Sunday, October 31, 2010

Do you think that Animal Farm is a book written with a purpose? If so what is that purpose? Does the purpose mar the artistic character of the book?

“Animal Farm” Not a Political Tract But a Work of Art
Orwell wrote Animal Farm with a distinct political purpose. At the same time, the book is a splendid work of art. In this book Orwell succeeded fully in fusing his political purpose with his artistic purpose. If Animal Farm did not have an artistic character, it would have been merely a political tract. As it is, this book conveys a political message and a political philosophy, and yet attains a superb artistic quality.

An Exposure of the Betrayal of the Russian Revolution
The driving force behind Animal Farm was Orwell’s intense disgust with totalitarianism, combined with an even stronger disgust with its defenders among the left-wing intellectuals. From 1935 onwards Orwell had begun to feel more and more convinced that Russia had taken a wrong path and had become a tyrannical dictatorship. He was a man of confirmed socialist views. Socialism means, on the political side, certain basic freedoms such as the freedom of thought, of speech, and of action ; and, on the economic side, it means State control of the means of production and an equitable distribution of wealth among the citizens. Now, Orwell found that Communist Russia had certainly adopted collectivization and State control of the means of production but that it was denying political justice to the citizens, depriving them of all the basic freedoms, and denying to them also the advantages of an equitable distribution of wealth. He therefore thought it necessary in the interest of world socialism to expose the Communist myth. In the nineteen-thirties and forties, especially after Russia had come into the war, a large number of young British intellectuals had joined the British Communist Party or had become its sympathizers. He strongly disapproved of these British intellectuals because in his opinion they were supporting the Stalinist propaganda, which Orwell thought to be all lies told at the cost of truth, freedom, and ultimately of literature. He wrote Animal Farm to expose the reality of the Russian Revolution and the betrayal of the Revolution by the Soviet regime under Stalin.
The Emergence of Oligarchical Collectivism
The rise of totalitarianism in Europe in the nineteen-thirties had greatly disturbed Orwell. The Soviet Union, Germany, and Italy had developed in dangerous ways which reminded Orwell of the hierarchical absolutism of the Roman Catholic Church. He noted particularly their pyramidal structure and the emergence of a new ruling caste to direct it. Such political systems, he thought, might become permanent and universal. He thought that the attempt to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat in Russia had resulted in the rule of a select class of people, enforcing their will by tyrannical methods. The Russian Communists, in his opinion, had developed into a permanent ruling caste or oligarchy. A caste-system joined to a collectivism economy was what he also saw taking shape in Germany. Thus he found that the two regimes (Communism in Soviet Russia and Nazism in Germany), having started from opposite ends, had rapidly evolved towards the same system or account of a form of "oligarchical collectivism". This system would, in his view, tend to the emergence of a slave State which had every chance of becoming permanent. As early as 1939 Orwell had felt that men's minds might be so manipulated as to guarantee their total submission for all time. It might become possible for the dictators to produce a breed of men who do not wish for liberty. He wrote Animal Farm to demonstrate how the Russian Revolution aiming at liberation and freedom had been betrayed and how the aims and principles behind that Revolution had been distorted and twisted in order to pave the way of the emergence of a ruthless dictatorship under Stalin.
Orwell's Reaction to the Great Purges of 1936-38
Animal Farm is a document of disillusionment with Stalinism, resulting from the spectacle of the Stalinist Great Purges of 1936-38, the repercussions of which Orwell had experienced in Catalonia (in Spain). As a sensitive man of integrity, he reacted to the purges with great anger and horror. His conscience could not be soothed by the Stalinist justifications and sophisms which soothed the consciences of the less scrupulous people.
