Animal Farm is a simple fable written by George Orwell in 1945, but has great symbolic value as it is the history of a revolution that went wrong. The novel remains relevant in today’s society as any attempted revolution of the communist kind fails and generally ends up in a dictatorship government. This is done on allegorical levels and its parallels through characters such as Napoleon and Snowball. Animal Farm illustrates that “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely” (Lord Acton) throughout the novel.
This is done through the Animals aiming for a communist society. This revolution fails and the animals land themselves in a dictatorship of pigs, which were the brightest of the animals. As the date of the original publication of the work becomes more remote, the historical events that preceded it lose their immediacy, but Orwell’s story remains viable. In fact, Orwell emphasized the universality and timelessness of his message by not setting the story in any particular era, and, while placing the farm in England, not making that fact important.
Animal Farm can relate to the Russian Revolution (1917) and The Hungarian Revolution (1956) as corrupt communist governments but also to Pol Pot (1976-79) and Mussolini (1922) as corrupt democracies. The seeking of power to do good only to find that the power once attained corrupts is a message that is resonant today and is pertinent in many situations and therefore gives the reader an insight into common political problems that humanity is continually attempting to overcome.
Animal Farm has stood the test of time relating to governments in the past, present and future in any corrupt government along with human nature playing its role in society. Power is authority and strength, which is any form of motive force or energy, ability to act, or control. When too much power is given, a dictatorship government can form, in which all decisions are made by one authority. This is shown in Animal Farm clearly and powerfully by the pigs; Napoleon and Snowball after taking over from the highly respected pig, Old Major.
Old Major is portrayed as the leader considering “everyone was quite ready to lose an hour’s sleep in order to hear what he had to say. ” (Animal Farm, page 1) Animalism is invented by Old Major and is described in the song ‘Beasts of England’. However it was only named Animalism after his death. The Seven Commandments were designed to unite the animals together against the humans and prevent the animals from following the humans’ evil habits. The most important commandment was the Seventh, ‘All animals are equal’. This represents the communist system in society as all people are considered equal.
The obvious parallels in Animal Farm are in the time the novel was written; The Russian Revolution (1917). Each character or event can represent an aspect of the Revolution. The Russian Revolution is the collective term for the series of revolutions in Russia in 1917, which destroyed the Czarist autocracy and led to the creation of the Soviet Union. In the first revolution of February 1917, the Czar was deposed and replaced by a Provisional government. In the second revolution, during October, the Provisional Government was removed and replaced with a Bolshevik (Communist) government.
Old Major represents Karl Marx; Napoleon represents Joseph Stalin; Snowball represents Leon Trotsky and Squealer represents the propaganda minister in Lenin’s government. All the pigs represent the communist party loyalists. An example of the parallels is when Stalin expels Trotsky from the party and then adopts many of his financial and political plans. In Animal Farm this is when Napoleon uses his dogs (KGB- Secret Police) to chase Snowball out of the farm and adopts Snowball’s blueprints for the Windmill and claims it as his own.
The Seventh commandment was changed to “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others. ” (Animal Farm, page 15) This portrays how a communist society became corrupt supporting Lord Acton’s “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. ” This remains relevant in any corrupt government in today’s society due to human nature and diversity preventing people from being happy or equal. The Hungarian Revolution of 1956 was a spontaneous nationwide revolt against the government of the People’s Republic of Hungary and its Soviet-imposed policies, lasting from 23 October until 10 November 1956.
The revolt began as a student demonstration which attracted thousands as it marched through central Budapest to the Parliament building. A student delegation entering the radio building in an attempt to broadcast its demands was detained. When the delegation’s release was demanded by the demonstrators outside, they were fired upon by the State Security Police (AVH) from within the building. The news spread quickly and disorder and violence erupted throughout the capital. The revolt spread quickly across Hungary, and the government fell.
Thousands organized into militias, battling the State Security Police (AVH) and Soviet troops. This can relate to Animal Farm and parallels can be formed. The State Secret Police (AVH) can be seen as the dogs that Napoleon trained. The event can also be illustrated in the book by when Napoleon executed any animal that was questioning him but can also be seen as the rebellion of the hens because Napoleon was starving them until some died and was also selling their eggs. The fall of the government could be represented by the destruction of the windmill in Animal Farm.
The Hungarian Revolution of 1956 supports the statement by Lord Acton “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. ” Animal Farm is still relevant in today’s society as it is still able to relate to revolutions and corrupt governments that are or have once been active. Pol Pot was the leader of the Cambodian communist movement known as the Khmer Rouge and was Prime Minister of Democratic Kampuchea from 1976–1979. During his period as the leader of Cambodia, in which he attempted to “cleanse” the country, resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1. to 2. 5 million people. Pol Pot became leader mid 1975 and began a version of agrarian collectivization, forcing the citizens to move to the countryside and work in collective farms or forced manual labour towards the goal of restarting civilization, a ‘Year Zero’. Some of the effects from the forced manual labour included combined effects of slave labour, malnutrition, poor medical care, and executions which eventually resulted in the deaths of many people in the Cambodian population. This relates to Animal Farm and Pol Pot can be paralleled as Napoleon in a few ways.
