"Animal Farm", as Allegorical Satire
Animal Farm is specifically a satire on the Russian Revolution and its betrayal. It is also a satire on revolutions in general, because every revolution is, according to Orwell, betrayed in course of time. The satire in Animal Farm is not direct, but allegorical. In other words, we are given a satire in disguise, because human beings are not represented in the story as human beings but are disguised as animals. Thus the technique of the allegorical satire in Animal Farm is much the same as in Swift's book Gulliver's Travels, The author of Animal Farm conveys his ideas to us by means of a beasts' fable. We are all familiar with the animal stories of the ancient Greek writer, Aesop. Each of these animal stories has a moral for the reader because the animals in these stories are human beings is disguise. Likewise the animals in Orwell's story Animal Farm are human beings in disguise, some of them being actual historical personalities. Of course, there are also a few human beings in the story who exist as human beings. To this category belong the farmers. Mr. Jones, Mr. Pilkington, and Mr. Frederick, and the solicitor, Mr. Whymper. Apart from these, the stage is held by animals of various categories.
The Russian Revolution, and the Triumph of Communism
The human beings in this story symbolize the capitalist class of human society, while the animals all represent Communists. The wild creatures who could not be tamed and who continued to behave very much as before are the muzhiks or peasants. The pigs are the Bolshevists. The Rebellion (against Mr. Jones) is the Russian Revolution of October, 1917. The neighbouring farmers are the western armies who tried to support the Czarists against the Reds. The wave of rebelliousness which ran through the countryside after the Revolution, refers to the unsuccessful revolutions in
and Hungary in 1919 and 1923 respectively. The sign of the hoof and horn on the flag adopted by the animals is the hammer and sickle on the Russian flag. The "Spontaneous Demonstration” symbolizes the May Day celebrations. The "Order of the Green Banner" stands for the "Order of Lenin'". The special committee of pigs presided over by Napoleon represents the Russian Politbureau. The revolt of the hens, which is the first Rebellion since the expulsion of Mr. Jones (who symbolizes the Czar), refers to the sailors rebellion at the Kronstadt naval base in 1921. Napoleon's dealings with Mr. Whymper and the Willingdon market represent the Treaty of Rapallo, signed by Russia with Germany in 1922. (This Treaty brought to an end the capitalists' boycott of Soviet Russia). Germany
The Names of the Animals, and the Significance of Those Names
The names of the animals have carefully been chosen by Orwell and are highly suggestive of the historical personalities for whom they have been used. The first animal to be introduced in the story is Major who represents either Karl Marx or Lenin, or both of them. Major has a military appearance and is a dominating figure. The rather stupid but self-sacrificing horse, Boxer, represents the proletariat. Boxer stands in contrast to the cynical donkey, Benjamin. Boxer has been named after the Chinese revolutionaries who drove out foreign exploiters and were themselves crushed. Mollie, the mare, represents the White Russians. She suggests folly, and her retrogressive defection, prompted by vanity and a love of luxury, is a paradigm of the entire Russian Revolution. Moses symbolizes the Russian Orthodox Church and, later, the Roman Catholic Church. His name is also significant because he is supposed to bring the divine law to man. Squealer is an appropriate name also, because he is a garrulous and noisy pig who represents the Russian propagandist newspaper Pravda. Mr. Whymper, the agent of the pigs, suggests a toady. Mr. Pilkington is the capitalist exploiter who symbolizes Churchill and Churchill's country, England. Mr. Pilkington is an old-fashioned gentleman who enjoys country sports on Foxwood which has associations of both craftiness and the Tory landed gentry. Mr. Frederick reminds us of Frederick the Great, who was the founder of the Prussian military State. Mr. Frederick symbolises Hitler who admired Frederick the Great as a great hero. Mr. Frederick is a tough, shrewd man who drives hard bargains, steals other people's land for his own farm which has been appropriately named "Pinchfield", and practises terrible cruelties upon his subjects. The van sent by the slaughter-house to take away the sick Boxer reminds us of the terrible gas vans used by the Germans for the extermination of the supposed traitors and the enemies of Hitler's regime. Although Clover screams, "They are taking you to your death," the sound of Boxer's hoofs inside the van grows fainter and dies away. This is symbolic of the fate of the victims of the barbaric cruelties which were inflicted by Hitler upon his enemies or supposed enemies.