The Stages of a Revolution
Although Animal Farm is an attack on the Soviet Union under Stalin, it is something more than that. Orwell's purpose in this book was more general. Orwell was interested in tracing the inevitable stages of any revolution. The literal level of the story is almost exclusively based on Soviet history. But although Russia is the book's immediate target, Orwell said that the book was intended as a satire on dictatorship in general. Orwell has been faithful to the details of Soviet history, but he did not hesitate to change the chronology of events and to modify some of the important elements of that history. Orwell wished to convey to us that revolutions always go through several predictable stages. A revolution begins with great idealistic fervour and popular support. It is energized by golden expectations of justice and equality. The period immediately following a successful revolution is one of great rejoicing. There is a general sense of triumphant achievement. The spirit of brotherhood, fellow-feeling, and equality is everywhere apparent. Old laws and institutions are abolished and replaced by a general concern for the common good. But slowly the feeling of freedom gives way, to the sense of necessity and bondage. Rigid institutions begin gradually to come into existence. The ideal of equality begins to crumble and to give way to special privileges for certain people. The result is the emergence 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. This class of persons then begins to assert its powers against any possible resistance or opposition, and it does not shrink from using threats and terror. As more time passes, the past is forgotten or is deliberately removed from the minds and memories of the people. The new leadership acquires all the characteristics of the old, pre-revolutionary leadership, while the people at large are forced into a state of servitude. All sort of excuses are invented by the leaders to explain their divergence from the original ideals. The people in general begin to be exploited partly because of their stupidity and partly because they are victimized by the power-hungry leaders. The only surviving sign of the revolution then, is its rhetoric and its story which is now altered to suit the purposes of the leaders. Equality and justice fade away, and the State and its leadership become supreme. When Orwell wrote Animal Farm, he had begun to feel that Soviet society had reached this stage, and that Stalin was exercising power in a most arbitrary and ruthless manner. He found that in Russia under Stalin despotism employed constant deceit to keep the people under control and that it also employed a secret police organization, terrorism, and mock trials, making the liquidation of supposed opponents possible.
"Animal Farm", an Allegorical Satire
Now, if Orwell had expounded his political views about Stalinist methods, and about revolutions in general in the manner in which his views have been summarized above, the resulting work would have been a political tract or pamphlet, But Orwell wished to convey his ideas to his readers in an artistic manner. In a political pamphlet, ideas are propounded in a strictly rational and logical manner. In a political pamphlet, facts and figures are offered to the readers to mould their minds and influence their judgments; statistics are presented; arguments are given and possible objections are answered. The writer of a political pamphlet may introduce passion into his argument, but logic and reason are his mainstay. A work of art, on the other hand, is imaginative, (even fanciful) and emotional, and stirs the reader's feelings and affections. Orwell wanted to make the communication of his ideas to the readers an interesting affair. In order to do so, he employed the allegorical method of writing, making use of the well-known genre of the animal fable. Most of the characters in this book are animals—pigs, horses, cows, sheep, pigeons and some of these animals symbolize certain particular historical personalities. Not only that; Orwell employs the satirical mode of writing to condemn and attack the wrong-headed and ill-conceived policies of some of those historical personalities. The satirical method is always more interesting than the method of a direct and blunt attack upon a target. Animal Farm is thus an allegorical satire, and belongs therefore to the class of literary writing and not to the class of political pamphleteering. A political pamphlet is generally a dull and tedious piece of writing. An allegorical satire, like Swift's Gulliver's Travels, can be made a fascinating affair.
The Allegorical Significance of Characters and Events
The allegorical significance of the characters and events in Animal Farm is not difficult to find. At the very outset we meet Mr. Jones who symbolizes Capitalism (or the Russian Czar), while the animals whom also we meet at the very outset symbolize the Communists. The rebellion by all the animals against Mr. Jones symbolizes the October, 1917 Revolution in Russia, as a consequence of which the Bolshevists came into power under the leadership of Lenin who was soon afterwards followed by Stalin and Trotsky. Napoleon the pig in the story represents Stalin, while Snowball the pig represents Trotsky. The pigs among the animals symbolize the Bolshevists who seized power in Russia after the overthrow of the Czar and the overthrow of the Kerensky government in 1917. Squealer, another pig, represents the Communist propaganda machinery (or, perhaps, the servile Russian Press whose function it is to justify and defend all governmental policies). The neighbouring farmers are western armies who tried to support the Czarists against the Communists. The wave of rebelliousness which sweeps the other farms in the country symbolizes the unsuccessful revolutions in Hungary and Germany in 1919 and 1923 respectively. The hoof and horn on the flag of the animals represent the hummer and sickle on the Russian flag. The Spontaneous Demonstrations symbolize the Russian May Day celebrations. The "Order of the Green Banner” symbolizes the special committee of the pigs presided over by Napoleon symbolizes the Russian politbureau. The revolt of the hens symbolizes sailors’ rebellion at the naval base of Kronstad (in 1921).
