Sunday, October 31, 2010

“Animal Farm”: A Synopsis

Orwell's Thesis in This Novel
Animal Farm is a beast fable with an allegorical purpose. Orwell's object in writing this book was to expose the reality of the Communist regime under Stalin. Orwell wanted to convey through this animal fable his view that the Russian Revolution of 1917 by which the Bolsheviks had come to power and which heralded a golden age for the Russian people was betrayed by Stalin and his colleagues.
In course of time, all the aims and ideals of the Russian Revolution were either forsaken or changed beyond recognition to suit the purposes of the Communist leaders, and especially of Stalin. After driving out Trotsky from Russia by his machinations, Stalin became a ruthless dictator who in course of time ordered trials of the suspected opponents of his regime and, on the basis of fake evidence and forced confessions, put them all to death. Most of the happenings in Russia between 1917 and 1943 are depicted in Orwell's novel in a disguised form. While Animal Farm is a sharp and scathing satire on Stalin's betrayal of the Russian Revolution, it is also, additionally, a satire on all revolutions Orwell's thesis it the book is that in course of time those, who led the revolution with their ideals of freedom, equality, and comradeship, forsake these ideals and themselves become ruthless dictators. Once they comes into power, the revolutionaries shelve the ideals with which they started and become power-hungry and selfish, thus betraying the common people with whose support they had seized power. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This famous maxim sums up the message which Orwell wishes to convey through his book. The following is the sequence of events in the novel:
Chapter I. An old boar by the name of Major calls a secret meeting of all the animals working on Manor Farm owned by Mr. Jones and instigates them to rebel against their human master. Old Major says that the animals are being exploited by Mr. Jones and that therefore they should rise in revolt against him to gain their freedom and their right to get sufficient food. According to Old Major, man is the enemy of all the animals. Old Major then gives to the animals a few guidelines for their conduct. The meeting ends with the singing of a song called "Beasts of England", a song in golden future for the animals is visualized. (Old Major represents Karl Marx, the German philosopher and economist who had declared that the working classes were exploited by the capitalists and that only by taking recourse to revolutionary methods could they hope to achieve what was due to them).
Chapter II. Three nights later Old Major dies. The pigs, who are the most intelligent and the cleverest of all the animals, now undertake the duty of guiding all the other animals. Pre-eminent among the pigs are   two   young   boars   named   Snowball   and Napoleon.  These two are ably and skilfully assisted by a third pig named squealer who acts as a propagandist for them.  A rebellion against Mr. Jones takes place, and the animals are able to drive away Mr. Jones from the farm. The animals now become   the masters of the farm which is renamed "Animal Farm". Snowball and Napoleon formulate the Seven Commandments for the guidance of all animals.  The Seven Commandments read as follows:
1.     Whatever goes on two legs is an enemy.
2      Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
3    No animal shall wear clothes.
4.   No animal shall sleep in a bed.
5.   No animal shall drink alcohol.
6.   No animal shall kill any other animal.
7.   All animals are equal.
Chapter III.  The animals work hard on their farm and reap a big harvest of hay. The pigs direct and supervise the work of all the other animals. But a rivalry now begins between the two leading pigs namely Napoleon and Snowball. The two leaders differ on almost every issue. The Seven Commandments are reduced to a single maxim namely: "Four legs good, two legs bad." The sheep promptly learn this maxim by heart.  When the two bitches on the farm, namely Jessie and Bluebell, give birth to nine puppies, Napoleon takes the puppies away from their mothers saying that he would personally make himself responsible for their upbringing and education. Another development here is that the apples and milk are reserved exclusively for the consumption of the pigs, without any share being given to the other animals. The pigs have already begun to enjoy a preferential treatment.
Chapter IV. Mr. Jones and his men invade Animal Farm in order to regain possession of it. Although Mr. Jones comes armed with a gun, the animals are able to repulse the attack by the human beings. Snowball distinguishes himself in this battle against the human beings by his clever strategy and by fighting bravely and suffering a few wounds on his back. Boxer, a cart-horse, also distinguishes himself in the battle by his heoric fighting. The battle is named by the animals the "Battle of the Cowshed". Military decorations and medals are instituted; and both Snowball and Boxer receive a medal each as their reward for their brave fighting.
