Animal Farm by George Orwell is a satirical allegory of the dictatorial socialism of the Soviet Union and the Stalinist ideology. With an explicitly political message, Orwell makes use of the fable to indirectly and effectively unveil the effects of the corrupt communist regime , which include exploitation and other acts of injustice and inequality. In Animal Farm, he illustrates the corrupt authority figures of the Soviet regime through the characters of pigs, and uses the same technique with others who make up the communist society. The horses represent the hardworking and submissive labourers while the sheep, which are recognised as being credulous, compliant followers, depict people who, without questioning the truth, willingly and gullibly become influenced by propaganda. Throughout his novel, Orwell not only uses the allegorical animals to present how the communist class system of the Soviet Union operates and how Russian citizens revolt, but essentially also expresses his cynical beliefs of human nature as a whole. Through the myriad of characters introduced on the farm, Orwell most understandably reveals his point of view through the character of a certain donkey, Benjamin.
Benjamin is “the oldest animal on the farm and the worst tempered. He seldom talked, and when he did, it was usually to make some cynical remark” (1.3). Setting aside his irritable temper, Benjamin is fully aware of many things that are taking place, more than any other animal on the farm. He is particularly wise, unperturbed by fads, and ridicules everyone. Benjamin believes donkeys live a long time and has a vision for the long run: as opposed to others, he recalls the past and contemplates the future, therefore he does not concern himself with what he perceives as temporary. Through Benjamin, Orwell’s overall perspective of the onset of the Bolshevik dictatorship and the ensuing Russian Revolution is eloquently revealed.
George Orwell was born in India, where his father has been stationed as an official from the British Empire. However, the rest of his family, including Orwell, moves back to England a year after. At eight years old, Orwell, formerly known as “Eric Blair,” is admitted to a British boarding school located in Southern England. There, he does not get along with his peers but rather, performs well in his academics and finds comfort in books. Although Orwell wins several scholarships and attends Eton college for a short while, he is unable to continue his university education for financial reasons. In need of a job, he joins the Indian Imperial Police in Burma instead and serves there for five years. Not yet twenty years of age, he witnesses the terrible atrocities of Imperialism; sees unsanitary conditions in prisons, floggings, hangings and other means used to scourge and oppress workers. Orwell feels it is wrong of him to assert supremacy over the people of Burma, even though he is merely taking orders. He also realises that he is supporting the authoritarian government and therefore resigns and goes back to England, intent on making a fresh career as a writer. Nevertheless, Orwell struggles with his writing career and has to adopt a whole range of working class jobs (servant, kitchen cleaner, hotel porter, etc.) to make a living.
In search of a new job, he leaves for Paris, where he becomes deeply influenced by socialist ideals and begins reading a lot about politics as well as writing novels. In 1936, he enlists to fight in the Spanish Civil War against Fascism, siding with the Republicans in Spain; however, he gets injured badly when a fascist sniper puts a bullet through his throat. Through his first-hand experience in the war, Orwell witnesses propaganda and the travesty of history being used as a catalyst of war for the first time. This intentional perversion of facts by both liberals and conservatives seems to Orwell to be even more deadly than the cruelties of war. Thus he returns to England afterward and starts writing on socialist topics. Being a democratic socialist and a working-class writer himself, Orwell becomes dedicated to the fundamental view of the goodness of the working class people. In his novel Animal Farm, he depicts Soviet Russia as a failure of democratic socialist ideals and illustrates Joseph Stalin as another murderous dictator. As a result, the novel fails to get published once it has been finished mainly because the United States and the United Kingdom happen to be allies of Stalin. However, Orwell does manage to get it published in France under a French title. Although Orwell considers Stalin a betrayer, in his book, however, he does not attack communism, but instead dictatorship. Though Animal Farm corresponds to the Russian Revolution and the tyranny of Stalin, it is more significantly an examination of all conceivable political revolutions, where the revolutionary principles of equality and justice become dismantled in the event. Orwell indicates his belief that revolution signifies the very end of the concept of working-class democracy and basic human freedom.
Of all the animals on the farm, Benjamin is the one who embodies the ideals of George Orwell more than any other. Benjamin, the donkey, does not have any earnest hopes for the revolution, or anything else for that matter. He is convinced that, despite whatever massive rebellion, things will remain practically the same for the animals. If they are no longer being exploited by Mr. Jones anymore or Man in general, the animals will be exploited by the new self-centered leader, Napoleon. Another reason why Benjamin is not concerned enough to contribute to the rebellion is due to the fact that he does not have any incentive to help. He also dislikes the whole idea of a revolution because he strongly believes it would likely happen only after his lifetime. The objections Benjamin has to working for the revolution represents George Orwell’s knowledge of how some of the Russian people are reluctant to breaking the bond between the Tsar and themselves. A rebellion will lead to scarcity of food, riots, and unrest among the working population. Because the labourers maintain the majority of the population in Russia, they will suffer the most drastically. Being excessively poor and having difficulties escaping famine from harvest to harvest also make the peasants dislike the idea of a revolutionary strike, not to mention the workers who are properly employed in the factories, mines, and workshops of the major cities that do not wish for things to change. The entire working class of Russia suffers low wages, poor housing and many accidents; however, a revolution, to them and to Orwell, will definitely make things worse. Even with a strong leader and a good reason, a revolution seems impractical and unwise to these Russian people.
Orwell is clearly implying that it is right to think no one will be in a favourable situation or circumstances after the revolution and unveil this through Benjamin being a nonchalant character in the book. He also ultimately expresses his cynical view of human nature predominantly by introducing the corrupt and unjust system that is communism. The book gives clear-cut indications that Orwell believes that in theory, every single person desires equality, therefore the concept known as communism, yet it exists in our nature to obtain power as human beings. The innocence of farm animals allows Orwell to explicate the case of the Russian Revolution more authentically and unhypocritically, enabling the perhaps more biased readers to perceive both sides of the story since their viewpoints are misinterpreted, which helps them subconsciously understand the defects of communism by themselves. In his novel, Orwell primarily makes use of allegory, symbolism, satire, and stereotypes to intelligibly express his opinions of not only the philosophy of revolution, but also the broader theme of the innate nature of human beings’ hunger for power.
Animal Farm is the story of a revolution turning into a lost cause. The character of Benjamin corresponds accurately to the anti-Stalinist and anti-dictatorship ideals of George Orwell in that Benjamin realises Animalism is merely a fantasy that the pigs use to blind every other animal with to indulge their greedy impulses and gratify their own personal desires for power. Correspondingly, George Orwell is aware that communism and fascism are all illusions.
In the novel, Benjamin proposes that as long as the animals remain ignorant of the past, given it is being constantly altered, they will gain no power and control over the present and thus over the future as well. On the other hand, Orwell intends his novel, Animal Farm, mostly as a satire on the Russian revolution; however, he aims for it to have a more extensive relevancy to how conspiratorial revolutions involving violence and uncivilised governing, led by unmindful power-hungry leaders, can only give rise to more destruction and a change of rulers. Revolutions are only capable of effectively producing a radical improvement when the majority are vigilant and recognises how to carry out the change without completely and wantonly relying on their leaders to do the job.