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How Is Marxism Portrayed in ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell?

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The main aim of Marxism is to bring about a classless society, and ‘Animal Farm’ is generally considered to be a Marxist novel, as all its characters share a similar ambition at the beginning. ‘Animal Farm’ represents an example of the oppressed masses rising up to form their own classless society, whilst offering a subtle critique on Stalin’s Soviet Russia, and communism in general. Orwell is, ironically, revolutionary in his work, as contextually in 1945, communism was a ‘taboo’ subject, punishable in post-war America by arrest and even death. It is clear from the political references in ‘Animal Farm’, that Orwell considered Russia, and consequently communism as a counter-revolutionary force that would inevitably become corrupted by greed and power.

Every aspect of context is explored in ‘Animal Farm’, and the destructive and often contradictive nature of communism is explored in extraordinary detail and analysis. He represents ‘Animal Farm’ is an allegory of the situation at the beginning of the 1950’s and employs a third-person narrator, who reports events without commenting on them directly. . George Orwell’s political fable Animal Farm portrays a reenactment of the Russian Revolution, with major characters cast as farm animals and communism renamed “Animalism.” True to the historical story, the aristocratic players manipulate the proletariat, deluding them with illusions of dignity and improved living conditions

In terms of structure, ‘Animal Farm’ represents both the making and the breaking of communist society. The birth of the communist agenda in ‘Animal Farm’ is brought about by the character ‘Old Major’. Merely the name of this character indicates a level of importance. ‘Old Major’ is considered to be a subtle and distinct doppelganger of the German theorist Karl Marx, as well as arguably, Vladimir Lenin, the political economist who many thought a God after the Russian Revolution. All in all, ‘Old Major’ represents a sphere of unconquerable influence that is exerted onto the masses to bring about complete faith in the communist ideology. In this way, Orwell portrays the ways in which the Russian people were influenced by figureheads and ideological saints. ‘Napoleon’, another of Orwell’s characters, portrays the role of the Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin – ‘Man of Steel’. The novel identifies Stalin’s ambition to lead and control the masses, winning over his more intelligent and influential counterpart, Leon Trotsky, who is represented by ‘Snowball’. ‘Napoleon’ also identifies himself with the French military leader Napoleon Bonaparte, whom Orwell considered to be a repressive power seeker and dictator.

The resemblance of some of the novel’s events to events in Soviet history is indubitable. For example, Snowball’s and Napoleon’s power struggle is a direct allegory of Trotsky’s and Stalin’s. Frederick’s trade agreement with Napoleon, and his subsequent breaking of the agreement, represents the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact that preceded World War II. The Battle of the Windmill represents World War II itself. The fact that Orwell’s characters reflect so obviously the figureheads in Soviet Russia is paramount to the effect of its dramatic and satirical critique. The purpose of satire is to point out or illustrate societal flaws by mocking them or highlighting their absurdity. So the outcome of satire can be the change of those behaviours. Animal Farm was published on the heels of World War II, in England in 1945 and in the United States in 1946. George Orwell wrote the book during the war as a cautionary fable in order to expose the seriousness of the dangers posed by Stalinism and totalitarian government. Orwell was brave to publish such a novel when the subject was extensively taboo. In effect, Orwell’s warnings were more than valid, as events such as the Berlin blockade, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, soon followed; as an attempt to contain communism.

It is not just the characters in Animal Farm which relate to the portrayal of Marxism. The balance of power between figureheads is significant as a critique of Marxism in general. Much like the situation in the Russian house of Parliament, the Politburo during the 1920’s; Power and dominance were neither based on popularity, nor intelligence, in Animal Farm. After the eventual passing of Old Major, the unpopularity of Napoleon is evident from the off. He is described as ‘not much of a talker’ and having ‘a reputation for getting his own way’. Orwell always reflected in his work that communism was a vile agenda that would eventually lead to greed, grief and devastation, and in a way, foreshadowed the end of soviet Russia. One could argue that this is the most significant part of the novel, whereby, even though it was published in 1945, predicted the end of the communist state, which in the ‘real world’ outside of Orwell’s allegorical genius did not happen until 1991. The windmill that is present in Animal Farm can be compared with the growth of industry in Russia or the Industrial Revolution. Once Napoleon had his position sorted as ‘top of the chain’, Napoleon thought that if he could keep the barnyard animals busy all the time replacing the windmill that they would not realize how bad their living conditions were, and he could blame the destruction all the time on Snowball.

The way in which Orwell criticises the Marxist idea is intelligent, depictive and extremely eye-opening. Some would describe it as one of the most significant novels of the 20th century. Orwell uses animal characters in order to draw the reader away from the world of current events into a fantasy space where the reader can grasp ideas and principles more crisply. At the same time, Orwell personifies the animals in the tradition of allegory so that they symbolize real historical figures. In their own universe, people can become desensitized even to terrible things like deception, mistreatment, and violence. By demonstrating how these things occur in an allegorical world, Orwell makes them more clearly understood in the real world. An important part of the satire in Animal Farm is Irony – Orwell demonstrates the fact that oppression is cyclical and the oppressed becomes the oppressor when given the chance.

In Animal Farm, ‘Animalism’ is portrayed in an initially positive, but eventually negative light. As time goes on, Napoleons power becomes more corrupt, the ‘cult of personality’ whereby Napoleon, like Stalin, is worshipped becomes strained and eventually it collapses. Only a few animals that remember the Rebellion remain, and their memories of it are faint. Napoleon has rewritten the animals’ history to the extent that they feel they no longer have one. He has also manipulated language to the extent that it is meaningless. We see this reflected in the maxim, “All animals are equal / But some animals are more equal than others.” The concept of “more equal” is mathematically impossible, but the animals are too disillusioned and brainwashed to notice. In all the years since the Rebellion, not a single animal has gotten the rewards that he was promised or that was experienced so briefly in the days immediately following the Rebellion. The future Orwell creates for Animal Farm does not correspond neatly with Imperial Russia. Before the Rebellion, the animals lived under Jones’s total control but had the advantage, the bliss, of ignorance. Now they are living under Napoleon’s total control, having been enlightened to the possibility of freedom and, it seems, still under the impression that they are free but no longer understanding what true freedom would be. This is consistent with Orwell’s belief that 20th-century autocrats such as Hitler and Stalin were of a new and more dangerous kind than the dictators of the past, and he was right.

Animal Farm is a warning about autocrats who take over socialist ideals for their own advantage. The challenge for Orwell or for anyone who promotes socialist ideals is to find a practical way to circumvent the abuses that the pigs of Animal Farm so easily commit. But since the novel is a reflection of the challenges of the 1940s rather than a political treatise, Orwell has done quite enough in demonstrating, clearly and horrifyingly, the nature and scope of the challenges to be faced. Finally, Marxism is portrayed in ‘Animal Farm’ as an initially exciting prospect that leads to eternal destruction.

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