Chapter V. The disagreements between Snowball and Napoleon increase. They especially differ over the issue of the building of a windmill proposed by Snowball. Snowball wants to build the windmill in order to generate electricity for the farm; but Napoleon is not interested in this project. It seems that Snowball will win the majority vote at the meeting of the animals. Napoleon, who had secretly been rearing the puppies of which he had taken charge, now thinks of a device to drive Snowball away from the farm and himself to become the sole leader at the farm. So, when the meeting takes place, Napoleon gives a signal to his puppies, which in course of time have grown into fierce dogs. The dogs attack Snowball who saves himself with great difficulty and then takes to his heels. Snowball is chased by the fierce dogs till he crosses the boundary of Animal Farm. Snowball is never seen after this incident, and Napoleon becomes the sole leader. Napoleon now decides to implement the project to build the windmill even though he had originally been opposing it. (Napoleon represents Stalin while Snowball represents Trotsky. Napoleon's action in driving away Snowball from Animal Farm symbolizes Stalin's action in expelling Trotsky from Russia. After being expelled from Russia, Trotsky was never able to return to his home-land and had to spend the rest of his life abroad, in several countries one after the other).
Chapter VI. Napoleon now begins to deviate from the Seven Commandments. He establishes commercial and trading relations with human beings through a solicitor by the name of Mr. Whymper. Some of the animals disapprove of Napoleon's action, but Squealer justifies Napoleon's new policies and tries to convince the animals that there is nothing wrong in what Napoleon is doing. The pigs now start living in Mr. Jones's farmhouse and sleeping in the beds in which human beings used to sleep. This too is against the Seven Commandments. But Squealer justifies this action also on the ground that the pigs are the brain-workers on the farm and that they need rest and quiet for their work. The windmill is completed, but it is brought down by a furious winter gale. Napoleon gives out that the windmill has been destroyed by Snowball who had come to the farm under cover of darkness and taken this destructive step to harm the interests of animals. (Stalin had continued his malicious propaganda against Trotsky even after Trotsky had gone into exile).
Chapter VII. The rebuilding of the windmill is now undertaken by the animals under Napoleon's orders. There is a food shortage on Animal Farm, and the rations of the animals, excepting the pigs and the dogs, are reduced. The hens revolt against an unjust order of Napoleon's, but are compelled to surrender when Napoleon orders that their rations should be stopped completely. All the difficulties which are now faced by the animals are attributed by Napoleon and Squealer to Snowball even though Snowball is nowhere in the picture. Squealer gives a distorted interpretation of the past happenings. Napoleon acts in a most cruel and savage manner by ordering his fierce dogs to kill all those animals (including four pigs) who are suspected of having been in league with Snowball. In this way Napoleon gets rid of all those whom he suspects of being disloyal to him. However, before ordering the executions of these animals, he extorts confessions of guilt from them. (This incident in the story corresponds to the Moscow Trials and the purges carried out under the orders of Stalin during the years 1936-38).
Chapter VIII. The Sixth Commandment forbidding any animal to kill to any other animal is now altered to suit Napoleon's purpose. The animals are now being fed no better than they were in Mr. Jones's time, though the pigs and the dogs are being fed properly and are receiving a preferential treatment in every respect. Squealer gives out inflated figures of food production. More allegations are made against Snowball. New honours and dignities are conferred upon Napoleon through his own manoeuvring. Napoleon begins to negotiate with two neighbouring farmers by the names of Mr. Pilkington and Mr. Frederick, and arrives at some sort of understanding with Mr. Frederick. After a few days, however, Mr. Frederick and his men invade Animal Farm and blow up the windmill with explosives. However, the animals fight against the human invaders with a great determination and are able to drive them away from their farm. The animals then celebrate their victory, even though they have won the victory at a heavy cost. The pigs now start drinking whisky, and Napoleon decides to sow more barley in the fields because he would like to set up a brewery to make beer for the pigs. The pigs and, of course the dogs too, have now become established as a privileged class and a superior caste, and the ideal of equality is completely forgotten.
