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A Book Review Of George Orwell’s "Animal Farm"
Animal Farm is a savage satire on communist revolution written by George Orwell. Set on an English Farm named Manor Farm, this fable-like story concerns the misery that the animals faced in the hands of human beings. The story opens with Mr. Jones, a capable farmer, stumbling into bed after a night of excessive whisky drinking. Old Major, a reverential, time-honored pig, called all the animals together for a meeting which took place after Mr. Jones had gone to bed. They gathered outside the big barn on the farm. Old Major told them his extraordinary dream in which he saw his approaching death, and pointed out that their lives as farm animals were miserable, laborious, and short. They were forced to work like slaves up to the last atom of their strength, and once their usefulness had come to an end, they were slaughtered. Moreover, Old Major said that there is no animal in England that was free, and none of them should escape the cruel knife in the end. Old Major affirmed that the root cause of the farm animals’ infelicitous existence was the tyranny of man.
For Old Major, mankind is lazy and is the only real enemy of the animals. Mankind is the root cause of hunger and overwork, stealing the whole produce of animal labor and consumes without producing. Indeed, he is the tyrant who serves the interests of no one else except himself. Old Major described his vision of England where animals could live in peaceful and plentiful coexistence with each other, free from the despotic rule of man. He taught the animals “Beasts of England”, a song which became their revolutionary anthem.
Old Major exhorted the farm animals to band together to defeat their common enemy by carrying out a rebellion, which led them to the establishment of Animal Farm, their model community in which all animals were equal. Two pigs, Napoleon and Snowball, gained control of the farm when Old Major died a few days after he spoke to the assembly. Napoleon succeeded in ousting Snowball. He became the absolute ruler. The animals adjusted with the human system of labor due to economic necessity, and learned that under the tyrannical Napoleon, their state of lives was as bad as their first when Mr. Jones was still in control.
The plot of the story can be attributed to different political ideologies, one of which was Plato’s idea on tyranny. Plato’s description of a tyrant is clearly manifested in the government ruled by Napoleon. First, a tyrant appears to be pleasant and gracious at the initial stages of his dominance to get the sympathy of the people. He shows himself as refined and congenial. Napoleon, the fierce-looking Berkshire boar, was primarily silent, allowing Snowball to express his aims and ideas on social and societal improvements. Nonetheless, as time went on, he was seen as always in disagreement with Snowball, and eventually made the latter as his rival. They often debated and this resulted to misunderstanding in almost about everything. The two boars divided the farm animals into two camps of supporters. Napoleon disapproved of Snowball’s plan to build a windmill which would eliminate hard labor. He refuted everything and asserted that it would be better if they concentrated on increasing the food production and that harvest was more important than the building of a windmill.
Second, a tyrant is always at war with the good. He uses the art of making war or conflict upon his rivals. He destroys them either secretly or openly because he believes they stand in his way of power. In addition, he undermines associations and takes the lives of his friends and allies who contradict or oppose his ideas. Accordingly, Napoleon thought that Snowball was the obstacle in his path to power. On a debate, he called for ferocious dogs which he trained and drove Snowball off the farm. Napoleon succeeded in ousting his rival and became the single leader of the farm animals.
Third, a tyrant breeds mutual distrust. He destroys associations, isolates people, makes them strangers, and deprives them off of their arms. He humiliates his subjects and makes them incapable of action. Napoleon broke his association with Snowball by expelling him to be able to gain control of Animal Farm. Squealer, Napoleon’s spokesperson, was the one who informed the people about Napoleon’s ill-meaning plans. His orders were in a way sadistic. The farm animals were commanded to toil to and fro even if it was difficult for them. They worked like slaves and were led to believe that the fruits of their hard work would benefit themselves and not the human beings. Besides, Napoleon pronounced that genuine happiness was gained through hard work and earning frugally. The farm animals’ ignorance became his advantage, and convinced them that their efforts would benefit them in the end, even if it exceeded their capabilities. The farm animals had no power to initiate and were utterly enslaved. No one even dared to speak his mind. They became submissive to Napoleon who broke their spirit and made them subservient and inferior. Clover, the cart-horse, being unable to read, was effortlessly deluded by Napoleon’s commandments and obeyed false rules due to her illiteracy. It is one of the desires of a tyrant that his subjects should be incapable of action so that they will not realize his misdemeanor, for no one attempts what is impossible, and that they will not attempt to overthrow a tyrant, if they were powerless.
Fourth, a tyrant, once in power, isolates himself from the outside world. He provides for himself with sentinels. Frequently, when Napoleon was already reigning in Animal Farm, he rarely appeared in public. He spent most of his time in the farmhouse. He was protected by his fierce-looking dogs. He issued his orders through one of the other pigs, usually Squealer. Whenever Napoleon appeared in public, he was attended to by his entourage of vicious dogs. He had no regard for any public interest, except as conducive to his private ends. Napoleon aimed for pleasure and had all the vices. He also aimed for wealth for through this only can a tyrant maintain either his guards or his luxuries. Napoleon was engrossed in making pleasure for himself, and became desirous of riches. He was proud, yet his love for money cheated him when Frederick, the owner of Pinchfield Farm, paid him forged banknotes and even attacked his farm and destroyed the windmill.
Finally, a tyrant confuses his subjects by asking writers to compose poems and songs to pay tribute to his glory. This would conceal his transgressions, leading his subjects astray and making them think that their ruler is not ruthless at all. In the story, there were recitations of poems composed in Napoleon’s honor. “Comrade Napoleon” was a poetry composed by Minimus, expressing the magnificent reign of Napoleon and the superb feeling towards him on the farm.
