George Orwell – “Animal Farm”

“Four legs good, two legs bad,” chanted the pigs, horse and dogs. The theme of animals overtaking their farm from humans parallels the Russian Revolution in George Orwell’s famous novel “Animal Farm.” Old Major, a pig with great revolutionary ideals and the founder of “Animalism” believed that by taking over the farm, the animals would no longer be mistreated by the humans.

After all, if the animals took over the farm, the pigs wouldn’t get slaughtered for food, the horses wouldn’t have to ride their owners, and they could eat as much as they’d want. The slavery of the farm life is symbolic of the oppression in Russia, as well as in many modern day countries with large poverty and wealth gaps, and slavery in all its forms. At first, taking over the farm is a wonderful experience of freedom.

Unfortunately, Old Major, the prize-winning boar, mysteriously dies three nights after expelling his terrific dream. Following the ideals of “Animalism” expressed by Old Major, three other pigs named Snowball, Napoleon and Squealer band together to help carry out Old Major’s principals and lead the rebellion. After a terrific battle, the animals defeat Mr. Jones and reclaim the farm as their own, naming it appropriately “Animal Farm.” In “The Battle of the Cowshed” Mr. Jones returns and the animals defeat him again.

Life on the farm is fantastic at first with freedom of oppression and slavery from Mr. Jones, but soon the two pigs in charge, Snowball and Napoleon, begin to have power struggles. Snowball has a plan to create a windmill, which the animals could build for water and electricity, but Napoleon opposes the plan. During a meeting with the animals, Snowball makes a speech on why they should build a windmill, and Napoleon sends the dogs to chase him off the farm. During the time of peace, Napoleon was secretly training the puppies on the farm to do his bidding. The puppies symbolize the police, and Napoleon and Snowball parallel the power struggles between Leon Trosky and Joseph Stalin during the Russian Revolution.

With Snowball gone and no one to oppose his power, Napoleon then tells the animals to build the windmill. Unfortunately, this was not a success. Napoleon blames it on Snowball, claiming he tried to sabotage it. Soon the motto of Napoleon’s leadership is “Napoleon’s always right,” and anyone who opposes his leadership will be killed by the dogs. Things start to dramatically change at this point.

The dark themes of political power and corruption in the novel also resonate with corruption in America and all over the world. For example, although all of the animals are deemed “equal” Snowball claims that some are just “more equal than others.” This reflects the large economic gaps between the rich and poor in this country. Although we are all equal, for example, if you can’t afford health care you cannot be treated.

By the end of “Animal Farm” it is difficult to differentiate between who the pigs are and who the humans are. Although this novel was written as a commentary on the Russian Revolution, it points out some truths about our democracy and how any government can become corrupt.