“Unlike the Holocaust, Stalin’s murders are forgotten: dust blowing in the wind” (Robert Harris). George Orwell’s Animal Farm is a satirical allegory. Rebelling against farmer Jones, the animals of Manor Farm decide to run the farm themselves. After driving Jones out, the pigs declare themselves in charge. Orwell’s fictional farm is a representation of the Russian revolution of 1917. The animals represent the main figures in the Russian revolution, namely Joseph Stalin, Leon Trotsky, and Stalin’s Propaganda Department, which publicly broadcasts flaws in the ideology of communism.
First, Orwell uses Napoleon to talk about Stalin, the Russian dictator. One of the similarities he highlights is manipulation. Napoleon states, “The whole management and organization of this farm depend on us. Day and night we are watching over your welfare” (31; ch. 3). In saying that they will “watch over your welfare”, Napoleon ensures that the animals will trust him. He exaggerates the “day and night” part to make them feel reliant on him. Stalin does this as he convinces the people of Russia that their previous leader was far worse than he. Another similarity Orwell uses is forced labor.
He says, “[l]n August Napoleon announced that there would be work on Sunday afternoons as well. This work was strictly voluntary, but any animal who absented himself from it would have his rations reduced by half” (54; ch. 6). Napoleon often plays mind games with the animals. When he tells them that their work is voluntary, he is deceiving them, while convincing them that they are working for their own good. By manipulating the animals, Napoleon controls their actions. The last thing Orwell points out about Napoleon, and indirectly Stalin, is his need to make the animals idolize him.
Napoleon did this when he “announced that the gun would be fired every year on Napoleon’s birthday, as well as on the other two anniversaries” (81; ch. 8). Firing the gun on his birthday is symbolic of making him nearly a god, and therefore worshipable. This way, the animals see Napoleon more as a figure and an idea than as one of them. Emphasizing the negative aspects of Stalin in his fictional representation, Orwell warns people of Stalin and others like him. Second, Orwell uses Snowball to talk about Trotsky, specifically the ways in which he impacted Stalin and his rule.
Initially, Orwell established that Napoleon and Snowball opposed each other. The narrator says, “The animals listened first to Napoleon, then to Snowball, and could not make up their minds which was right; indeed, they always found themselves in agreement with the one who was speaking at the moment” (47; ch. 5). Having two sides to everything holds the balance; Snowball and Napoleon both have opposing stances, canceling each other out. When Snowball is present, he keeps Napoleon from being a lone dictator. Trotsky was the balancing force in Russia, offsetting Stalin’s ideals with better options for the working class.
After Snowball can not defend himself, Napoleon takes jabs at him, saying to the animals “‘Suppose you had decided to follow Snowball, with his moonshine of windmillsSnowball, who, as we now know, was no better than a criminal? ‘” (50; ch. 5). Twisting history for his personal benefit is a common tactic of Napoleon’s. This instance is significant because Snowball is put down to make Napoleon seem better. Referencing “his moonshine of windmills”, Napoleon metaphorically conveys that Snowball offered only an ‘intoxicating fantasy’ that Napoleon is ‘saving’ the animals from.
The last time that Napoleon uses Snowball is to off-load blame. Napoleon exclaims, “[T]his traitor has crept here under cover of night and destroyed our work of nearly a year. Comrades, here and now I pronounce the death sentence upon Snowball” (64; ch. 6). Here, Napoleon uses Snowball to kill two birds with one stone. Not only can he blame anything bad/unfortunate that happens on Snowball, but the animals unite around him as they recognize Snowball’s apparent betrayal. Napoleon’s diction also creates this sense of unity with the word comrade.
Often associated with communism, the word’s connotation is that both the speaker and the audience are equal. Orwell believed in Trotsky’s ideals, which is why Snowball is portrayed in a positive light. Finally, Orwell used Squealer to express his opinions about Stalin’s propaganda department. Squealer’s ability to convince the animals is the first thing brought up. As Orwell puts it, “The others said of Squealer that he could turn black into white” (13; ch. 2). Squealer is known to be a talented, manipulative speaker. So much so, that those who he talked to believed him despite knowing his tendency toward lies.
Hyperbolizing his talent, Orwell emphasizes the point that he could convince anyone of anything. Squealer’s role is to convince all of the animals that anything Napoleon says is right and to always listen to him. An example of this is when he says, “I trust that every animal here appreciates the sacrifice that Comrade Napoleon has made in taking this extra labour upon himself. Do not imagine, comrades, that leadership is a pleasure! On the contrary, it is a deep and heavy responsibility” (50; ch. 5). Using the words sacrifice and labour, and trust and appreciate, Squealer provokes emotions in the animals.
He carefully chooses the most loaded words he can to make them feel like they owe Napoleon a great deal, and makes them feel guilty for thinking anything bad about him. Squealer’s ability to persuade is especially useful when the animals would not immediately accept something Napoleon said or did. For example, when Napoleon starts selling eggs and the hens revolt, Squealer puts them at ease. The narrator says, “A few animals still felt faintly doubtful, but Squealer asked them shrewdly, ‘Are you certain that this is not something that you have dreamed, comrades? Have you a record of such a resolution?
Is it written down anywhere? ” (59; ch. 6). Napoleon uses Squealer’s ability to control the other animals to slowly change the ideals that the Revolution was based on until it is completely unrecognizable. In the same way that Squealer always talks about how conditions are far better than under Jones, Stalin’s propaganda always portrayed the people as happy and well fed. This way, he convinced the Russian people that they were also well off. Additionally, the Soviet press convinced the public that Stalin’s principles were based off of his predecessor Lenin, despite the fact that they contradicted each other.
Orwell wrote the book Animal Farm to remark on the Russian revolution of 1917. Using symbols and extended metaphors, he gives a second meaning to his story. He uses the main characters Napoleon, Snowball, and Squealer to represent some of the important people in the Russian revolution. In writing a novel, Orwell brings to light what is actually going on in Russia, exposing Stalin’s lies and manipulation. In Russia, just like in the social issues of today, transparency holds the truth and the people who showcase it are the ones to listen to.