Filter Your Search Results:

The Context of Animal Farm Essay


When you hear the words animal and farm, the first thing that comes to mind is probably barns, cows and pigs. If you were to ask Eric Blair what those two words mean to him, he would have a completely different answer. His might be somewhere along the lines of dictatorship and domination. In fact, Blairs novel, Animal Farm, is all about the corruption that happened in Russia between the years of 1920 and 1950. One of Blairs goals in writing Animal Farm was to portray the Russian Revolution of 1917 as one that resulted in a government more oppressive, totalitarian, and deadly than the one it overthrew. Many of the characters and events of Blair's novel parallel those of the Russian Revolution: In short, Manor Farm is a model of Russia, and Old Major, Snowball, and Napoleon represent the dominant figures of the Russian Revolution.

Eric Arthur Blair was born into a lower-upper middle class family who resided in India in 1903 [Literature Network]. After a year of life in India, Blairs mother, Ida Mabel, decided to relocate her family to England, where she was joined by her husband, Richard Walmesley Blair, eight years later [Literature Network]. Blair followed in his fathers footsteps and decided to join the Indian Imperial Police. During the next five years, he grew to love the Burmese and resent the oppression of. He decided to become a writer instead. He wrote and published his first three personal essays at this time [Literature Network].

Blair decided to try his luck at writing in other parts of the world. He moved to Paris in 1928, where he lived for eighteen months [Literature]. After no success in Paris, he decided to return to England. His work started in the Adelphi, most notably with the publication of his essay A Hanging. Blairs first book, Down and Out in Paris and London, was rejected by several publishers, including T.S. Eliot, before it was accepted by Victor Gollancz and released under the pen name of George Orwell in January 1933 [Literature]. As a result, Blair continued to use the pseudonym for the remainder of his life and literary career.

During his time on the Isle of Jura, Orwell began developing his favorite novel that would forever etch his name in history, a novel titled Animal Farm. Orwell said, On my return from Spain I thought of exposing the Soviet myth in a story that could be easily understood and which could be easily translated into other languages. However, the actual details of the story did not come to me for some time until one day I saw a little boy, perhaps ten years old, driving a huge carriage horse along a narrow path, whipping it whenever it tried to turn. It struck me that if only such animals became aware of their strength we should have no power over them, and that men exploit animals in much the same way as the rich exploit the poor.[Pyle]. This scene he witnessed gave him the idea to create animal characters and base them off of the dictatorship of Joseph Stalin and many others.

Once again, Orwell had a hard time trying to get his book published. Publishers did not want to touch his anti-Stalinist allegory while the war was still in progress, so it was held for publishing until after the war ended. Publisher Jonathan Cape wrote that the book was too specific in its allegory. The fable does follow, as I see now, so completely the progress of the Russian Soviets and their two dictators, that it can apply only to completely the progress of the Russian Soviets and their two dictators, which it can apply only to Russia, to the exclusion of other dictatorships. Another thing: it would be less offensive if the predominant caste in the fable were not pigs [Pyle]. When Animal Farm finally appeared in 1945, it met with unprecedented public reception. As a result, Orwell achieved overnight recognition and financial independence [Literature].

Considering Orwell's obsession with prosaic precision and his hallmark style of plain, straight forward English, it's a wonder how misrepresented and misunderstood the little book became [Pyle]. The book relayed a different message to groups all around the world. In the United States, Animal Farm was considered proof that Socialism could never work; it was used as anticommunist propaganda. In Great Britain, the book was seen in a different light. Orwell originally wrote a preface which complains about the British governments suppression of his book, self-imposed British self censorship and how the British people were suppressing criticism of the USSR, their World War II ally. Orwell said, "The sinister fact about literary censorship in England is that it is largely voluntary.... [Things are] kept right out of the British press, not because the Government intervened but because of a general tacit agreement that 'it wouldn't do' to mention that particular fact." Somewhat ironically, the preface to animal farm was censored and is not published with most editions of the book [Animal Farm]. For many Socialists, the book was a message that the Russian Revolution could have been successful if not for betrayal. Others said, Russian style revolution was doomed to failure because its violence gave license to violence afterwards, in the name of preserving the new status quo [Pyle].

Russian society in the early twentieth century was bipolar: a tiny minority controlled most of the countrys wealth, while the vast majority of the countrys inhabitants were impoverished and oppressed peasants. Communism arose in Russia when the nations workers and peasants rebelled against and overwhelmed the wealthy and powerful class of capitalists and aristocrats. They hoped to establish a socialist utopia [Joseph Stalin Jewish]. This is where Joseph Stalin came into the picture. Joseph Stalin, Russian political leader, was the undisputed leader of the USSR from 1929 until his death. He helped to convert communism in the USSR from an egalitarian, revolutionary movement into an authoritarian, bureaucratic governmental system. He helped to turn Russia into a great industrial nation, to defeat Hitler in World War II, and, after the war, to establish Communist regimes throughout Eastern Europe. At the same time, however, he institutionalized terror and was responsible for the death and deprivation of millions of people [Simmonds]. Orwell used many of Stalins characteristics to develop one of his main animal characters, Napoleon.

In Animal Farm, Joseph Stalin was very similar to Napoleon, as both Stalin and Napoleon got their way often. Also, after the revolution had occurred, Stalin was able to get rid of Trotsky, his main opponent. Like Stalin, Napoleon also ran his opponent Snowball off the farm. Stalin then removed any other opponents and adopted some of their ideas. Likewise, in Animal Farm Napoleon made sure no other animals would dispute him, and he took credit for Snowballs idea of building the windmill.

