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What social institutions does George Orwell attack in 'Animal Farm'? How and why?

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Introduction

What social institutions does George Orwell attack in 'Animal Farm'? How and why? 'Animal Farm' is a novel from the 1950's. It was written as a reaction to the major social and political changes occurring in Europe and throughout the world in the first half of the twentieth century. The greatest of these was communism, which was a revolutionary brand of socialism that had taken hold in Russia. Orwell agreed with the principles of Communism, which promoted equality and the removal of social classes. However, he recognised that it would not work in practice, as it had not in Russia under Stalin, because of human nature. The novel details the history of Communism in Russia, from the revolution to the height of Stalin's regime, through a parallel fiction about a farm where the animals rise up and take over. Through this allegory, Orwell can criticise several social institutions that are relevant to most societies. He comments on the nature of leadership, hierarchies of social class and methods of controlling the people. Characters in the novel become symbolic, representing many ideas and figures from history. Orwell is critical of all types of leadership in the novel. Farmer Jones owns the farm before the revolution. ...read more.

Middle

The idealism of Trotsky and Lenin is shown in the reading classes and shorter working days. After Jones is ousted from the farm, all reins, whips and bridles, tools of oppression, are burned. It seems that Animalism could work. However, as in Soviet Russia, a hierarchy starts to form. The new leaders start to take advantage of their new power and realise that they can use this to make their own lives easier. This is represented in the novel by the milk and apples, which are commandeered by the pigs. Even the idealist Snowball is complicit in this. Eventually Snowball is chased off the farm by Napoleon's dogs and Napoleon assumes complete power. One autocratic dictator has been replaced by another. The point Orwell is making is that all human beings given some power will abuse it and the idealised utopia will never exist because human beings need to create it. Orwell makes the point through the cat that wants to chase the rats and birds that nature is hierarchical and it is the natural law of survival to compete. Equality is unnatural however appealing. Orwell is also critical of the means by which any state controls its people. Religion, the media, education, laws and the police and army are all tools that have been used in the past to keep the masses under control. ...read more.

Conclusion

This is obviously open to abuse and history and the news can be changed at will. This then becomes yet another tool by which a totalitarian government can control the people. Maybe the most damning criticism of Orwell's, however, is that given to the animals themselves. The reader is encouraged to sympathise with the oppressed animals and we feel anger when the hens and pigs are killed in the show trials, anger when Boxer, who has always been loyal is sent to the glue factory and betrayed when Napoleon is seen as the same as the humans at the end. However, All these things come to pass because the animals are passive and allow themselves to be manipulated by Squealer and Napoleon. They never challenge what they are told and when they do and are severely punished they never rise up against their new oppressor. Orwell is showing that the workers never actually recognise their collective strength and use it. The animals need to be led. Consequently they are at the mercy of whoever is strong enough to dominate and govern. This is probably the most pessimistic message of the novel and the most troubling for the reader. Can we ever control our own lives or is human nature too flawed to allow utopia to exist? Orwell seems to be suggesting that we have to accept this situation as history has shown we make the same mistakes time and again. ...read more.

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