Historical Background To Animal Farm Essay Prompt

Main Characters

 Napoleon

Napoleon is one of the two pigs who profess to carry on Old Major’s dream. When Napoleon’s dogs drive Snowball off the farm, Napoleon becomes the new “ruler" and proceeds to break every rule of Animalism.

Napoleon, named after a non-Communist dictator, is obviously looking out only for himself. He even sells his most loyal worker, Boxer, to the glue maker, in order to get more money for himself. Like most dictators, he focuses on the young, represented by the pack of dogs Napoleon raises into vicious beasts, ready to harm or kill anyone who speaks out against him. He takes others’ ideas and claims them as his own, which is why he has to rearrange history in order to claim that the windmill was his idea, not Snowball’s.

Snowball

Snowball, in contrast to Napoleon, has some strong and logical ideas. He sticks to the principles of Animalism, other than the fact that he also agrees in the superiority of the pigs. Nevertheless, he teaches the rest of the animals to read, develops the idea of the windmill to make the farm more self sufficient, and avoids violence. Although Orwell depicts Snowball in a more positive light than Napoleon, Snowball obviously looks down on the other animals and is attempting to gain more power than Napoleon throughout most of the book.

Boxer

Boxer, the loyal workhorse, is the most sympathetic character in Animal Farm. He follows whatever his superiors say, replacing his early motto of “I will work harder" with “Napoleon is always right." He does anything in his power to help Animal Farm.

Although Orwell portrays him as intellectually slow, his physical power and extreme dedication make up for his lack of mental ability. As a symbol of the working class, Boxer eventually meets his downfall when Napoleon sells him to a glue maker, which shows how the loyalty of the working class is only matched by the leadership’s betrayal of that loyalty.

Animal Farm George Orwell

See also 1984 Criticism and George Orwell Criticism.

(Pseudonym of Eric Arthur Blair) English novelist, essayist, critic, journalist, and memoirist.

The following entry presents criticism of Orwell’s short novel Animal Farm, which was published in 1945.

Animal Farm (1945) is considered one of Orwell's most popular and enduring works. Utilizing the form of the animal fable, the short novel chronicles the story of a group of barnyard animals that revolt against their human masters in an attempt to create a utopian state. On a larger scale, commentators widely view Animal Farm as an allegory for the rise and decline of socialism in the Soviet Union and the emergence of the totalitarian regime of Joseph Stalin. Critics regard the story as an insightful and relevant exploration of human nature as well as political systems and social behavior. After its translation into Russian, it was banned by Stalin's government in all Soviet-ruled areas.

Plot and Major Characters

The story opens as the barnyard animals of Manor Farm discuss a revolution against their master, the tyrannical and drunken farmer Mr. Jones. Old Major, an aging boar, gives a rousing speech in the barn urging his fellow animals to get rid of Jones and rely on their own efforts to keep the farm running and profitable. Identified as the smartest animals in the group, the pigs—led by the idealistic Snowball and the ruthless Napoleon—successfully plan and lead the revolution. After Jones and his wife are forced from the farm, the animals look forward to a society where all animals are equal and live without the threat of oppression. But soon, the pigs begin to assume more power and adjust the rules to suit their own needs. They create and implement an ideological system, complete with jingoistic songs and propaganda as well as strict rules. Once partners and friends, Napoleon and Snowball disagree on several issues regarding the governing of the farm. Snowball's attempted coup is repelled by a pack of wild dogs—controlled by Napoleon—who also enforce punishment against the other animals when they oppose or question Napoleon's rule. Before long, the pigs separate themselves from the other animals on the farm and begin to indulge in excessive drinking and other decadent behavior. Under the protection of the dogs, they consolidate their iron-fisted rule and begin eliminating any animal they consider useless or a threat to their power. Animal Farm ends with the majority of the animals in the same position as in the beginning of the story: disenfranchised and oppressed under a corrupt and brutal governing system.

Major Themes

Critics note that like many classical animal fables, Animal Farm is an allegory—in this case, of the Russian Revolution and the rise of Stalin's tyrannical government. It is generally accepted that Orwell constructed his story to reflect this purpose: Manor Farm represents Russia; Mr. Jones is the tsar; the pigs represent the Bolsheviks, the bureaucratic power elite; Snowball is Leon Trotsky, who lost a power struggle with Stalin; Napoleon is Stalin; and Napoleon's dogs are Stalin's secret police, known as the GPU. The corruption of absolute power is a major theme in Animal Farm. As most of the animals hope to create a utopian system based on the equality of all animals, the pigs—through greed and ruthlessness—manipulate and intimidate the other animals into subservience. Critics note that Orwell was underlining a basic tenet of human nature: some will always exist who are more ambitious, ruthless, and willing to grab power than the rest of society and some within society will be willing to give up power for security and structure. In that sense Animal Farm is regarded as a cautionary tale, warning readers of the pitfalls of revolution.

Critical Reception

Animal Farm is regarded as a successful blend of political satire and animal fable. Completed in 1944, the book remained unpublished for more than a year because British publishing firms declined to offend the country's Soviet allies. Finally the small leftist firm of Secker & Warburg printed it, and the short novel became a critical and popular triumph. It has been translated into many languages but was banned by Soviet authorities throughout the Soviet-controlled regions of the world because of its political content. As a result of the book's resounding commercial success, Orwell was freed from financial worries for the first time in his life. A few years after its publication, it attracted critical controversy because of its popularity amongst anticommunist factions in the United States; Orwell was alarmed that these forces were using his short novel as propaganda for their political views. In the subsequent years, Animal Farm has been interpreted from feminist, Marxist, political, and psychological perspectives, and it is perceived as an important and relevant book in the post-World War II literary canon. Moreover, it is considered one of Orwell's most lasting achievements.

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