An Allegorical Portrayal of the Character of Stalin
The most important animals in the story are Napoleon and Snowball. Napoleon represents Stalin, and Snowball represents Trotsky. The personalities of Napoleon and Snowball are anti-thetical, and the two leaders are never in agreement. Stalin and Trotsky too were opposed to each other, and they too never agreed with each other on any issue. The characters of Napoleon and Snowball is the story are drawn fully and accurately, and the two characters reflect almost all the dominant characteristics of their historical models. Orwell compares Stalin to Napoleon because Trotsky was the first to have compared his rival Stalin to the historical Napoleon who rose from an ordinary position to become a great dictator and tyrant. Both the historical Stalin and the historical Napoleon turned revolutions into dictatorships. Napoleon, the pig, is fierce-looking ; he is "not much of a taker, but has a reputation for getting his own way." He dominates the party machinery, controls the education of the young, and is an expert at plotting and at canvassing support for himself. Napoleon the pig never presents any of his own plans; he always criticizes the plans offered by Snowball, though he eventually adopts the very plans which were suggested by Snowball and even claims that he had invented them. Napoleon first distorts history, and then changes it. He blames Snowball for all his own failures, accuses him of plotting with foreign enemies, sends him into exile, and finally pronounces a death-sentence upon him. Napoleon also announces false production figures, takes credit for every successful achievement and even for every stroke of good luck, wins elections unanimously, and replaces the worship of Major with a more elaborate worship of himself. In short, Napoleon the pig symbolizes the historical Stalin, the dictator of Soviet Russia, in every detail; and the portrayal is, of course, highly satirical. Orwell complained that the people of his time had all become pro-Stalin and had forgotten the executions and the purges which Stalin had carried out in a barbaric manner to consolidate his own position as the unchallenged dictator.
An Allegorical Portrayal of the Character of Trotsky
The name Snowball reminds us of Trotsky's white hair and beard. This name implies also that Trotsky had melted (like snow) before Stalin's opposition to him. Snowball is a brilliant speaker; sometimes unintelligible to the masses bat eloquent and impressive, more lively and inventive than Napoleon and a much greater writer. He is also intellectual and energetic. Now, this portrayal of Snowball is very close to the actual character of Trotsky. In 1921, for instance, the writer Deutscher had said that Trotsky, besides running the army and serving on the Politbureau, had been performing many other important tasks also. Orwell's description of Snowball's activities, though a comic parody, is close to the historical facts about Trotsky. Snowball, we are told, busied himself with organizing the other animals into "Animal Committees". He formed the "Egg Production Committee" for the hens, the "Clean Tails League" for the cows, the "Wild Comrades Re-education Committee", and various others, besides instituting classes in reading and writing. Snowball studies military history, organizes, commands, and leads the army to victory in the "Battle of the Cowshed" (which represents the Civil War in Russia) where foreign powers help Mr. Jones and invade the farm (that is, Russia). After the invasion, Snowball is "full of plans for innovations and improvements".
