Animal Farm As Animal Satire Essay, Research Paper
Animal Farm as Animal Satire
This study aims to determine that George Orwell s Animal Farm is a political satire which was written to criticise totalitarian regimes and particularly Stalin s practices in Russia. In order to provide background information that would reveal causes led Orwell to write Animal Farm, Chapter one is devoted to a brief summary of the progress of author s life and significant events that had impact on his political convictions. Chapter one also presents background information about Animal Farm. Chapter two is devoted to satire. In this chapter, definition of satire is presented and some important characteristics of satire are discussed. In chapter three, the method of this research is described. Under the light of information presented in the previous chapters, Chapter four discusses Animal Farm and focuses on the book as a political satire. The last chapter presents the conclusion of this study.
I would first like to express my sincere thanks to my thesis supervisor, Assoc.Prof. Dr. Jashua M. Bear for his help and freedom he gave me in this study. Without his understanding this thesis would never have been completed.
I also wish to thank my sister Fidan Korkut for her suggestions in the planning stage of this study and her endurance during my long study days at home.
My special thanks go to +zg r Ceylan, who constantly granted me her moral support. She was always there when I needed her.
THE AUTHOR: GEORGE ORWELL
This chapter introduces general information about George Orwell s life. It includes chronological progress of his life and his political convictions. Furthermore, important events, such as The Russian Revolution and The Spanish Civil War which had significant influence on his commitment to write Animal Farm will be discussed. Lastly, general information about Animal Farm will be given.
The British author George Orwell, pen name of Eric Arthur Blair, was born in Motihari, India, June 25, 1903. His father was an important British civil servant in India, which was then part of the British Empire. A few years after Eric was born, he retired on a low pension and moved back to England. Though their income was not much enough, the Blair family sent their son away to boarding school which was an exclusive preparatory school, to prepare him for Eton Collage. Eric then won a scholarship to Eton Collage. During his education from the age of eight to eighteen, as he wrote in his essay about his school experiences titled “Such, Such Were the Joys,” he experienced many things about the “world where the prime necessities were money, titled relatives, athleticism, tailor-made clothes”, inequality, oppression and class distinctions in the schools of England (In Ball,1984).
After the education at Eton College in England, Eric joined the Indian Imperial Police in British-Ruled Burma in 1922. There he witnessed oppression again, but this time he was looking at things from the top. Having served five years in Burma, he resigned in 1927 and turned back to Europe and lived in Paris for more than a year. Though he wrote novels and short stories he found nobody to get them published. He worked as a tutor and even as a dishwasher in Paris. During his poor days in Paris, he once more experienced the problems of the oppressed, the helpless and lower class people.
In 1933, After having many experiences about the life at the bottom of society, he wrote Down and Out in Paris and London and published it under his pen name “George Orwell.” After a year in 1934 he published his novel Burmese Days, which he reflected his experiences there. Then, he published A Clergyman s Daughter in 1935, and Keep the Aspidistra Flying in 1936.
In 1936, his publisher wanted Orwell to go to the English coal-mining country and write about it which was another important experience in his life. He wrote The Road to Wigan Pier to reflect what he saw there, the real poverty of people of the Lancashire Town of Wigan, and published it in 1937 (Ball, 1984).
1937 was the year that Orwell who for some time had been describing himself as “pro-socialist” (BALL, 1984) joined the Republican forces in the Spanish Civil War. When the Communists attempted to eliminate their allies on the far left, he fought against them and was wounded in the fighting, later was forced to flee for his life. His experience in this war was to have the most significant impact on his political thoughts and his later works.
In 1938, Orwell wrote Homage to Catalonia, which recounts his experiences fighting for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. One of his best-known books reflecting his lifelong distrust of dictatorial government, whether of the left or right, Animal Farm, a modern beast-fable attacking Russian Revolution, Stalinism and totalitarianism, was published in 1945, and Nineteen Eighty-Four, a dystopian novel setting forth his fears of an intrusively bureaucratised state of the future was published in 1949. His first fame was brought by these two novels and they were the only ones which made a profit for him as a writer (Ball,1984).
Orwell died at the early age of forty-seven of a neglected lung ailment in London, Jan. 21, 1950.
His Time: Political Background
In his essay “Why I Write”, Orwell (1947) says:
I do not think one can assess a writer s motives without knowing something of his early development. His subject matter will be determined by the age he lives in at least this is true in tumultuous, revolutionary ages like our own Taking Orwell s his own words into consideration, in order to get a better understanding of his works and particularly of his political satire Animal Farm, we should look at his political convictions, and the historical context which influenced Orwell and inspired him to write. Very few authors develop essays explaining the motivation behind their writing. Orwell was of one them. Therefore in order to understand his motivations, his essay “Why I Write” would be the most appropriate source to be looked at.
