This morning I was thinking how literature has provided social commentary throughout history. This led me to consider what classic literary works might provide commentary on the state of affairs in the United States today. I found two such works both by George Orwell, Animal Farm and 1984. While 1984 and the whole Big Brother analogy is quite relevant, I think Animal Farm effectively encapsulates the socio-political and economic paradigms we face today.

Animal Farm (1945) was a satiric metaphor of the Russian Revolution. The animals led by the pigs, revolt against their human masters. After their victory they decide to run the farm themselves on egalitarian principles.

Orwell uses the farm to symbolize the communist system. Though the original intention of overthrowing the farm owner Mr. Jones was not inherently evil in itself, Napoleon’s subsequent adoption of nearly all of Mr. Jones’ principles and harsh mistreatment of the animals proves that indeed totalitarianism in this case communism is not equality, but just another form of inequality. In this story the pigs and dogs take most of the power for themselves, thinking that they are the best administrators of government. Eventually the power corrupts them, and they turn on their fellow animals, eliminating competitors through propaganda and bloodshed.

Napoleon: Is really the central character on the farm and the chief villain in this tale. Napoleon is a pig and a metaphor for Stalin. Comrade Napoleon represents the human frailties of any revolution. Orwell believed that although socialism was good as an ideal, it could never be successfully adopted due to uncontrollable sins of human nature. For example, although Napoleon seems as first to be a good leader, he is eventually overcome by greed and soon becomes power-hungry.

Snowball: Orwell describes Snowball as a pig very similar to Napoleon — at least in the early stages. Both pigs wanted a leadership position in the “new” economic and political system (which is actually contradictory to the whole supposed system of equality). But as time goes on, both eventually realize that one of them will have to step down. Orwell says that the two were always arguing. “Snowball and Napoleon were by far the most active in the debates. But it was noticed that these two were never in agreement: whatever suggestion either of them made, the other could be counted to oppose it.” Later, Orwell makes the case stronger. “These two disagreed at every point disagreement was possible.”

Soon the differences become too great to deal with, so Napoleon decides that Snowball must be eliminated. It might seem that this was a spontaneous reaction, but a careful look tells otherwise. Napoleon was setting the stage for his own domination long before he really began “dishing it out” to Snowball. For example, he took the puppies away from their mothers in efforts to establish a private police force. These dogs would later be used to eliminate Snowball, his archrival.

Squealer: Squealer is an intriguing character. He’s first described as a manipulator and persuader. Orwell narrates, “He could turn black into white.” Many critics equate Squealer with Pravda, the Russian newspaper of the 1930’s. Squealer is the link between Napoleon and other animals. When Squealer masks an evil intention of the pigs, the intentions of the pigs can be carried out with little resistance and without political disarray.

For Napoleon, the scapegoat was always Snowball. Whenever anything went wrong it became usual to attribute it to Snowball. In fact many of the claims begin to sound ridiculous to the objective mind. Of course, Squealer’s mission is to keep everything subjective in the minds of the animals.

Squealer consoles the animals, saying, “Do not imagine, comrades, that leadership is a pleasure. On the contrary, it is a deep and heavy responsibility. No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?”

So Napoleon, with the help of his dogs, slaughters anyone who is said to be disloyal. “…the tale of confessions and executions went on, until there was a pile of corpses lying before Napoleon’s feet and the air was heavy with the smell of blood.”

By the end of the book, Napoleon doesn’t even pretend to lead a socialist state. After renaming it a Republic and instituting his own version of the 7 Commandments essentially the animals’ Bill of Rights, Comrade Napoleon quickly becomes more or less a dictator who of course has never even been elected by the animals. Under Napoleon’s leadership the farm seems to prosper. Orwell states, “Somehow it seemed as though the farm had grown richer without making the animals themselves any richer— except, of course, for the pigs and the dogs.”
Lastly, Napoleon invites all the neighbors over to celebrate the “success” of Animal Farm, which is changed back to the name of Manor Farm. The 7 Commandments are abridged for the last time, simply reading, “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.”

In the closing paragraph to this tragedy, Orwell describes a fight between the pigs and humans during the celebration. “Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs? The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

While Orwell’s Animal Farm is clearly an attack on Stalin and Communism, it is also a poignant analysis of the impact of absolute power and totalitarianism on society and government.

I cannot remove from my mind the clear belief that we are living on Orwell’s’ Animal Farm today.
  • The revolution was the “Republican Revolution” of 1994;
  • George W. Bush is our Napoleon;
  • Tony Snow and Fox News are our Squealers;
  • our Democrat leaders are Snowball(ed);
  • and the Republicans running our government are pigs and dogs.

    Absolute power corrupts, absolutely.

  1 comment for “PIGS & DOGS ON THE ANIMAL FARM

  1. ROX
    July 13, 2006 at 11:41 pm

    I could agree more. Especially the part where Napolean ‘isn’t’ elected to the position. Bravo!!

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