QUESTIONS for STUDY with IDEAS for ANSWERS
Q: Napoleon’s totalitarian regime on Animal Farm is the core feature of this novel. What do you understand by ‘a totalitarian regime’?
Totalitarian, Fascist or Authoritarian States are all the same
in that they involve the destruction of principles and personal relationships. The State conditions its citizens to adhere to the principles of the society and this is enforced by fear. Those
that oppose the State are disposed of through exile or extermination.
Patriotism for the country is replaced with patriotism for the
leader and his successors, for through propaganda, the leader is the country.
Most States have a 2-tier system where a small privileged
minority controls the vast majority who do the bulk of the work. Part of this minority is the army and police who help enforce the control.
Through propaganda, the majority are made to believe that the
minority have few privileges and lead similar lives to the masses.
As well as indoctrinating the next generation of citizens, the
State also needs to avoid contact with the outside world.
Q: ‘Animal Farm’ is a satirical novel aimed at discrediting Russian history from the Revolution in 1917 until the end of the Second World War. The characters and events in the story represent features of Russian history. Please expand.
The animals are exploited by Jones who represents Tsar Nicolas
II, and dissent comes from Old Major who spouts his view of the future, which is similar to that of Karl Marx. The revolution takes place as a consequence of Major’s rhetoric and therefore, he is
similar to Lenin. After the revolution, the neighboring farms are concerned that this uprising will spread, just as Europe was concerned in 1917.
The humans mount an assault on Animal Farm, just as the
European-backed White Army did in Russia, with a view to re-installing the Tsar on his throne. This invasion is repulsed by Snowball, just as Trotsky did in opposing the White Army.
Stalin later disposed of Trotsky, just as Napoleon deposed Snowball.
Squealer represents Stalin’s propaganda machine, used to dupe
Boxer who represents the Russian masses.
The Pilkington farm can be represented by the British Empire,
while Frederick refers to Germany.
Just as the Battle of the Cowshed refers to the attempted
invasion by the White Army, so does the Battle of the Windmill represent the German invasion in World War II.
Stalin’s 5-year plans are directly mirrored by the projects to
build the windmills.
We finally see Orwell’s disdain for Stalin as he suggests that
the drunken party in the final Chapter symbolizes Stalin’s meeting with the West at the Teheran Conference.
There are many other parallels contained within the pages of
‘Animal Farm’. List these.
Q: As we have said, this is a satirical novel, and Orwell uses irony in order to support his views. Please give examples.
Remember, irony is the stating of one thing while intending the
opposite. Irony is normally used to provide humour, but here we witness a sad irony.
The main ironic theme, which takes place throughout the entire
novel, is the transition of the pigs into ‘human beings’.
At the start, we have Old Major’s clear vision of the future
that outlaws humans and all their features.
It goes against his ideals to copy human habits, but one by one the central rules are amended and then ignored. Therefore, those that originally revolted against Farmer Jones, turn into humans.
In conclusion the revolution has failed.
Orwell means us to associate the Seven Commandments inscribed on
the wall of the barn with the Ten Commandments set in stone in the Bible.
These laws should be unchangeable, but ironically, the pigs amend the Commandments so that the final effect is that the rule is turned into an opposite meaning.
There are many small ironies e.g. the cat wishing to encourage
the sparrows to learn to read so that he can get close to them and catch them. The prime mover for the cat is its instinct to hunt and kill the birds, but it will use the doctrine on educating
animals in order to fulfill its instinct.
Q: Orwell uses much symbolism in ‘Animal Farm’. Give some examples.
Symbolism is used to support the satire and irony that runs
through the book.
Humans are not depicted favorably in this novel, which is
written from the animals’ perspective. They symbolize evil and they use instruments of terror to control the animals, e.g. whips, harnesses, bits and so on.
The fact that they walk on two legs is a characteristic that is
distinctly human and is referred to in the slogan bleated by the sheep, “Four legs good, two legs bad”.
When the pigs adopt the posture of walking on two legs holding
whips, the full circle has been achieved.
The windmill symbolizes the success of Animal Farm and that is
why it is destroyed by the neighboring farmers, but it also symbolizes the conflict between Snowball and Napoleon.
For the animals the windmill symbolizes the chance of an easier life, and that is why they are determined to see it completed. To the pigs, it symbolizes ‘the good life’ for them.
Orwell makes a particular symbolic reference to the suffering of
the Soviet people in the 1930’s when farms were put under State control in the form of collectives.
Many farmers opposed this and killed their cattle just as the hens on Animal Farm destroyed their eggs. It is though that between ten and fifteen million peasants died as a result of the famine during these years.
There are many more examples of symbolism in this novel.
List as many as you can.