Allegory in George Orwell’s Animal Farm

As George Orwell began Animal Farm, his intention was to communicate to the world the horrors, ironies, and ridiculousnesses of Communism, things he had discovered for himself. However, a straightforward, non-fiction volume about a government that many people still liked–or at least, tolerated–would probably have been ill-received by Orwell’s readers. Orwell set about instead to do what some of the best writers in literature have done when they want to get across a message. He set about to write an allegory of Communism and its dangers, especially pertaining to the Soviet Union. The reader can see this allegorical element in the three characters of Old Major, Snowball, and Napoleon.

First, Animal Farm’s allegorical element can be seen in Old Major. Old Major is an old boar hog who calls all the animals together as he lies upon his death bed. In his speech, Old Major says, “Man is the only real enemy we have. Remove Man from the scene, and the root cause of hunger and overwork is abolished forever.” With these words, Old Major begins to set up an idea by which the animals might one day see a rebellion that would cast man from his ruling position and set up a utopia where all animals are equal and free. Here, Orwell is allegorizing Karl Marx, an old man who also gave guidelines and ideas by which a working class could take down a ruling class and create a utopia. Instead of animals overthrowing humans, Marx proposed a way for the poor working humans to overthrow their tyrannical, rich masters. Also, just as Old Major’s words eventually led to a rebellion and coup, so did Marx’s. So one way the reader can see Animal Farm’s allegory is through the character Old Major.

Second, Animal Farm’s allegorical element can be seen in Snowball. Snowball is one of the leaders of Old Major’s envisioned rebellion. He is a young boar who organizes and executes the beginning days of the rebellion, along with the help of some other pigs. He helps to turn “Old Major’s teachings into a complete system of thought.” Snowball is the one who convinces the other animals to participate, and he is the one who teaches them the details of what they must do to see their efforts succeed. Snowball is even one of two major reasons the animals win their first battle against humans. All these things do not help Snowball, though, when he disagrees with the dangerous boar Napoleon, who kicks him out of Animal Farm for dissension. Similarly, in the real Soviet Union, Leon Trotsky was a major participant in the rebellion that gave the Russians their Union. He was at the forefront of the struggles, the teaching, and the fighting. Yet when Trotsky disagreed with Stalin, Stalin gave Trotsky the boot. So another way the reader can see Animal Farm’s allegory is through the character Snowball.

Third, Animal Farm’s allegorical element can be seen in Napoleon. Napoleon works more behind the scenes at the beginning of the rebellion, but when he comes to the leading position in Animal Farm, he does so violently and against the other animals. In fact, Napoleon’s ascension to power is so aggressive that he sends Snowball away directly against the will of the animal majority. The animals had been going to vote for Snowball against Napoleon in an election, because “by the time [Snowball] had finished speaking, there was no doubt as to which way the vote would go.” Also, Napoleon uses the fear of his dogs to keep the animals in line. Napoleon’s dogs “wagged their tails to him in the same way as the other dogs had been used to do to Mr. Jones.” Napoleon even goes one step beyond that in his control and commits mass murder, manipulates language, and rewrites history. In a similar anti-founders set of actions, the real and human Josef Stalin made a similar rise to power out of nowhere in Communist Russia. Stalin, too, rose violently and against the will of his peers. Stalin, too, used the fear of a police force, mass murder, language manipulation, and history rewriting to keep his populace in order. So a final way the reader can see Animal Farm’s allegory is through the character of Napoleon.

George Orwell got allegory just right with Animal Farm, not too obvious and not too ambiguous. The reader can both enjoy the story and quietly recognize whom Orwell means to satirize. In this way, Orwell is aptly able to impress upon readers the dangers of tyrannical communism, through allegory. This allegory can be easily identified in the characters of Old Major, Snowball, and Napoleon.

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