Orwell was a political writer and according to him he was forced to be a writer by the circumstances under which he has become aware of his political loyalties . His Burma and Paris days increased his natural hatred of authority and made him aware of the existence of the working classes.(Orwell, 1947)
As mentioned above, he described himself as “pro-Socialist.” What he was longing for was a society in which there would be no class distinctions, and he named his ideal ideology “democratic socialism”. He says “every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism ” (Orwell, 1947)
There are two significant events that have great influence on Orwell s political thoughts: The Russian revolution that took place in the second decade of 20th century and The Spanish Civil War between 1936 and 1939.
The Russian Revolution
Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917 was the first great revolution which aimed at to overthrow the owners of the means of production, that is Capitalist Bourgeoisie, and to establish a state to be ruled by the working class, the Proletariat. Ideological basis of the revolution was taken from the philosophy of Karl Marx and Frederick Angels who believed that the history of the world was the history of a struggle between classes- between ruling classes and ruled classes (Han erlio lu, 1976). Marx was very critical of industrial capitalist society in which there are many cruel injustices and men are exploited by men. Out of his analysis of Capitalist system, he attained a vision of ending these injustices and establishing a society in which there would be no social classes and everybody would be equal. To him, in order to achieve this end the only way was a revolution made by the working class or the Proletariat against the Bourgeoisie. After revolution working classes would own the means of production. Marx called the new order that would be set after revolution “dictatorship of the Proletariat” which eventually replaced with a classless society (Han erlio lu, 1976).
In October 1917, V.I. Lenin, led the socialist (Bolshevik) revolution in Russia. After the revolution was a four-year bloody civil war. During this war Red Army of the revolution organised and headed by Leon Trotsky had to fight against both Russians who were loyal to Czar and foreign troops (The Academic American Encyclopaedia, 1995).
After Lenin died in 1924, a struggle between Joseph Stalin and Leon Trotsky started for the leadership of the Communist Party. Stalin gained priority over Trotsky and; in 1925 Trotsky with several other members ousted from Politburo (the chief executive and political committee of the Communist Party); in 1927 Trotsky and his followers expelled from Party; Stalin took the control. Later Trotsky was exiled and in 1929 he was deported. In 1940 he was assassinated. During this period, Stalin always denounced Trotsky as a traitor (Ball, 1929).
In the following years, Russia witnessed that Stalin started to take all power only in his hands. In 1930 s, many people were arrested. After public trials most of the opposing elements were eliminated.
Stalin has been accused of being a very cruel dictator. However, Nikita Khrushchev, who ruled USSR between 1958-1964 and who was very critical of Stalin s crimes and non-human practices said in 1956 that:
Stalin believed that all his practices was necessary in order to defend the benefits of labourers. He looked at these practices from the view point of the benefit of socialism and labourers. Thus, we cannot define his practices as of a giddy cruel despot. Here, it is the all tragedy (Han erlio lu, 1979).
The Spanish Civil War
In 1936, General Francisco Franco led a military coup in Spain, plunging the country into civil war. Franklin Rosemont in his article “Spanish revolution of 1936″ defines the beginning of the revolution as follows:
When Franco s fascist troops invaded Spain in July 1936 with the purpose of overthrowing the young and unstable Republic, the Spanish working class responded by making a revolution that went much further toward realising the classless and stateless ideal of proletarian socialism than any preceding popular revolt. Spontaneously and almost overnight, workers seized factories and other workplaces; land was collectivised; workers militias were formed throughout the country; the church age-old enemy of all working-class radicalism and indeed, openly profascist was dismantled, and its property confiscated; established political institutions disintegrated or were taken over by workers committees (Rosemont, 1988).
Yet, between 1936 and 1939 the military rising originating in Morocco, headed by General Francisco Franco, spreads rapidly all over the country, After a number of bloody battles in which fortunes changed from one side to the other. Finally, Nationalist forces occupied the capital, Madrid, on March 28, 1939, and on April 1, General Franco officially ended the war (The Academic American Encyclopaedia).
Orwell And The Spanish Civil War
David Ball (1984) points out three experiences in the Spanish Civil War that were important for Orwell: atmosphere of Comradeship and respect, what happened to his fellow fighters and what happened when he returned to England and reported what he had seen.
After spending very poor days in Paris, Orwell went to Spain to fight for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. When he arrived Barcelona, he found an elating “atmosphere of Comradeship and respect”. People were friendly and addressing each other “comrade”. To Orwell, relations in the militia group he joined were the same and this made him feel that socialism was in action there.