A Serious Political Thesis, Presented in a Gay, Witty Manner
Orwell has written his animal fable in such a way that most of the incidents in the story correspond to certain actual events which has taken place in Russia, and Orwell manages to make his account of the events very interesting and amusing. Even T.S. Eliot, who could not approve of Animal Farm for purposes of publication, found this book “a distinguished piece of writing”, and said that the fable had very skillfully been handled and that the narrative kept the reader’s interest throughout Although Orwell’s political thesis is a serious and weighty one, the book is a gay one, animated by abundance of wit and humour. The technique employed by Orwell is similar to that which had been employed in ancient times by the Greek writer Aesop and which was subsequently perfected by the   French writer, La Fontaine. The war of intervention, the new economic plan, the first five-year plan, the expulsion of Trotsky and the seizing of supreme power by Stalin, the Moscow Trials and the Great Purges of 1936-38, the Hitler-Stalin pact, the German invasion of Russia—all these have amusingly been depicted in this animal story. The driving away of Snowball by Napoleon's fierce dogs signifies the expulsion of Trotsky from Russia under Stalin's orders. The killing of a large number of animals, who have been made to confess their crimes, corresponds to the Great Purges in Russia under Stalin. The understanding reached between Mr. Frederick and Napoleon in the story corresponds to the Hitler-Stalin pact. The invasion of Animal Farm by Mr. Frederick and his men corresponds to Hitler's invasion of Stalin's Russia. The pigs sitting down to drink with the human farmers at the end of the story is meant to represent the Teheran Conference, when Stalin met the Allied leaders (Churchill and Roosevelt). The building of the windmill symbolizes the technological advances made by Russia. The food shortages of Animal Farm symbolize the actual food shortages which took place in Russia several times.
The Emergence of a Privileged Class and of a Ruthless Dictator
But the most amusing part of this allegorical satire is the
manner in which the pigs begin to claim certain privileges. At first, milk and apples are reserved exclusively for them. Then they begin to direct and supervise the work which is to be done by all the other animals. Next comes the stage when the pigs, who have already been granted certain special rights, move into Mr. Jones's farmhouse in order to live there. This process goes on till the pigs become the most important and privileged class, corresponding to the Russian top leadership and the Russians bureaucracy. Even more glaring is the fact that Napoleon begins to deviate from, and violate, the Seven Commandments till only the Seventh Commandment remains.
and that also in a completely altered form: "All Animals Are Equal But Some Animals Are More Equal.” Thus the revolutionary ideals of equality, comradeship, and an equitable distribution of wealth are all shelved by the pigs under the leadership of Napoleon; and even history is re-written to suit Napoleon’s selfish purposes. All this symbolizes the emergence of a powerful bureaucracy or oligarchy in Russia and the rise of Stalin to the position of a ruthless dictator who bade good-bye to the ideals which had inspired the Russian Revolution of 1917.
The Animals, Thoroughly Convincing
Orwell in this book fused his artistic and political purposes so well that the animals are thoroughly convincing on the literal level. His precise portrayal of the beasts is based on his actual experience as a farmer at a place called Wallington where he had lived from 1936 to 1940 and had kept a number of animals. Orwell himself afterwards said that the most important animals in the story were the pigs and their dogs who are frightening and ferocious. Orwell has made good use of the repulsive associations of the swine which had figured in Homer's Odyssey. He was also influenced by the talking horses in Swift's book Gulliver's Travels.
Compactness in the Structure; and Clarity of Style
Orwell's artistic purpose appears also in the manner in which he has built up the plot and shown his craftsmanship. Animal Farm has a tight structure characterized by economy and brevity. There is absolutely no surplusage or superfluity of any kind in the book. Every line contributes to the development of the plot or to the portrayal of character or to the allegorical significance. This structural compactness is, indeed, one of the most outstanding features of the book. All the incidents of the novel occur at the same place, namely Animal Farm. The events are spread over a period of three years after which there is a gap of several years before the final state of affairs on Animal Farm is depicted in the final chapter. The novel produces an effect of concentration. Another feature of the book is the extreme simplicity of the language employed. Orwell compared a good style of writing to a window pane. Here his style is actually like a window pane because of its clarity and transparency.

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