Themes – main message, lesson of the story
Characters, Conflict, Symbol, Setting
Some Key Themes in *Animal Farm*:
1. Satire - *Animal Farm* was a parody on communism and the
belief that true communism works. In order to
dramatasize this animals were used as examples.
2.Utopia/Dystopia - Animal Farm was intended to be a Utopia
but it became a dystopia when the pigs changed
it into a communist society. Old Major's ideas
for the perfect society were well placed but
did not work. Not one animal was really equal
and most were not cared for as should be.
3. Class Construction - Even though classes were not
originally intended to develop, they did. It
began with the Pigs taking control and it
continued with the creation of the honor system
This proved that not all the animals were equal
and it proved that communism in animal farm
4. Propaganda - The pigs began to spread propaganda to the
animals when they told them that they were
doing well. The animals, being naive, believed
every world of it. Propaganda was spread to
other farms, telling them about how Animal Farm
was more prosperous. They were urged to rebel.
The animals also could be indoctrinated using
propaganda. Ex: The sheep bleeting.
5. Language/Naivete - The animals were very naive and so
believed the pigs. The pigs took advantage of
the animals' naivete and used convincing
language to twist the memories of the animals.
Because the animals were uneducated, they were
easy to manipulate.
Communism under Joseph Stalin betrayed the ideals of the 1917 Russian revolutionaries who overthrew the old government. Napoleon the pig, the Stalin figure in the novel, abandons the ideals that the oppressed animals worked for and becomes a ruthless dictator, as Stalin did. Stalin (1879-1953) was secretary-general of the Soviet Communist Party between 1922 and 1953 and premier of the Soviet Union from 1941 to 1953. Stalin was a ruthless dictator who used secret police (symbolized by the attack dogs in Animal Farm) and control of the press through propaganda (symbolized by the activities of Squealer in the novel) to maintain an ironclad hold on power.
Lord Acton's thesis: Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Orwell is warning his readers that any political enterprise—no matter how worthy—is doomed to failure if its leaders sniff too often from the bouquet of power.
Lies can be dressed up in the clothing of truth. Napoleon's propagandist, Squealer, amends the seven commandments of animalism again and again—turning them into lies that benefit the pigs but making them look like other versions of the truth.
Unquestioning allegiance to authority invites abuse of power. After overthrowing Mr. Jones and establishing their new government, the animals blindly follow Napoleon, failing to question his revisionist policies. Their submissiveness serves only to invite further abuses of power.
•Someone’s always going to try and take control/power
•The more power you have, the better it is for the person who has the power, and the worse it is for people without power
•Greed will stop people from making a perfect society
•Be realistic: Don’t blindly believe leaders
•Not everyone is who they seem to be
•People can always change, and sometimes for the worse.
•Remember where you came from: keep your ego in check.
•Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
•Communism is good in theory, but not when you put it to use because of human nature (people are greedy and power-hungry)
•Be careful who your leaders are
•Don’t be too prideful
Name the 1st Theme?
Corruption of Ideals
List and Describe the 1st Sub Theme
Old Major's dream & philosophy
-his ideas begin when the animals try to put them into practice
-Ambitious leaders try to destroy Ideals
List and Describe the 2nd Sub Theme
Animals are Un-Educated
-they don’t see the failing values
-cant read to see the differences the less educated, the -more easily they are lead
List and Describe the 3rd Sub Theme
Old Major vision is Gone
-animals condition is worst than before
-Under Jones there were physical oppressed animals
-Under pigs & Napoleon there are physical & mentally oppressed animals
List and Describe the 4th Sub Theme
Parallel of Marxism
-Communism has recreated Russia in 1917
List and Describe the 5th Sub Theme
Orwell was a Democratic Socialist
-oppressed to Rebellion
-Old Major didn’t cause Rebellion, it happened as a response to Mr. Jones continuous neglect of basic needs for the animals
List and Describe the 6th Sub Theme
The Legitimacy of the Rebellion isn’t questioned
-For the U.S. this isn't true
-In Animal Farm, it's clear that Orwell is commenting on the corruption of Ideals after the Revolution
Name the 2nd Theme
Abuse of Language
List and Describe the 1st Sub Theme
Most important tool of betrayal of the Revolution
List and Describe the 2nd Sub Theme
Squealer is the mouthpiece of Napoleon
-Abe to distort language to the animals
-Makes animals believe pigs should have everything
-Great speaker, changes the ideas of animals to his own
List and Describe the 3rd Sub Theme
Language changes from exchanging Ideas to Sets of Rules
-Common animals have no sense of reality
List and Describe the 4th Sub Theme
Just like Stalin, Napoleon uses language to control thoughts
-Animals believe what is told to them because its Unthinkable not to
Name the 3rd Theme & Describe
Vision of the past
-Napoleon is able to control the memory of the animals
-Squealer is persuasive, animals accept his vision instead of their own
Name the 4th Theme & Describe
-Lord Acton "power corrupts, an absolute power corrupts absolutely"
-Based on Human Nature, Leaders abuse power, they serve personal needs rather than the people
-Jones has control of the Bodies of the animals, Napoleon has control over mind & body
Name the 5th Theme & Describe
Cycle of History
-History repeats itself
-Animal Farm was very unlikely to have a 2nd Revolution
Throughout Orwell’s Animal Farm one of the most prominent themes is that of the inevitability of class and social stratification and the problems of the working classes, especially in terms of their relationship to power structures and, in fact, it is not difficult to analyze Animal Farm from a Marxist perspective. The lower animals in Animal Farm by George Orwell who comprise the working class and who are not part of Napoleon’s intimate circle are hard workers and do not complain, even though they seem to realize that something foul is going on around them. Still, these lower classes in Animal Farm do not rise up and can thus be named as the major reason why the failed utopian social experiment of Animalism never worked.