But later on, he was disappointed by what happened to his arm friends who were imprisoned and killed by their own “comrades” who were of Communist-dominated elements of the Republican government that they were fighting for. Communists believed that the communist ideas were betrayed by the militia group that Orwell belonged to. After he was wounded Orwell went back to England for remedy and was saved from being killed by his “comrades”.
When he returned England he reported what he witnessed in the war, but Socialists strongly resisted to understand what he told about the practices of communists in Spain. The reason was that it was not the right time to publicise all these things while the war was going on and this information would harm Republican s position in the war. After this bad experience, he started to be more critical of British socialists and of communism. He wrote in his article “The Spanish war and other events in 1936-37 turned the scale and thereafter I knew where I stood.” (Orwell, 1947)
Through his questioning of his own experiences in Burma and Spain and communists practices in USSR, Orwell began to develop a rejection of totalitarian systems. He was also denouncing the acceptance of soviet regime by the left-wing people of other countries and particularly of England without questioning in depth. For Michael Shelden, “the idea for the book” which was to serve Orwell s desire to “make a forceful attack, in an imaginative way, on the sustaining myths of Soviet communism had been in the back of his mind since his return from Spain” (Shelden, 1991, p. 399). Another author Peter Davison points out that, besides Orwell s experience in Spain, Animal Farm “originated from the incident that suggested its genre: the little boy driving a huge cart-horse, which could easily overwhelm the child had realised its own strength.”(Davison, 1996, p.125)
Shortly after he published Animal Farm, Orwell (1947) in his essay titled “Why I Write” wrote about his goals in writing his book:
Animal Farm was the first book in which I tried, with full consciousness of what I was doing, to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole. I have not written a novel for seven years, but I hope to write another fairly soon. It is bound to be a failure, every book is a failure, but I do know with some clarity what kind of book I want to write.
When Orwell finished his book, no one wanted to publish it. Since, like his efforts to publicise reality after he returned from Spain, for many people, and of course for publishers, it was the very wrong time to attack Soviet myth, particularly when the World War-II was going on and Russia was Britain s ally. Consequently the book was published in Britain on 17 August 1945, after the war was over, and sold more than 25.000 hard copies in five years. When it published in the State in 1946, it sold about 590.000 in four years (Shelden, 1991).
The book was a satire on totalitarian regime of Stalin in Russia. Many people thought (and still think) that the book reveals Orwell s opposition to the ideology that was prevailing in Russia. As Michael Shelden states, the book “caught the popular imagination just when the Cold War beginning to make itself felt. For many years anti-Communists enjoyed it as a propaganda weapon in that war” (Shelden, 1991, p.404). But this interpretation of the book was completely opposes to the real intention of the book. As Roger Fowler reports, in his preface to the Ukrainian edition of Animal Farm, written in 1947, Orwell writes that his aim with Animal Farm was not only to attack and to criticise Soviet Communism, but to attack “Soviet Myth” as received in Britain. To him, this myth was giving harm to the Socialist movement (Fowler, 1995, p. 163).
Animal Farm might leave a kind of pessimism on readers who have knowledge of historical background that inspired Orwell to write it. For instance, one possible pessimistic view that can be derived from Animal Farm is the impossibility of establishing a social system in which there would be no inequality between individuals and there would be no individuals or groups of people who apt to make use of power just for their benefits. Another possible pessimistic view of those who rely on socialism or communism would be that: even socialism, which is claimed to be a more egalitarian system, would be turned into a dictatorship by human beings desire for power.
Actually, the point that Orwell intended to give emphasis is not the ideology itself, but the human nature. As Christopher Hollis (1962) explains, “The lesson of Animal Farm is clearly not merely the corrupting effect of power when exercised by Communists, but the corrupting effect of power when exercised by anybody” (In Yemenici, 1997).
Finally, for a better understanding of Orwell s intention, it is the best way to consult Orwell himself. Shelden (1991) quotes Orwell s letter he sent to Dwight Macdonald in America in which he expresses his intentions in writing Animal Farm. The letter included his arguments against pessimistic view of his book:
Of course I intended it primarily as a satire on the Russian Revolution. But I did mean it to have a wider application in so much that I meant that that kind of revolution (violent conspiratorial revolution, led by unconsciously power-hungry people) can only lead to a change of masters. I meant the moral to be that revolutions only effect a radical improvement when the masses are alert and know how o chuck out their leaders as soon as the latter have done their job. The turning point of the story was supposed to be when the pigs kept the milk for themselves (Kronstad). If the other animals had had the sense to put their foot down then, it would have been all right … what I was trying to say was, You can t have a revolution unless you make it for yourself; there is no such thing as a benevolent dictatorship (p.407).
