Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely in Orwell's Novels

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Orwell has published a political satire novella, “The Animal Farm” which by writer’s perception the novella represents historical Communist Revolution which occurred during the early 20thcentury by Bolsheviks coming to power, in the Soviet Union and how Joseph Stalin achieving absolute control through indoctrination of an ideology by using propaganda has—Stalinism, an ideology adopted by Stalin, based on totalitarianism, and centralization—led to a nation’s downfall. Therefore, this essay will demonstrate how through Orwell’s perception, absolute power leads to a nation’s corruption in Animal Farm.

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This novella begins on a farm called “Manor Farm”, includes a variety of animals all living together: pigs, horses, dogs, a donkey, a raven…in a barn with a farmer named Mr. Jones—he is the master of all animals. Each character stands for a symbol, pigs, for instance, represent intellectuality and leadership. In the first chapter of the book, an old pig called “The Major” gives out a speech before his death about a dream significant to how men are the main cause of their miserable state and how animals can change it:

“Is it not crystal clear, then, comrades, that all the evils of this life of ours spring from the tyranny of human beings? Only get rid of Man…That is my message to you, comrades: Rebellion! Sooner or later justice will come. And above all, pass on this message of mine to those who come after you, so that future generations shall carry on the struggle until it is victorious.” (Orwell 5)

Old Major emblematizes Vladimir Lenin and his progression of Marxism which has become known as Leninism. “Man” stands for repression and farm animals represent the working class. Karl Marx’s ideology—communism—is based on economic equality through the elimination of private property; major productive resources in a society—such as factories and farms—are owned by the public or the state. He wrote “The Communist Manifesto” to achieve a Communist revolution; his motive behind writing this book was, raising awareness for the repressed European working class in the 19th century, this relates to Old Major’s motive behind his speech, which is helping animals to become aware of Mr. Jones’s oppression and achieve their freedom through rebellion—In the novella, this ideology is represented through symbolism under the name of “Animalism”.

Mr. Jones represents Czar Nicholas II—the last Emperor of Russia—they are equally seen as barbaric and irresponsible to the point where Nicholas II was forced to abdicate due to his weak leadership. In the second chapter of Animal Farm, animals seem to be fed up with Jones’s irresponsibility:

“Mr. Jones went into Willingdon and got so drunk at the Red Lion that he did not come back till midday on Sunday. The men had milked the cows in the early morning and then had gone out rabbiting, without bothering to feed the animals. When Mr. Jones got back, he immediately went to sleep on the drawing-room sofa… When evening came the animals were still unfed.” (Orwell 11)

Animals could not bear Mr. Jones anymore, his lack of leadership and animals urge to have their freedom leads them to rebel for their rights, and as result, they expel Mr. Jones and take charge of the farm, the first thing they do is to change the name from Manor Farm to Animal Farm: “Meanwhile the animals had chased Jones and his men out onto the road and slammed the five-barred gate behind them. And so, almost before they knew what was happening, the Rebellion had been successfully carried through; Jones was expelled, and the Manor Farm was theirs.” (Orwell 12)

Lenin directs the Soviet government as a leader of the Bolshevik revolution with Leon Trotsky (Snowball) and Joseph Stalin (Napoleon), he dies in 1924. After Lenin’s death, Trotsky only has few people who support him while Stalin has many, due to the loss of a power struggle, Trotsky gets expelled from the Soviet Union. Old Major’s speech encourages Napoleon and Snowball to make changes in the community, as their disagreements grow over time “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 on to oppose it. Even when it was resolved.” (Orwell 19-20) The animals could not decide whom to choose, to end the dilemma Napoleon decides to expel Snowball from the community by using propaganda.

“‘Comrades,’ he said quietly, ‘do you know who is responsible for this? Do you know the enemy who has come in the night and overthrown our windmill? SNOWBALL!… Comrades, here and now I pronounce the death sentence upon Snowball. “Animal Hero, Second Class”, and half a bushel of apples to any animal who brings him to justice. A full bushel to anyone who captures him alive!’… The animals were shocked beyond… everyone began thinking out ways of catching Snowball.” (Orwell 47-48)

This quote signifies how good Napoleon is with manipulating others to reach his desired goal which is sole leadership.

Animals seemed to be convinced with Napoleon’s speech even though there was no evidence of Snowball overthrowing the windmill. At this point Napoleon’s power begins to rise, there is no power struggle left anymore, from now on his only goal is to maintain his power. He has nine brutal and vicious dogs which he, later on, uses against other animals to scare or kill them if they show any sign of disobedience, as he did with the hens when they refused to trade their eggs with humans first he starved them then killed them with his dogs, “…Napoleon raises them specifically to be his own little private army: he takes them from their parents as puppies…No wonder they become little monsters” (Orwell 12) the nine dogs represent Stalin’s police force—NKVD. One of the leaders on the farm, Squealer a smooth-tongued pig who is a master at manipulating language to make animals obey Napoleon. As Napoleon achieves absolute power, he and Squealer start to distort The Seven Commandments, “No animal shall wear clothes, no animal shall sleep in a bed, no animal shall drink alcohol, no animal shall kill any other animal…” (Orwell 15) Napoleon and the other pigs they start to sleep on beds, wear clothes, drink alcohol… The animals start to question the situation with bewilderment, Squealer rewords the commandments or uses how thinking is hard work for pigs as justification for their actions. Elements such as beds, alcohol, and clothes are considered as a luxury since before Jonas’s expel only Jonas and his men possessed these not other animals. In the beginning, pigs created The Seven Commandments to avoid inequality, “All animals are equal.” (Orwell 15) through Napoleon’s rise to absolute power he changes it to “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others” with this slight change the meaning of equality loses its meaning; inequality, there is no term such as more or less equal. In the relation between history and the novella, Vyacheslav Molotov—who was head of Communist propaganda—worked for Stalin to maintain a good image for him. He used manipulation of language to convince people to follow Stalin. Squealer could also be representing the Soviet newspaper Pravda, (Russian: “Truth”) one of the most powerful propaganda tools used by Stalin towards proletarians, (e.g., Boxer, the horse). During Stalin’s ruling, nearly six million people have died because of how brutal his regime was. The remaining has lived a miserable life; he sent whoever opposed him to a gulag which they ended up being murdered, Stalin’s demeanor towards disobedience is represented through Napoleon’s use of power through scaring other animals with his dogs, as previously mentioned.

This essay demonstrates how through Orwell’s perception, absolute power leads to a nation’s corruption in Animal Farm. George Orwell uses animals under oppression as a symbol for the working class to satirize the Russian Revolution. In the story, animals rebel against their oppressive masters to achieve equality. With time, due to the leader’s prioritizing power maintenance and superiority leads the farm—which stands for the nation— yet to another hierarchical system. 

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