Oink! Comes the dictatorship: On Orwell’s Animal Farm

– Manasvi Kshirasagar, FYBsc

My mother would always gush about this one book she read as a child and loved and urged me to give it a try. Heeding her advice, I picked up Animal Farm by George Orwell when I was in 6th grade and to this day it is a book I always recommend to everyone.

Never has a book struck me as much as Animal Farm has. The book was the same but I was a changed sixth grader. Reading it had somehow dragged me into consciousness and I would sit for hours just thinking about it. At first glance, the title ‘Animal Farm’ makes the novella sound like a children’s book but what lies inside is far from it. The magic George Orwell creates with his words sends you into an emotional rollercoaster ride; where you sympathise with the animals at one time and scoff at their stupidity at the others. 

Animal Farm, beyond its allegory of the Russian Revolution, is a representation of any dictatorship and its rise to power(often achieved through usurpation), rendering it an evergreen classic portraying a realistic picture of totalitarianism through the seemingly elementary lens of animal characters. The plot’s simplistic approach paints a story on a farm. It begins with explaining how the animals on the farm were living solely for the humans, for example, the horses for labour and the pigs fattened for slaughter. One of the animals on the farm has a dream; a dream of liberation, an escape from oppression, a dream where the produce of the animals’ labour would be their own, a dream of a rebellion. Orwell invokes a great passion and convinces even the readers to stand for the revolution. The animals take this dream and run far with it, successfully managing to overturn the power of the farm and drive the humans out. They adopt seven commandments of Animalism, which are guidelines for the animals to follow. The most important commandment is, “ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL”. When the power is shifted from the humans to the animals, the animals find happiness in all their work, for they work for themselves. But this happiness is short-lived. The leadership of the farm after the coup is assumed by the pigs, who are considered the smartest animals on the farm. They take the management into their own hands and devise plans for the protection and advancement of the farm. Preeminent among the pigs were two boars named Napoleon and Snowball. Snowball was responsible for devising great plans for the farm. His ultimate plan is to build a windmill for the farm. The windmill holds the allure of an improved life, offering amenities like hot water, constant electricity, reduced work hours, and improved animal conditions. Yet, when delving into its symbolism, the windmill embodies an unattainable utopian dream, carrying a higher cost than the benefits it promises. Due to the political infighting for power between Napoleon and Snowball, Napoleon successfully manages to expel Snowball from the farm with the help of the dogs, which Napoleon has bred to obey his every command. A situation that resembles the Bhagavad Gita, where Duryodhana and Arjuna seek Lord Krishna’s help. While Duryodhana chooses Krishna’s vast army, Arjuna chooses Lord Krishna as his charioteer. Duryodhana could be recognised as Napoleon and Arjuna as Snowball. While Napoleon chooses to invest his time in acquiring power and instilling fear, Snowball thinks about overall advancement. Only in this situation, Snowball’s ideas don’t have the same power as Lord Krishna and he loses the battle. Napoleon and his loyalists then convince the animals that the idea of the windmill was Napoleon’s from the start and Snowball had only stolen it, which is a reference to the events of erasing, falsifying history and media censorship in the Soviet Union. 

Napoleon continues to glorify his rule and create a comfortable life for himself, the other pigs and the dogs, while the other animals toil and work endlessly. It is clear that the plot has rounded up again and the animals are in the same predicament as before, giving their lives for a senseless cause and working for someone else. Napoleon and the other pigs slowly change the seven commandments of Animalism. While some animals understand what is going on and watch helplessly, others are too innocent and naive to understand the political undertones and accept the changes. Napoleon continues to make the animals work harder, resulting in a few animals passing away or getting sick. He sends the sick animals to a slaughterhouse and capitalises on their corpse, using the money earned to buy himself and the pigs whiskey. As the reader sits baffled and angry at the audacity of the pigs, it is easy to blame the animals for being gullible and trusting the pigs. Yet, the irony lies in everyone foreseeing the impending danger, except for that one individual destined to fall into the pit, seemingly oblivious to their fate. Orwell uses the animals’ actions to illustrate how the masses can sometimes be misled or unaware of their impending peril. Throughout the book, Orwell seems to follow a pattern of raising the hopes of the reader and then crushing them, engraving the statement that the power struggle is just a vicious cycle and the losers are always the innocent bystanders. In the end, we see that the pigs have entered into an agreement with humans and walk, talk and dress exactly like them. The animals tearfully look at the wall and see that all the commandments have been erased and replaced with just one, “ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN THE OTHERS.”

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