Animal Farm Background

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“Animal Farm”

Theme and Background

The story of “Animal Farm” has an immediate impact. It witnesses how good intentions, self sacrifice and idealism can fall prey to viciousness. It is a story if idealism crushed and betrayed, but alone all it is a story of disillusionment.

         With the assumption of authority Napoleon & Snowball goes an assumption of greater power. The pattern continues throughout the story until finally Napoleon, who has become a brutal and callous dictator, usurps all power and privilege, and the other animals become fearful & deprived nonentities. The moral of the story at this level is the old saying that power corrupts and that absolute power corrupts absolutely everything. 

If we look at “Animal Farm” at another level

Fredericks: Stands for Hitler. There has also been an arrangement and secret deals. (Allusion to Fritz.)

Foxwood: Foxwood farm represents England.

Pinchfield: Pinchfield symbolises Germany.

Destruction of the Windmill: This destruction is a symbol for the failure of the Five Year Plan.


Protagonist · There is no clear central character in the novel, but Napoleon, the dictatorial pig, is the figure who drives and ties together most of the action.

Farmhouse: The Jones' farmhouse represents in many ways the very place where greed and lust dominate.  Unlike the barn, which is the fortress of the common man, the genuine concept of socialism, the farmhouse, where Napoleon and the pigs take over, symbolizes the Kremlin.  Even today the Kremlin is an important place to Russian leaders, who, instead of embracing Marxism, have created their own distorted view of communism and have shoved it down their peoples' (animals') throats. 

Animalism: The vague yet often referred to concept of animalism is used by Orwell to signify the generic view of socialism.  This view was first expounded by Karl Marx (old Major), who, in Orwell's opinion was naive in thinking that his philosophy would actually work.  Orwell, although agreeing with the overall concept of equality though socialism, was critical of Marx because he didn't take into account the greed and jealousy which would eventually undermine the entire cause.  This idea was shown through Napoleon and the other pigs, who, through persuasion and force became the dominant authority on the farm.

Gun/Flag: Probably the most profound metaphor in Orwell's Animal Farm is the idea of the gun and flag.   The nationalism the animals' feel is demonstrated through their daily processions and rituals where they practically worship the flag (their institution of the state and obviously not God).   These processions and parades grow more dramatic with the fall of socialism and the rise of Napoleon's dictatorship.  In this way, Orwell points out that unlike Marx's (old Major's) original concept of freedom through equality, Stalin believes that inequality between nations is the key to success.   This sounds surprisingly like capitalism, the very system communism is meant to combat.
     The gun represents the triumphant yet violence-ridden overthrow of Mr. Jones in the Battle of Cowshed.  Again, opposing Marx's ideal that rebellion is to be accomplish through honesty, innocence, and passive determination, Napoleon and even Snowball (Trotsky) rise to power prematurely by using death and destruction, the very system Jones used on them.  Thus they prove themselves no better than Jones and the previous administration.       
     The fact that Napoleon outlaws Beasts of England demonstrates the formal power of the state.  No longer is socialism just a generic belief in equality made by everyday common animals, but now it is a money-hungry powerhouse of oppression run by the government.

Battle of Cowshed: The Battle of Cowshed is a clear metaphor for the overthrow of the Old Russian government based on czars (Mr. Jones).  In Russia, this change took the Soviet Union out of World War I and eventually led to the rise of Lenin and Stalin.  The violence used in the battle, however was not condoned by Marx (old Major) or Orwell, who both believed in pacifism.  Snowball and Napoleon, though, were too greedy and were required to use force in order to establish their corrupt government. .

Sugarcandy Mountain: Orwell uses Sugarcandy Mountain to symbolize the Christian concept of Heaven.   Really the Church is criticized in Animal Farm because it is the institution that inspires the animals to work using "lies" and manipulation.  Moses, the especial raven of Mr. Jones, and later Napoleon, is the vehicle from which the working class hears about this land where clover and sugar is unmeasured and free to everyone.    It's troubling to many that Orwell thought of the Church in such a cynical way.   But once again this shows that Orwell wasn't loyal or afraid of any system.

Ribbons & Sugar: Orwell's use of ribbons and sugar symbolizes the luxuries of life enjoyed by the old middle class under the old government.   Mollie, the symbol for the capitalist, is particularly fond of ribbons and sugar— so much so that she leaves the farm for them.

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Milk: Orwell uses milk to represent the care and love that mothers give to their children.  When Napoleon takes the milk for himself and the other pigs, he is, in essence, stealing the very core of the people.  Now he can raise the children (other farm animals) as a tool of the state.   No longer is the power in the family; now the cornerstone of civilization is in the totalitarian government of Napoleon (Stalin).

Alcohol: Orwell uses beer to represent the "Old" Russia.  He first notes that the reason Jones lost control of the farm and began being ...

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