Animal Farm was written by George Orwell in 1946 and falls under three different categories of literature: a children’s story, a fable, and a political satire. It can be considered a children’s story because it was written in the style of a child’s book and involves funny farm animals. The story is also very simple, much like a fairy tale. It can be considered a fable because the characters are human-like animals, which are used to show the follies and failings of human beings. In other words, it can be considered a fable because it teaches a lesson, as all fables do. However, the most important meaning of the book is as a political satire. Its main objective was to be an allegory of Russian history from 1917-1943. An allegory is a work in which the characters and events are used to represent other things and to symbolically express a deeper meaning, which is usually spiritual, moral, or political. This book expresses a deeper, political meaning. Although, the book offers much insight about basic human nature and shows the flaws of human nature, Orwell’s main purpose in writing Animal Farm was to show how Communism fails to create a perfect society. In order to do this, Orwell used a plethora of allegorical parallels in the book.
In Animal Farm, all of the characters and almost all of the events represent someone or something in Russian history from 1917-1943. Most of the story revolves around the struggle for power that took place between Leon Trotsky and Joseph Stalin after the death of Lenin. In Animal Farm, the pig Snowball represents Trotsky and the pig Napoleon represents Stalin. Much of their actions and behaviors parallel the actions of the real Trotsky Vs. Stalin power struggle that took place during the years after Lenin’s death.
In the beginning of Orwell’s Animal Farm, the pig Old Major calls for a meeting of all the farm animals to preach against the evils of man and to expose his dream of a rebellion. Old Major represents a blend of Marx and Lenin, who were the leaders of Communism in Russia. In the novel, Animalism is basically a take off on Communism. Old Major, like Marx, had a dream about the workers overthrowing the aristocrats and leaders to end capitalistic tyranny. Old Major’s song, “Beasts of England,” is based upon Lenin’s idea of unity among workers (or in the book’s case, unity among animals). Once Old Major dies, the two pigs, Snowball and Napoleon, immediately become the leaders of the farm, the conductors of the meetings, the organizers, and the teachers.
Soon after, the animals’ rebellion occurs. The rebellion is a parallel to the Russian Revolution of 1917. The animals decide to rebel because their boss, Farmer Jones, had been drunk for a couple days, forgotten to feed the animals, and left the barn doors open. They decide to raid the storage shed for food and then drive Farmer Jones off the farm. Farmer Jones represents Czar Nicholas, who treated his people much like Farmer Jones treated his animals. Like Farmer Jones, Nicholas overworked his people and his people suffered. There were many food shortages in Russia, causing the people to protest. The Russian soldiers did not suppress the people and these events ultimately led to Czar Nicholas’ abdication.
After the animal rebellion, Snowball and Napoleon became the leaders who worked to change society into an animal utopia. Snowball was the great speaker and very devoted and sincere, working for the best interests of others. Napoleon, on the other hand, did not do much speaking, but usually stayed in the background, much like Stalin. Together, the two pigs created the “Seven Commandments of Animalism,” which was based on Old Major’s teaching (which are a spin off on Marxism and the Communist Manifesto). Afterwards, Snowball continued to be the main spokesperson of the meetings and was the pig who came up with almost all of the ideas. He also created certain committees to improve the animal’s production, such as the Whiter Wool Association. These are much like the characteristics of Trotsky. Napoleon did not come up with any ideas, but, instead, tried to undermine all of Snowball’s. He argued with Snowball on almost every subject.
Soon, Farmer Jones comes back with some henchmen in an attempt to recapture the farm. Snowball leads and organizes the defense and is ultimately successful. He was a brilliant planner and also fought and got injured during the “Battle of Cowshed,” as it was named. He was honored by the other animals as “Animal Hero First Class.” Snowball’s success and admiration by other animals just makes Napoleon bitter, but Napoleon still does not speak his mind. Instead, he continues to be secretive. The “Battle of Cowshed” represents the civil war that took place after the Russian Revolution. Farmer Jones is helped by the neighboring farms of Pinchfield and Foxwood, just as some western countries sent troops to help out the Russian forces. The battle also represents some of the troubles Russia had with Germany in 1918. They avoided warfare only through the treaty of Brest-Litovsk.