Throughout Animal Farm another theme emerges; the idea of inevitable class stratification can be extended somewhat to include the idea that although the animals’ lack of realization about the verbal manipulation was genuine, that this was part of their characterization because of the belief that the working class is unable, despite its seeming might, to climb out from under repressive leadership. Although there are a number of issues relating to the power of language, rhetoric, and words in Animal Farm and education that will be discussed, the overwhelming sentiment at the end of the novel is that the lower class animals realize far too late what has occurred and thus no real change takes place throughout Animal Farm except for a variance in the faces that represent the leadership.
It is difficult to cast aside more critical biographical slants on Animal Farm by George Orwell and it must be remembered that this is a work that came out of the perceptions of George Orwell his of modern politics and society. The working class in Animal Farm is generally sympathetically portrayed, but not entirely. As this thesis statement for Animal Farm by George Orwell suggests, these classes are guilty of being like sheep in terms of following a leader and they rarely rise up or voice dissent despite the growing authority of the pigs. As one scholar notes of Animal Farm, George Orwell has a great many thoughts about the working class and their lack of potential. He writes, “He [Orwell] often praised the working class for their stoicism and hard work—but never for their intelligence or leadership. To his mind, workers were not just ordinary people whose education had often limited their intellectual horizons, they were inherently mentally inferior” (Pearce 47).
True to George Orwell’s views on the working class, the animals (except the pigs, of course) are prone to following what they are told and although they have the might, both in strength and numbers, they are incredibly docile and obedient. It is also worth mentioning that despite efforts to teach them to read, many were unable to learn and thus they could be taken advantage more often. One example in Animal Farm is when there is a murder on the farm committed by one animal against another, even if it was to root out a potential traitor. Since there is a lack of education among the animals and the sense that they do not need to know anything beyond that which they’ve been told, they quickly forget that such a crime is an unforgivable offence once they are convinced they misunderstood the law in the first place. During this event, the reader is reminded in one of the important quotes from Animal Farm by George Orwell, “No animal shall kill any other animal without a cause. [But] Somehow or other, the last two words had been slipped out of the animals’ memory. But now that they saw the Commandment had not been violated; for clearly there was a good reason for killing the traitors who leagued themselves with Snowball” (Orwell 98). In this case the working class is ignorant because they cannot read and even more oblivious because they are unwilling to see that it was still a violation, even if it was to root out a possible traitor. Because they are so easy to manipulate, they are taken advantage of and for this reason the working class constitute the downfall of the whole experiment and will cause the crumbling of this experiment in the creation of a utopia in Animal Farm, even if it seems far from one.
The working class, represented by the majority of the animals, is shown to be at the lowest end of the spectrum throughout the book. By making them appear as such, Animal Farm seems to be making a statement about societal structure as a whole. It is difficult not to think of Marx and other social and economic theorists as the power center unfolds and then collapses, leaving the working class in its wake. It does not seem, however, that the Orwell wants us to feel particularly sorry for them throughout Animal Farm, but only to see that they have brought ruin upon themselves as a result of their lack of initiative and education. As one scholar notes, “Napoleon, the boar who lacks productive skills but is able to grasp power and subsequently becomes the net beneficiary of the socialized system, and Boxer, the horse who is endowed with highly productive skills but does not acquire power and gradually depletes his resources as the net loser in the system” (Hamlen 942). In many ways, Boxer is a symbol for the whole of the working class, not just in the novel, but in real life as it has occurred throughout history.