Stalin and Napoleon both wanted their nations to be great so they began to make plans to better their territories. While Stalin tried to industrialize the Soviet Union, Napoleon made plans to build the windmill to furnish electricity. Both also tried to get as much work as they could from their subjects. Stalin used collectivization to make the farms more profitable, but this process caused a huge famine. In Animal Farm, Napoleon had the animals work long hours and reduced their rations. Furthermore, these leaders had a series of purges in which they killed any possible enemies and made threats to scare their subjects into submission [Joseph Stalin/Napoleon].

Before World War II, Stalin signed a nonaggression pact with Germany and trusted Hitler to honor the terms, however, Stalin was deceived, and Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, in Animal Farm, Napoleon also trusted someone he should not have. Napoleon sold timber to Mr. Frederick, who deceived him by paying for the wood with false bank notes. Mr. Frederick and other farmers then tried to overrun Animal Farm, but they did not succeed [Joseph Stalin/Napoleon]

Stalin and Napoleon were not the only ones that had a lot in common; Orwell based many of his animal characters of off real life people, such as Snowball and Leon Trotsky. Snowball emerges as a fervent ideologue who throws his heart and soul into the attempt to spread Animalism worldwide and to improve Animal Farms infrastructure. His idealism, however, leads to his downfall. Relying only on the force of his own logic and rhetorical skill to gain his influence, he proves no match for Napoleons show of brute force.

The most sympathetically drawn character in the novel, Boxer, epitomizes all of the best qualities of the exploited working classes: dedication, loyalty, and a huge capacity for labor. He also suffers from what Orwell saw as the working classs major weakness: a naive trust in the good intentions of the Russian leaders and an inability to recognize even the most blatant forms of political corruption. Exploited by the pigs as much or more than he had been by Mr. Jones, Boxer represents all of the invisible labor that undergirds the political drama being carried out by the elites. Boxers pitiful death at the glue factory dramatically illustrates the extent of the pigs betrayal. It may also speak to the specific significance of Boxer himself: before being carted off, he serves as the force that holds Animal Farm together [Animal Farm].

Another major character in the novel is the raven, Moses. Moses is perhaps Orwell's most intriguing character in Animal Farm. This raven, first described as the "especial pet" of Mr Jones, is the only animal who doesn't work. He's also the only character who doesn't listen to Old Major's speech of rebellion. Moses could possibly represent Orwell's view of the Church. To Orwell, the Church is just used as a tool by dictatorships to keep the working class of people hopeful and productive. Orwell uses Moses to criticize Marx's belief that the Church will just go away after the rebellion. This is not the only time Orwell talks about Karl Marx and his ideas [Work].

Karl Marx appears in the very beginning of the novel. Orwell bases his character Old Major off of Karl Marxs ideas and theories. The revolutionary ideas of Karl Marx are the same as the opinions that Old Major has about a revolution in Animal Farm. The speech that Old Major gives in the barn to the other animals parallels Marxs philosophy on a perfect socialistic society. As Old Major says, the animals have been living their lives just to help Mr. Jones. This belief is similar to the beliefs of Karl Marx, who believed that a minority of people holding the power was a main flaw of capitalism. Old Major told the animals he envisioned a time when all of the animals could reap the rewards of their labor. Marx also believed that a socialist society, where everyone receives equal amounts of goods, was the best economical philosophy. Also, the animals revolted after Old Majors death just as the Bolsheviks revolted after Marxs death. Old Majors speech influenced the pigs, especially Napoleon, to begin to prepare for a revolution. Marxs philosophy influenced Lenin and Stalin to begin the Bolshevik Party. The ways which Napoleon uses Old Majors ideas are similar to the ways Stalin uses Marxs ideas. Both Napoleon and Stalin distort the philosophies for their own use. The final results of Old Majors and Marxs ideas are very extreme instances of what they envisioned to be a perfect society [Joseph Stalin/Napoleon].

Karl Marx was one of the great philosophers during the Modern Period of literature. His ideas of economic determinism, class struggle and workers uniting for a utopian change play a key role in establishing the Modern Period. Writers began to experiment with form and structure in order to evoke a particular response from readers. Some characteristics of the Modern Period would be the ideas of, not only Karl Marx, but Charles Darwins survival of the fittest. Orwell demonstrates this by establishing the seven commandments the animals follow. In the beginning the number one rule states All animals are equal, but towards the end the pigs change it to All animals are equal, but some a more equal than others. This shows how far the pigs are willing to go to insure their survival.

The modern period is considered to be between the 1900's and the 1980's. It focuses on the individual trying to find peace and comfort in a world that has lost its idea of value and tradition [Ritter]. The same thing happens to the animals in the book when the pigs decided to take over. Another big characteristic is the change in technology. Technology seems to ruin everything during this period. In Animal Farm, the animals try to build a windmill to harvest energy, which causes them to become separated into different classes: the rulers and the workers.

Today Animal Farm is said to be one of the greatest English novels written. The book was chosen by Time Magazine as one of the 100 best English language novels, was number 31 on the Modern Library List of Best 20th Century Novels and won a Retrospective Hugo Award in 1996 [Pyle]. Orwells leap of faith in writing this novel about the dictatorship and corruption of Russia, during a time of war, has seemed to pay off. Animal Farms fame has grown, along with the author's subsequent reputation, and it is now regarded as a classic of the polemical/documentary genre. Animal Farm has become a great success and will forever carry on a legacy in history.Animal

You'll need to sign up to view the entire essay.

Sign Up Now, It's FREE
Filter Your Search Results: