Narrative Violence In George Orwell’s Animal Farm Essay

Reading for academic purposes and reading for pleasure, they can be perceived as opposites when in essence they are mostly the same. With each the object is to read a work of literature and gain knowledge or experience from its contents, and with both methods one can recognize patterns, themes, and analogies. One can notice the similarities among novels and assume that the hero will win in the end without much thought. The key difference that distinguishes academic reading is the fact that it requires a conscious effort to connect seemingly disparate characters, events, and even stories to gain true understanding of the work.

An example, albeit a simple one, would be George Orwell’s Animal Farm. In his novel, although never directly stated, the pigs led a revolt against the farmer’s corrupt system and developed a communist self-government, as did happen in Russia in 1917. While not being a necessary skill to enjoy works of literature such as the aforementioned one, reading with academic purposes can help unlock the true meaning of otherwise meaningless works. Eventually a character will step out into the world for one reason or another and try to make a name for himself, and in many cases this becomes a quest.

This is absolutely true in Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, in which Arnold, a boy from a reservation in Spokane, decides to start attending the rich white kids’ school of Reardan twenty-two miles away. On his quest to better his future, he loses a few friends and makes many more, but aside an education nothing much seems to be gained from his story. Contrary to that, Thomas C. Foster’s How To Read Literature Like a Professor states that “The real reason for a quest never involves the stated reason” (3).

This becomes clearly evident when you note that Arnold’s identity hinged on him being best friends with a boy named Rowdy, who started detesting Arnold as soon as he decided to change schools. By making new friends of some very supportive people, he managed to be more trusting and less dependent of everybody he knew by the end of the book. Not only did Arnold get to have the education he desired, but he also discovered what kind of person he was from his quest. Just how violence is prevalent in the real world, literature is full of many violent acts. However, violence in a work of literature, unlike real life, is almost certainly meaningful.

For the most part, specific injury and narrative violence are the two main types of violence used in a work of literature. Narrative violence is defined in Thomas C. Foster’s How To Read Literature Like a Professor as “… the death and suffering authors introduce into their work in the interest of plot advancement or thematic development and for which they, not their characters, are responsible” (97). Arnold’s quest from The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is more impacted by narrative violence than specific injury, and influences the way the story unfolds.

Eugene, Arnold’s grandmother, and Arnold’s sister all died around the same time near the end of the book of random and impersonal means. These acts of violence, not committed towards Arnold himself, give Arnold less people to depend on while also giving his friends a chance to show that they care for him. That series of events eventually led to Arnold having his friends to rely on when necessary rather than completely depending on others. However tragic, violence can be an effective means to progressing a story and changing characters.

Life is completely devoid of meaning, with random occurrences trumping all else in changing lives. However, this is yet another way that literature separates itself from the real world. In many cases an object, action, character, or event will represent something entirely different to the eyes of the reader. In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Arnold ends up making the varsity team for basketball in Reardan. Rowdy had done the same in Wellpinit, and both schools performed well enough to face each other in a rematch. At face value, Arnold stops a dunk by Rowdy and shoots a three-pointer as the main play of the game.

However, if we look back at the interactions between Rowdy and Arnold we can see another story play out. That one play was devised by Arnold to demoralize Rowdy, to finally overcome him. Before Arnold changed schools to try to better his life. Rowdy was a very close friend who almost always helped Arnold out. As soon as Arnold tried to better his own life, Rowdy turned on him and started attacking him verbally and physically much more than before. Arnold then makes a brilliant play in their schools’ rematch, and finally overcomes Rowdy. After all is over, Rowdy comes back to be Arnold’s friend and still be in his life a little.

In my mind much meaning can be gained by imagining Rowdy as a manifestation of Arnold’s anxiety. In that case, Arnold first lives with his anxiety as a huge part of his life, gets attacked by his anxiety when he tries something new, pulls off a last resort plan to defeat his anxiety, and finally ends up having his anxiety be a small enough part of his life where he can cope with it. In this case, Arnold’s end result in his quest is being on good enough terms with a small amount of Rowdy in his life. Understanding of what may be a symbol can help further unlock plots such as the one previously mentioned to incredible degrees.