Conflicts Between Trotsky and Stalin, Depicted Allegorically
Two of the most important conflicts between Trotsky and Stalin are also allegorically depicted in the novel. Trotsky fought for the priority of industrialization over agriculture, and his ideas for the expansion of the Socialist sector of the economy were ultimately adopted by Stalin in the first five-year plan of 1928 which called for a collectivization of farms and also for industrialization. Likewise, we are told, Snowball visualized fantastic machines which would do the work while the animals would graze at their ease in the fields. So much labour would be saved by the machines that the animals would only have to work for three days in a week. Stalin wanted comprehensive and drastic collectivization. Likewise, Napoleon in the novel argues that the great need of the moment is to increase food production, and that, if the animals waste their time on the windmill, they would all starve to death. In their central ideological conflict. Trotsky defended his idea of permanent revolution against Stalin's theory of socialism in one country (that is, in Russia only). These two rival beliefs were pitted against one another: Trotskyism with its faith in the revolutionary vocation of the proletariat of the western countries; and Stalinism with its glorification of Russia's socialist destiny. In the novel Orwell presents this conflict in simpler but entirely accurate words. Orwell says that according to Nipoleon, what the animals must do was to procure fire-arms and train themselves in the use of them. According to Snowball, on the other hand, the animals must send out more and more pigeons in order to stir up rebellion among the animals on the other farms. Napoleon argued that, if they could not defend themselves, they were bound to be conquered. Snowball, on the other hand, argued that if rebellions occurred everywhere, the animals would have no need to defend themselves. When Snowball comes to the crucial points in his speeches, it is noticed that the sheep are especially ready to start shouting the slogan, “Four legs good, two legs bad” in order to interrupt him. This situation corresponds to the Communist Party Congress in 1927 where, at Stalin's instigation, the suggestions put forward by the opposition were drowned in the loud uproar and tumult made by Stalin's supporters. The Trotsky-Stalin conflict reached a crucial point in mid-1927, after Britain broke diplomatic relations with Russia and thus gave a death-blow to Stalin's hope of an agreement between the Soviet and the British trade unions Trotsky and the Opposition issued a declaration attacking Stalin for these failures; but before they could bring this issue before the Party Congress and remove Stalin from power, Stalin expelled Trotsky from the Party. This was a vital moment in Soviet history because it signalled the final defeat of Trotsky. Orwell in the novel refers to this historical incident when he says that, by the time Snowball had finished speaking, there was no doubt that the voting by the animals would go in his favour, but that, just at this moment, Napoleon's dogs attacked Snowball and forced him to flee from the farm and go into exile. (Napoleon's dogs represent, of course, Stalin's Secret Police).
Orwell, Not a Champion of Trotsky
Orwell does not, of course, go out of his way in this novel to take the side of Snowball for Trotsky), because he believed that both Stalin and Trotsky had betrayed the Revolution. In Orwell's view, Trotsky was as big a villain as Stalin, even though Trotsky became Stalin's victim. The first note of corruption on Animal Farm was struck when the pigs started making exclusive use of the cows' milk. Now, Snowball had been a party to this first act of injustice committed by the pigs. This means that Orwell by no means thought that Trotsky would prove to be more fair-minded than Stalin. Trotsky, in Orwell's opinion, was a slightly better man than Stalin but by no means an ideal hero.
The Disastrous of Stalin's Forced Collectivization
The three main Russian political events which are represented allegorically and in detail in Orwell’s novel are: (1) the disastrous results of Stalin's forced collectivization (1929-33); (2) the Great Purge Trials (1936-38); and (3) the diplomacy with Germany terminating it; Hitler's invasion of Russia in 1941. In the novel Orwell writes that, after Snowball's expulsion, the animals were somewhat surprised to hear Napoleon announcing that the windmill was to be built after all. The first dismantling of the windmill, for which Napoleon held Snowball responsible, symbolizes the failure of Stalin's first five-year plan of 1928. The destructive methods employed by the hens in their protest against Napoleon symbolize the destructive methods used by the Russian muzhiks or peasants in 1929 to protest against Stalin's forced collectivization of their farms. The hens' method was to fly up to the rafters and lay their eggs which automatically fell down to the floor and were smashed. The object of the hens was to defeat Napoleon's purpose of selling the eggs to human beings in order to make money. The Russian peasants had, in their desperation, slaughtered their cattle, smashed their implements, and set fire to their crops. The result of this enormous destruction by the peasants in Russia was years of appalling hardship, culminating in the Ukraine famine of 1933. Orwell in his novel refers to this same famine when he writes that it was being rumoured that the animals were dying of famine and disease and had resorted to cannibalism and infanticide.
The Great Purge Trials
The Great Purge Trials of the late thirties were the most dramatic political events in Russia. Stalin wanted to achieve an unrestricted personal dictatorship with a totality of powers which he did not yet possess in 1934. He therefore ordered the trials of all those who, in his opinion and in the opinions of his supporters, were opposed to him. Evidence against those who were brought to trial was cooked and manufactured, and the accused were speedily executed in large numbers. These trials are depicted in Animal Farm when, at a well-attended meeting, Napoleon announces that all those, who had secretly helped Snowball, should come forward and confess their guilt. A few pigs are the first to come forward. They confess that they had aided Snowball and, having made this confession, they are immediately put to death. They are followed by a large number of animals of other categories and they too are put to death immediately after they have made their confessions. A sheep, for instance, confesses that she had urinated in the drinking pool because she had been instigated by Snowball to do so. She is killed immediately, like the others who have confessed their guilt. It is evident, of course, that all these confessions have been made under the threat of force, even though it is not specifically so stated. A rumour is also circulated by Napoleon that Snowball had tried to poison Napoleon's food. The result of the Great Purge Trials in Russia was the slaughter of about three million people. In Animal Farm, all the guilty animals, as already pointed out, are slain on the spot and at the end there is a big pile of corpses lying before Napoleon's feet, and the air is heavy with the smell of blood.