Early in the novel, while Old Major is still alive, he tells the strong horse in one of the important quotes from Animal Farm, “Boxer, the very day your great muscles lose their power, Jones will sell you to the knacker” (10). This would have been seen as an ultimate treachery among the animals—an act of pure brutality on the part of the humans even though it is later another animal who does it to him. The death of Boxer in Animal Farm is symbolic of the attitude toward the working class—it is a symbol for the way once a worker is no useful or viable, he can simply be done away with. It did not matter that Boxer always vowed, “I will work harder” (36) or that he was the most active supporter of the “regime” because to them, his usefulness as a tool had ended and he was trash. The reader is not focused so much on the actual death of Boxer necessarily, but at the hypocrisy that surrounds it. It shows the other workers that even though he was committed to the ideals proposed by the leadership, he was expendable once his purpose was served. The social stratification that began with the overthrowing of Mr. Jones has once again worked itself out and come full circle and again, it seems that there must be a leader and some degree of oppression in order for society to function. Furthermore, it also seems that Animal Farm is expressing the view that there must be a class of workers who are useful only when producing and after that are expendable. Boxer serves as the greatest example because he was the most loyal to the ideas of the “revolution” and the end was proven to be unnecessary to its existence or survival.
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As we have witnessed throughout Animal Farm, there are a number of circumstances that arise that serve as allegories to past political or social events. The basic antagonism between working class and capitalist is even more strongly emphasized by metaphors. For example, “the diversity of the animal class, like the working class, is equally stressed by the differing personalities of the creatures. Just because all have been subjected to human rule does not mean they will act as a unified body once they take over the farm” (Letemendia 127). This observation backs up the statement made that Animal Farm is attempting to express the idea that these is something essential and inherent to the social stratification that occurs and that it was somehow unavoidable. This is made even more complicated by the fact that there is not a natural dominance of animals except for the fact of education and rhetoric. It might be natural for some of the animals to be followers while others are leaders, but the skillful speech of Squealer makes the playing field even more unbalanced. The pigs, under the cruel eye of Napoleon and with the silver tongue of Squealer, are able to maintain control through one mouthpiece. As it is stated in the book, “The others said Squealer could turn black into white” (11) and this he does rather successfully. It is Squealer’s role to ask as the propagandist of the farm and he makes them believe that they are all stupid and in need of guidance by turning around what they already thought they knew about animalism. At one point, after the pigs have violated one of the commandments about not sleeping in beds like humans, everything is clarified to the working class with a simple statement by Squealer. He tells the other animals, “You have heard comrades that we pigs now sleep in the beds of the farmhouse? And why not? You did not suppose, surely, that there was ever a ruling against beds? A bed merely means a place to sleep in. A pile of straw in a stall is a bed, properly regarded. The rule was against sheets, which are a human invention” (50). While it would have been easy for the animals (the working class) to rise up against this hair-splitting, they merely agree that Squealer is right. In the end, it seems that the masses are prone to believing anything as long as it is put to them well enough. This happens repeatedly throughout the book and is yet another reason for why thewhole failed utopian social experiment of Animalism fails. Furthermore, it shows the process of social stratification as it happens by demonstrating how the weaker parties can fall victim to those who are more powerful—even if the power lies in words.
The manipulation of words and the power of language in Animal Farm that lies at the heart of the animal’s downfall on the farm is expressed in many instances throughout the book. While there are a number of examples of Squealer or Napoleon turning language around to fit their own uses, there is perhaps no more powerful statement than that which twists the idea of equality itself around. When Napoleon states in one of the important quotes from Animal Farm that, “All animals are equal but some are more equal than others” … “Being ‘more equal’ means excelling in certain ways and being superior to others, just as the pigs in Animal Farm claim to be more equal to, and superior to, the other animals” (Kearney 238). It seems as though all of the wrangling of words throughout the book (mostly by Squealer or Napoleon) was leading up this final moment. Before this, only the smaller commandments were being violated such as the drinking of alcohol, for instance. By the point when this statement about equality is made, however, the lower class (working) animals have proved themselves to be so pliable that they will accept this twisting of the meaning of the word equality. When the ending lines, ”The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which” (139) occur, it is culmination of all the inequalities as the animals finally realize that they have fallen into the same system that was in place when Mr. Jones owned the farm.
