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George Orwell

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Pigs, Politics, and George Orwell

Books are a medium through which the author can express his views; whether they concern social injustices, current issues, or in Orwell's case, politics. For centuries writers have weaved their opinions into their work, conveying to the reader exactly what they intended. "Orwell saw himself as a violent unmasker of published pretentiousness, hypocrisy and self-deceit, telling people what they did not want to hear...." (Crick, 244). Orwell accomplishes this unmasking of these facades through his use of rhetorical strategies to relay his views to the reader. Through his books and essays, George Orwell has found a forum in which he can express his opinions, fusing his political beliefs with a satiric quality all his own.

A piece of literature that illustrates his ability to do this with unmatched skill and unrelenting satire is Animal Farm. Jeffrey Meyers said of Orwell's novel, "In this fable about a barnyard revolt Orwell created a satire that specifically attacked the consequences of the Russian Revolution while suggesting the reasons for the failure of most revolutionary ideals" (339). In the book, the reader is given a situation in which the animals are fed up with the overindulgent, unappreciative human beings that run their farm. They decide a rebellion would cure their woes and so they revolt. However, they soon realize that the uprising was the easy part. Now they must establish a government with leaders and rules. The pigs are the self-appointed leaders because they are the smartest and cleverest of all the animals. The two pigs with the most power and persuasion are Snowball and Napoleon. The farm begins to run like a democracy, and all the animals are satisfied until Napoleon runs Snowball out of the farm with a pack of wild dogs. After the exile of Snowball, the animals on the farm increasingly become oppressed and Napoleon slowly starts to resemble a dictator. Throughout Animal Farm, Orwell's main weapon of choice is his stinging satire. In fact, the entire book can be viewed as a one hundred page satiric look at politics and human life. Not only do we see humans being overthrown by pigs and chickens but all the animals can talk and some can even read and write. Naming one of the pigs Napoleon is also significant because as Meyers puts it, "The carefully chosen names are both realistic and highly suggestive of their owners' personalities and roles in the fable" (353). Later in the story after Napoleon takes over we see him declaring days of celebration on his birthday and not allowing the other animals to call him Napoleon but rather "our Leader, comrade Napoleon" (Orwell, 66). Orwell uses satire here by resembling the arrogance of this pig leader to that of the well-known arrogance of the French leader Napoleon. Orwell satirizes the effects alcohol has on people as well. After a night of drunken madness, the pigs are horrified in the morning to learn that their beloved leader Napoleon is, in fact, dying. Because of this tragedy Napoleon decrees that any animal that drinks alcohol would be punished by death, even going as far as creating a new commandment. After realizing that he was merely hung over, Napoleon celebrates with more drinking, orders a field to be planted with barley, and changes the commandment from "No animal shall drink alcohol" to "No animal shall drink alcohol to excess" (77). Not only does Orwell use satire in Animal Farm, he employs this strategy throughout most of his writings. Orwell satirizes the British police in an expertly written and vividly detailed essay called "Shooting an Elephant." An example of this is when Orwell says "In Moulmein, in lower Burma, I was hated by large numbers of people - the only time in my life that I have been important enough for this to happen to me" (Orwell, 1). Orwell uses satire to lighten up a work of literature and point out in a not so flattering way the injustices and ironies of society and politics.

"Animal Farm was the first book in which I tried, with full consciousness of what I was doing, to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole." This quote from Orwell in his essay "Politics and the English Language" (Orwell, 5) precisely illustrates what Orwell attempted to do and achieved in Animal Farm. Jeffrey Meyers said Orwell, "...brilliantly presents a satiric allegory of Communist Russia in which virtually every detail has political significance" (353). The characters of Napoleon and Snowball are representative of Russian communist leaders Joseph Stalin and Leon Trotsky. Napoleon (Stalin) takes over the farm in much the same way Stalin slyly took over Russia; Snowball (Trotsky) goes from being a powerful leader to being exiled and almost assassinated by Napoleon (Stalin). "Both characters are drawn fully and accurately, and reflect almost all the dominant characteristics of the historical models." (Meyers, 353). The struggle between Snowball and Napoleon is a struggle "within the party elite whose final result, whichever had won, would have been the increased consolidation and centralization of power into the hands of the pigs" (Woodcock, 2578).

I saw a little boy, perhaps ten years old, driving a huge cart-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 proletariat (Orwell, 70).

This quote from George Orwell provides his reasoning for choosing the farm as the backdrop to his political fable. Orwell uses the animals to portray the poor of society. Unlike the pigs who are educated yet lazy, the rest of the animals on the farm are hardworking yet stupid. A character that represents this idea is the diligent Boxer. Boxer is a strong and powerful horse who can only memorize the alphabet until the letter D; yet his maxim is "I will work harder" (Orwell, Animal Farm 22). The animals, such as Boxer, are employed by Orwell to make the reader think of the poor and impoverished as the animals in the story, powerful but uneducated. Orwell empathizes with the animals in the book; perhaps it was because he grew up demeaned by his social standings, explaining that his experiences during his school years fostered his extreme sensitivity to social victimization (Meyers, 339). Throughout Animal Farm the reader picks up on Orwell's immense dislike of the Communist government through the rise and eventual failure of Napoleon. This extreme disgust for the Communist party was most likely because Orwell disapproved of the British becoming allies with the Russians and not recognizing the faults

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