Stalin's Diplomacy, Also Allegorized
After consolidating his domestic power through the Purge Trials, Stalin turned his attention to the increasing threat from Europe and tried to play off the democracies against Hitler. He kept his front doors open for negotiations with the British and the French, but went on having talks with the Germans at the back door. Similarly, in Orwell's novel, the animals are amazed on discovering that, during Napoleon's apparent friendship with Mr. Pilkington, Napoleon had really been in secret agreement with Mr. Frederick. In other words, Napoleon had been playing a double game. But Napoleon is sadly deceived. Mr. Frederick's bank notes prove to be forged, and Mr. Frederick attacks Animal Farm without warning and destroys the windmill. This refers, of course, to the Hitler-Stalin non-aggression pact of August, 1939, which Hitler (here represented by Mr. Frederick) violated by suddenly invading Russia in 1941. Hitler's defeat in the Battle of Stalingrad in January, 1943 was the turning-point of the war. In the same way, in the novel, when Mr. Frederick's followers are in danger of being surrounded by the animals, Mr. Frederick shouts to his men to get out while there is still time; and the next moment Mr. Frederick's forces are in retreat to save their lives.
A Diplomatic Blunder by Stalin, Allegorically Depicted
Orwell also depicts in the noval one of Stalin's diplomatic blunders. The return of the raven. Moses after an absence of several years and his task about
allegorically represents Stalin's strange attempt, in 1944, at a reconciliation with the Pope. In order to gain Roman Catholic support for his Polish policy, Stalin held secret meetings with a Roman Catholic priest at a most crucial moment of the war, though nothing came of this attempt. Sugarcandy Mountain
A Disagreement Among the Big Three
Animal Farm ends with an oblique reference to the Teheran Conference of 1943 which took place when Orwell was writing this novel. Orwell felt certain that at this Conference Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt consciously plotted to divide the world among themselves. Orwell believed that all three of them were power-hungry. The disagreement among the three men and the beginning of the cold war are symbolized in the novel in the situation in which Napoleon and Mr. Pilkington, each suspicious of the other, play an ace of spades simultaneously.
Orwell's View of Revolutions in General, Also Allegorized
But the allegory in Animal Farm is not confined to a treatment of the Russian Revolution and the subsequent happenings in Russia. Orwell, while writing this novel, had all revolutions in mind. Accordingly, the pattern which emerges from this novel is meant to apply also to the Spanish Civil War and to the French Revolution. Orwell wishes to convey to us that revolutions always go through predictable stages. A revolution begins with great idealistic fervour and popular support. The period immediately following a successful revolution is a stage of bliss. There is a general feeling that an idealistic vision has been translated into actual reality. The spirit of brotherhood, fellow-being, and a sense of equality are everywhere apparent. But slowly the feeling of freedom gives way to the sense of necessity and bondage. Equality gives way to special privileges for certain people. The next stage is the rise to power of a new class of persons who, because of their superior skill and their lust for power, assume command and re-create the class-structure. As more time passes, the past is forgotten or is deliberately removed from the minds and memories of the people. The people at large begin to be exploited and victimized by the power-hungry readers. Equality and justice then fade away, and the State once again becomes supreme with the establishment of a new dictatorship. This is exactly what happens on Animal Farm. The rebellion against Mr. Jones is successful, and equality is established. But, with the passing of time, principles are twisted, ideals are distorted, and history is rewritten. Innocent beings are cruelly slaughtered on mere suspicion; and at the end, the most cunning and ingenious animal, name Napoleon, becomes the undisputed dictator. Even the original name, Manor Farm, is once again accepted, and is reinstated. When the author, in conclusion, says that it was impossible to distinguish the pigs from the human beings, he lifts the lid from his allegory and means to say that all the time he has been talking not about pig but about those human beings who first manouvre themselves into powerful positions and then become the ruling coterie in a country.