One scholar makes a particularly arguable statement about the nature and the message of Animal Farmwhen he suggests, “Change is at the very heart of the novel. It is proposed by old Major, the white boar, when he first gathers the animals together and calls for a revolution. It is carried out in the seeming defeat of man at the Battle of Windmill and then in the final chapter” (Paden 49). The problem is, this book is not necessarily about change at all. Instead it is about the ineffectuality of change when dealing with social structures. From the first moment, when Mr. Jones is overthrown and the animals take over, the process of social stratification has begun. The working class animals are taught but are weeded out in a sense and tested with the skillful manipulation of Squealer. Eventually the leadership under Napoleon sees that they have nothing to fear from this working class and takes over completely, thus leaving the farm and its conditions in exactly the same sorry state it was in before the first chorus of “Beasts of England” was sung.
Hamlen, William A., Jr. “The Economics of Animal Farm.” Southern Economic Journal 66.4 (2000): 942
Kearney, Anthony. “Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984.” Explicator 54.4 (1996): 238
Letemendia, V. C. “Revolution on Animal Farm: Orwell’s Neglected Commentary.” Journal of Modern Literature 18.1 (1992): 127
Paden, Frances Freeman. “Narrative Dynamics in Animal Farm.” Literature in Performance: A Journal of Literary and Performing Art 5.2 (1985): 49
Pearce, Robert. “ANIMAL FARM.” History Today 55.8 (2005): 47
Sleeper. “Orwell’s ‘Smelly Little Orthodoxies’—And Ours.” Journal of the Historical Society 4.2 (2004): 141
Propaganda is the distribution of information in an effort to influence or manipulate society’s opinion (Britannica, 2013). Throughout the Russian Revolution, propaganda was widely used by the leaders of the revolution in order to gain support from the public. One example can be seen through the power struggle between Leon Trotsky and Joseph Stalin. After Lenin’s death in 1924 Joseph Stalin launched a propaganda attack on Leon Trotsky in order to discredit him and make it impossible for Trotsky to resume his leadership position (history.com, 1996).
Usage of Propaganda in Animal farm
Propaganda plays a really important part in the Russian Revolution, and as a result propaganda was also one of the main themes in Animal Farm. In the Novel, George Orwell portrayed the manipulation of speech through a character named Squealer, a pig who acted as a spokesperson for Napoleon. One example of Squealer’s use of propaganda to gain the animals’ support can be seen in his speech denouncing snowball part in the rebellion after he was banished from the farm. Using the animal’s stupidity to his advantage, Squealer played with the minds of all the animals, describing a twisted version of the events of the Battle of the Cowshed, one of the battles that were fought during the rebellion. In Squealer’s version of Snowball’s part of the battle, Snowball was planning to “leave the field to the enemy” (p54). Afterwards, Squealer described how Napoleon was the one who “sprang forward with a cry of ‘death to humanity!’ and sank his teeth into Mr Jone’s leg” when everything was so chaotic (p54). During his speech, Squealer describes everything in so much detail that it “seemed to the animals that they did remember it” (p54). As a result, Squealer has used propaganda to manipulate the memories of the animals so they would believe that Napoleon is the rightful person to trust and Snowball was actually on the side of the enemy.
Another form of propaganda was when the pigs started to twist the seven commandments, a list of seven rules the animals in animal farm must follow, to their own needs. At the start of the revolution, the sixth of the seven commandments read “No animal shall be killed by any other animal” (p15). However, in order to reason with the animals after killing those who opposed Napoleon, the rule has been changed to “No animal shall be killed by any other animal without cause” (p 61). As a result, Napoleon’s actions for eliminating those animals were justified because the animals thought a few words from the commandment was slipped from memory. Since the other animals were not as clever compared to the pigs and were not as capable of thinking for themselves, the animals used the seven commandments as an agreement to what was right and what was wrong. Therefore, when the pigs changed the seven commandments, the animals did not think badly of Napoleon’s use of cruelty and violence.
Author’s intentions and effectiveness
The propaganda that was used in the novel shows how a revolution, no matter how good their intentions are at first, can still gradually turn into a system that is no better than the one before. By twisting the truth to gain society’s trust, readers are able to see how good intentions were gradually won over by greed and dishonesty. Looking at how the pigs started to twist the rules to manipulate society into thinking the pigs were innocent, readers will also be able to understand the reason to why it was so easy for the pigs to gain their trust. Since the novel is a metaphor of the Russian Revolution, readers would be able to link the usage of propaganda in the novel to the usage of propaganda in the Russian Revolution. In conclusion, George Orwell successfully used propaganda in the novel to express his opinion on how the communist system of the Russian Revolution gradually went from an equal system, to a system that was overcome by greed and dishonesty from the authorities.