Firstly, the name of the farm was changed to Animal Farm after Mr. Jones was chased away in the Battle of the Cowshed. Also, once Napoleon had expelled Snowball from the farm, he adopted Snowball’s blueprints for the Windmill after he had once disagreed with them and spat on it. Because of Napoleon claiming these ideas as his own, it can parallel with Pol Pot’s vision of ‘restarting civilization’. This is through the windmill and the hard manual labour Napoleon forces the animals to do in order to be fed. Therefore some of the animals die as a result of starvation.
This parallels to the deaths caused in Pol Pot’s time as leader of the Khmer Rouge, which can actually be seen as a dictatorship as there is a clear leader just like Napoleon. Animal Farm remains relevant because although the book was written in the time of the Russian Revolution, it relates to any corrupt government and because of the parallels found during the Cambodian communist movement, it supports the seventh commandment, “All animals are equal but some are more equal than others” (Animal Farm, page 15) which can relate to “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely” (Lord Acton).
Also, because Orwell did not make it clear in which era the novel was intended for, it implies that it is making a point and ridicules communism and any corrupt government in any time. Therefore it will still be a viable text in years to come and was relevant in the past, standing the test of time. Benito Mussolini was an Italian politician who led the National Fascist Party and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism. Mussolini became the 40th Prime Minister of Italy in 1922 and began using the title Il Duce by 1925.
After 1936, his official title was “His Excellency Benito Mussolini, Head of Government, Duce of Fascism, and Founder of the Empire”. Mussolini also created and held the supreme military rank of First Marshal of the Empire along with King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy, which gave him and the King joint supreme control over the military of Italy. On 10 June 1940, Mussolini led Italy into World War II on the side of the Axis despite initially siding with France against Germany in the early 1930s.
Believing the war would be short-lived; he declared war on France and Great Britain in order to gain territories in the peace treaty that would soon follow. Mussolini remained in power until he was replaced in 1943; for a short period after this until his death, he was the leader of the Italian Social Republic. In relation to Animal Farm, Mussolini can be portrayed as both Old Major and Napoleon due to different aspects. The fact that Mussolini was a key figure and later died to be replaced can imply that he would be Old Major in the novel.
However because he had total control over the military and led a War can imply that Mussolini would be Napoleon in the allegorical tale as the military can be seen as Napoleon’s secretly trained dogs. Although it can be perceived differently and Mussolini can be seen as just Old Major considering he had control over all the animals and was basically a dictator before he preached Animalism. Mussolini built up a dictatorship from a democracy and then acted as totalitarianism with the Italian Social Republic. This then supports the fact that the government was corrupt.
Later on Mussolini and men from his Social Republic were executed by a communist partisan commander who was reportedly given the order to kill Mussolini by the National Liberation Committee. The battle between two political systems can be seen in any society and this is because each person has different beliefs and the diversity can get in the way of making everybody happy and equal to their satisfaction. Animal Farm was written by George Orwell and has great symbolic value because it is the history of a revolution that went wrong.
The theme that “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely” studied by Lord Acton, is well presented throughout the novel. Orwell did not clearly state in which era the novel was intended for and was possibly written like that to prove a point; the point that Animal Farm can be related to any corrupt government. This is due to human nature and diversity getting in the way of people being happy and equal. Parallels between Animal Farm and any failed revolution can support the fact that a corrupt government will generally end up in a totalitarianism or dictatorship.
In Animal Farm the original seventh commandment –All animals are equal- is how the government is intended to be in a communist system but usually turns into the changed seventh commandment –All animals are equal but some are more equal than others- which implies that human nature can get in the way as some people are competitive and like the satisfaction of being better than others. The obvious parallel and most likely the intended one, is the Russian Revolution of 1917. Other revolutions or governments that can be portrayed through the novel include The Hungarian Revolution of 1956, Pol Pot (1976-1979) and Benito Mussolini (1922-1943).
Different aspects of each government or revolution can be paralleled to Animal Farm and supports the theme throughout. The seeking of power to do good only to find that the power once attained corrupts is a message that is resonant today and is pertinent in many situations and therefore gives the reader an insight into common political problems that humanity is continually attempting to overcome. Animal Farm has stood the test of time in society many of the points in the book are relevant to any corrupt government and human nature playing its role in society.
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