite, they use their mental advantage to manipulate the other animals. So right from the very beginning of the novel, we start to become aware of intelligence and education’s role in stratifying Animal Farm’s population.

So can we say it for sure that the animals’ ignorance is due to lack of intelligence? A small detail captured in the novel can answer that question. As soon as the animals win the revolution, the pigs burn a children’s book they used to teach themselves to read and write, but apparently the resource is no longer available after the burning. Cleary the animals should have had the access to learn and to be educated. Nevertheless, an oppressive environment created by the autocrats, is able tosd prevent them from being enlightened, and generation after generation, can make their lower status and ability seem natural. At...
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