After the battle, Snowball and Napoleon began to start challenging each other more and more. It was certain that one of them was to gain power over the other. Then at one meeting, Snowball was introducing a variety of ideas and programs, and Napoleon was challenging almost all of them. Snowball’s brilliant speaking gained him the majority of support at the debate, and he had the animals repeating his slogan (“four legs good, two legs bad”) quite often. He spoke very learnedly about such things as storm drains, silage, and work-saving devices. Napoleon had no plans of his own. He only argued that nothing would come of Snowball’s plans. There biggest argument was over the windmill.
Snowball tells the animals about how beneficial the windmill would be, behaving much like Trotsky in his concern for others. Within a few weeks, Snowball had drawn up a plan for the windmill. Napoleon tries to divert the situation of the windmill by expressing the need for food production. Then, Snowball proposes that there be a vote for the windmill. When Napoleon sees that Snowball is likely to win the vote, he calls in his nine enormous dogs (who he had been raising since puppies), which attack Snowball and chase him off the farm for good. This power struggle is much like that which took place between Trotsky and Stalin.
Trotsky was always coming up with new inventive ideas and plans to help improve the peoples’ lives, while Stalin never really came up with anything. He only worked to undermine Trotsky’s plan. Though Stalin was not as good of a speaker as Trotsky and not as well liked by the people, he would always get his way through force. Trotsky was the one who had organized the Red Army and gave encouraging speeches. He was the one that everyone believed would take the power of Russia. However, Stalin used power to get rid of Trotsky, expelling him from the Communist party and soon, thereafter, getting rid of him all together. Another parallel used in Animal Farm is Napoleon’s dogs and Stalin’s secret police. Napoleon had trained his dogs since puppies to do his dirty work, allowing him to rule through power. If he did not get his way, he sent the dogs out. Similarly, Stalin trained his secret police, called the Checka, to do his dirty work whenever he ordered them to do so. Stalin’s secret police killed between 60,000 and 70,000 people.
Once Snowball was gone, Napoleon became a tyrannical dictator, ordering all the other animals to obey all of his commands. He used a great deal of propaganda with the help of his great propagandist Squealer, who could convince almost every animal of the farm. This is much how Stalin ruled once he came to power. True Communism was never practiced. Soon, Napoleon adopted several of Snowball’s plan, like the windmill. This is also characteristic of Stalin. The building and rebuilding of the windmill and other plans were Napoleon’s way of keeping the other animals occupied so that they would not have time to think about what was really going on. The motives of these plans were much like Stalin’s five-year Plans. The windmill is a symbol of the Russian construction of steel mills and electric plants.
Another similarity between Napoleon and Stalin was their cruelty. Napoleon held a meeting and accused several animals of planning with Snowball to destroy the windmill. He then killed the animals. Soon, he had other animals confessing to other things and killed them on the spot as well. In the end, there was a pile of corpses lying at Napoleon’s feet. This event is very similar to what happened in August of 1936. The Communist party under Stalin’s leadership tried, convicted, and executed a number of high ranking officials claiming that they were Trotskyists.
It did not take long under Napoleon’s rule for the situation to become even worse than it had been under Farmer Jones. The animals’ dreams of equality, freedom, and democracy had given away to fear and totalitarianism, just like the dreams of the working class in Russia under Stalin’s rule. Since the economic situation has become so bad on Animal Farm, Napoleon decided to start doing business with humans. This lead to him being taken advantage of and the farm being attacked by men with weapons. The enemies capture the farm and destroy the windmill. After this happens, the animals retaliate and take the farm back, but pay a heavy price in the “Battle of the Windmill.” This battle represents the German invasion of Russia during World War II.
Within a couple years, Napoleon and the other pigs have become indistinguishable from humans, breaking virtually all of the “Seven Commandments of Animalism.” Animal farm had become everything that it was originally against. The situation had actually become worse than it was before the rebellion. Almost all of the events and characters of Animal Farm were based on what took place during Russia after the death of Lenin and through much of Stalin’s regime. Animal Farm is a brilliant political satire showing the downfalls and failures of Communism.
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