Thomas Aquinas’s idea on the dangers of tyranny was expressed in the story. According to Aquinas, tyranny is the worst kind of government for the tyrant brings the community to peril through his unjust rule. The government of Napoleon was, indeed, in the form of tyranny. Napoleon paid no heed to the common good and sought his own private good. Yet, Aquinas declared that if the dictatorship is slight, it would be more advisable to tolerate it than for citizens to involve themselves into rebellion against the despot. None of the farm animals dared to go against Napoleon because they were terrified and ignorant, and they thought that if those who act against him were unable to triumph, they would be oppressed and the cruelty that they were experiencing would be graver.
Political ideologies by Niccolo Machiavelli are also apparent in Animal Farm. According to Machiavelli’s The Prince, in order to be complied with by his subjects, a ruler, which he specified as a prince, should not deviate from what is good, but be able to do evil if necessary in order to maintain authority. Napoleon even managed to kill his subjects who he considered as supporters of Squealer. Some of them committed suicide, yet the farm animals did not dare to rebel against Napoleon’s private actions for some were ignorant and others emphasized that Napoleon could do no wrong, and was thus, always right, which therefore helped him retain his power.
Machiavelli stated that it is very profitable for a prince to give some outstanding example of his greatness in the internal administration. He must endeavor in every action to obtain fame and to appear outstanding for being good and excellent. Nothing would cause a leader to be so much esteemed as having great projects and giving proof of prowess. Napoleon demonstrated himself as a brilliant administrator by wearing medals, most of which were awarded to him by himself. He was attended by his retinue of huge, vicious canines who frisked around him, growling and scaring the farm animals. Napoleon was referred in formal style as “Our Leader, Comrade Napoleon” and other dignifying, invented titles. His alter ego, Squealer, would talk in a speech, with tears rolling down his cheeks, about Napoleon’s wisdom, the righteousness of the latter’s heart, and the deep love that he showed to all the farm animals, even to those who they thought were discontented and still existed in ignorance and slavery. Every successful achievement and stroke of good fortune were credited to Napoleon. Farm animals were even heard as giving respects and praises to Napoleon, saying that they had profited from his administration.
Napoleon was able to contrive great things. He kept the farm animals’ minds uncertain, astonished and gripped in watching the results. These actions have arisen one out of the other, and left them no time to settle down and act against him. Napoleon fraudulently ordered the farm animals to work hard in order to attain their aspirations for a better life. They were immersed with hard labor, believing that its results would be to their advantage. Boxer, who was one of the most loyal workers on the farm, accepted and performed everything that his authorities commanded, despite his poor health, the long hours of labor and insufficient ration of food which were hard to shoulder. Furthermore, the desired ends were not directed to those who exerted efforts but to Napoleon. Machiavelli’s notion of a wise prince is one who seeks means by which his subjects will always and in every possible condition of things, have a need for government and that they would always be faithful and obedient to him. He is, indeed, powerful and courageous who will always overcome difficulties by raising the hopes of his subjects, advising them that the evils will not last long, and stressing the greatness of bringing the enemy to justice. Animal Farm showed Napoleon ordering the rebuilding of the windmill, underlining that Snowball, his prime suspect, should be taught a lesson and prove to him that he cannot undo their hard work easily. Thus, the farm animals, though some were in disbelief that Snowball could do such action, toiled hard and grew exhausted. Nevertheless, their hearts blindly continued to burst with pride when their masterpiece was done. It was put forth that alls well that ends well, that the discouragements and iron labor had been overcome.
In the end, the farm animals remained hopeful for a society free from hunger and the whip, all equal, each working according to his capacity. They seemed contented to work like slaves towards the objectives of their tyrannical ruler who eventually aspired equality with humans. The farm animals were satisfied with the fact that the fruits of their labor benefited their fellow animals and not the human beings which they initially considered as the tyrant.
Tyranny would have not continued to control the Manor Farm if the farm animals would have been wise enough to choose their new leader after Old Major died. Since during his reign, they have practiced democracy under the governance of Mr. Jones, the farm animals should have continued their democratic practice, especially in choosing or the election of a new leader. Instead, they just accepted the new government under Snowball and Napoleon, and were made to believe that pigs were clever enough to rule. Napoleon, who was initially a wolf in a sheep’s clothing, would not have taken over if the farm animals would have been mindful and sensible enough to elect a governor who is unlikely to become a tyrant. The farm animals should not have shown the white feather and become submissive. The new administration must have been established that the possibility to tyrannize was eliminated. Their new leader’s power should have been regulated and that the citizens should have strived to maintain their right to be heard. The power of the single ruler should have been moderated if their government had other branches that would make stipulations if ever their new leader would lead to tyranny. There should have been a marshal to monitor the ruler’s conduct. The farm animals, moreover, should have been informed about their ruler’s undertakings and asked if they are in agreement or contrary to his plans.
A democratic set-up could have managed the farm animals’ situation well. The modern democratic administration employs the success of the ruler is merely not for himself, but also for the majority. The rule of the majority of the farm animals should have prevailed. They should not have left themselves duped by their ruler’s wrongdoings and fought for their right to swear in a capable, transparent, and humane administrator. Snowball manifested an optimistic and skillful leader. The farm animals, knowing that he was competent enough to lead their society into the majority’s ideal form, should have fought for his rule right at the start, albeit massive destruction would have happened because if they really wanted a new society under a fair government, they would not have left themselves suffering and badly yearning for better conditions, because by hook or by crook, they would have fought for their rights and aspirations.
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