Chapter IX. The rebuilding of the windmill is commenced immediately after the end of the victory celebrations. Life for the animals has now become very hard, especially because of food shortage and another reduction in the rations of all except those of the pigs and the dogs. 'Squealer explains that a complete equality in rations is contrary to the principles of Animalism. Napoleon orders what he calls "Spontaneous Demonstrations" by the animals to show their support for him and his policies. Animal Farm is proclaimed a Republic, and Napoleon is elected its President. Snowball is further defamed and maligned. Moses, the raven, returns to Animal Farm after an absence of several years. He tells the animals the same old stories about Sugarcandy Mountain and the happiness which awaits the animals there after their deaths. Boxer is over-working himself at the rebuilding of the windmill. One day, while dragging a heavy boulder towards the site of the windmill, he slips and falls down. Boxer sustains a serious injury. Napoleon, on coming to know of the mishap, says that he would send Boxer to a veterinary hospital in Willingdon for expert treatment. A van comes to take Boxer away. But the animals discover, to their dismay, that Boxer is not being taken to the veterinary hospital but has been sold to a knacker and is being removed to the slaughter-house to be slaughtered. Afterwards Squealer tells a lie to the animals, saying that Boxer has died at the veterinary hospital and that, while dying, Boxer had said: "Long live Comrade Napoleon! Napoleon is always right." The pigs have now started drinking whisky regularly.
Chapter X. Years pass. Many of the animals are dead and many others are born. Some more animals, including a couple of horses, are bought from outside. The windmill has been completed but it does not generate electricity. The farm has become richer without, however, the animals becoming richer in any sense, except, of course, the pigs and the dogs who are leading a very comfortable life. All the Seven Commandments are now erased from the wall of the barn where they had been inscribed, and now there is only one Commandment left, and even this Commandment is not the same as it used to be. This Commandment now reads as follows: "All Animals Are Equal But Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others." The pigs have now made it a regular habit to walk on two legs. They all carry whips in their trotters while supervising the work of the farm. They have even started wearing Mr. Jones's clothes, and Napoleon has even started smoking a pipe. One day Napoleon invites a delegation of the human owners of the neighbouring farms to visit and inspect Animal Farm. The delegation is headed by Mr. Pilkington of Foxwood Farm. At the feast which is held to entertain the guests, Mr. Pilkington makes a speech emphasizing the friendly relations which now exist between Animal Farm and its neighbours. Mr. Pilkington then proposes a toast to the prosperity of Animal Farm. Napoleon replies to the toast, expressing his happiness at the fact that there are now no longer any misunderstandings between Animal Farm and its neighbours. Animal Farm, says Napoleon, is owned by the pigs jointly. Napoleon now also announces that the custom of the animals addressing one another as "Comrade" has been abolished. The sign of the hoof and horn from the flag of Animal Farm has also now been removed. Furthermore, says Napoleon, the original name "Manor Farm" has been restored because that was the correct name of this farm. The animals, who have been overhearing the speeches and watching what has been going on, feel very depressed and disappointed by the complete reversal in the policies of Animal Farm. Essentially, Animal Farm or Manor Farm is now being ruled by a dictator and a privileged class in a ruthless manner just as it used to be ruled in the days of Mr. Jones. Totalitarianism has been re-established at this farm. The guests and the hosts now be in to play cards, but the atmosphere of harmony is soon disturbed when Napoleon and Mr. Pilkington play an ace of spades each at the same time showing thereby that each has tried to cheat the other. A quarrel now starts between the visiting human farmers and the pigs of Animal Farm (or Manor Farm).  It now seems that the faces of the pigs have undergone a complete change and that there is no difference at all between the appearance of the pigs and that of the human beings.   Indeed, it becomes impossible to differentiate the pigs from the human beings now. (This identification between the pigs and the human beings means that the pigs have now gone back to the ways of Mr. Jones and adopted Mr. Jones's authoritarian or dictatorical ways of administering the farm).

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