This chapter is devoted to the information about satire. After the definition of satire, its significant characteristics, and some techniques used in satire will be discussed.
What Is Satire? …Definition
There are many different ways to reveal one s perception of life and its reflection by a person. In art for instance, the reflection may be revealed in the form of a sculpture, a song or a picture. Satire is one the ways that the reaction or perception of life is expressed. Since people look at life from different stand points, as matter of fact, they naturally perceive it in numerous ways. As a result of the variety in perception, the way of revealing the effects or reflections of these perceptions also shows variety.
Originally, the word “satire” comes from “the Latin word for medley, satura; the impression that it is to do with the word “satyr” is a popular delusion” (Abrams, 1986, p.2598). it is a way of revealing the reaction to what is perceived, with a mixture of laughter and outrage. In The Quarterly Journal of Contemporary Satire the description of satire is given as “a work in which vices, follies, stupidities, abuses, etc. are held up to ridicule and contempt.” In the preface to The Battle of the Books, Jonathan Swift, who claimed that satire is therapeutic, describes satire as “A sort of glass wherein beholders do generally discover everybody s face but their own” (In Bozkurt, 1977, p.71).
Bozkurt (1977), offers two fundamental types of satire: Horatian and Juvenalian satire. These types are named for two Roman poets Horace and Jevenal, the most differentiated practitioner of them. As Bozkurt reports, both of them were critical of the Roman society but while the former was more “gentle, urbane, smiling and tolerant”, the latter was “severe” and angry. Horatian satire is purpose is to sort out society through a “gentle and broadly sympathetic laughter.” On the other hand, Juvelian satire is “bitter, angry, misanthropic” or cynical. It approaches to its subject with a degrading and disrespecting manner(Bozkurt, 1977, p. 68).
Characteristics of Satire
People, in their everyday life, always use satire in order to respond several events going on in their environs. The main purpose of using satire is to attack and intensely criticise the target subject. It also includes aggressiveness toward the subject being criticised. As a matter of fact, satire should include more than these in order to be accepted as a satirical work. It must, for instance, include aesthetic features like different sound and meaning patterns that can give pleasure to the readers. Furthermore, the satirist should deal with problematic subjects that are known by many people. In doing so, the satirist should abstract the setting of satire from the world. Mostly, this imaginary world is of non-human beings, as in beast fables like Animal Farm or, as in Gulliver s Travels and Alice in Wonderland, a world that possibly would not exist or in which the real world is turned upside down. Primary reason for abstraction is to move readers from the concrete reality, and so, while entertaining them through a fantastic setting to provide them with a critical vision. Richard (1976) calls this element of satire “fantasy”. He says.
The satirist does not paint an objective picture of the evils he describes, since pure realism would be too oppressive. Instead he usually offers us a travesty of the situation, which at once directs our attention to actuality and permits an escape from it. … It is written for entertainment, but contains sharp and telling comments on the problems of the world in which we live, offering imaginary gardens with real toads in them .
As mentioned above, people approach problems, subjects etc. in different ways so do authors. The satirist differs from authors of other types of literature with regard to its way of dealing with his subject. In novel or drama, for example, the target subject is dealt with directly. In the Cherry Orchard, Chekhov deals with social change in Russia and how people react to it. His characters are real persons that can be found in the society as they are described in the play. On the hand, it is impossible to find a real Napoleon or Lilliputian in a society. Since, they are just symbols of particular types of people.
In this sense, the satirist use high level of symbolism. One reason for using symbols might be that it provides the author with an absolute freedom to attack his targets through their images he created which seemingly have no relation with the reality. As Richard (1976) notices, the satirist often aims at “to deflate false heroes, imposters or charlatans, who claim a respect which is not their due, the vehicle he chooses for this is usually the mock-heroic.” Therefore, in order to operate his attack and mockery towards these so-called heroes who might be leaders of a country or people of prestigiousness, without any restriction the satirist uses symbols.
Since the main topic of satire is politics which is throughout the history considered a dirty business, writing political satire is very risky, but on the other hand it would be very rewardful. As remarked before, after he published his two satires, Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell was to be one of the greatest authors of literature, as mentioned above he hardly find a publisher for Animal Farm, and published it after a year he finished it.
In order to achieve his end says Richard (1976), the satirist “must use some of the basic strategies of satire.” He also should “commit himself boldly to his impure subject, yet retain a purity of attitude, in his aesthetic disengagement from the vulgarities and stupidities of the struggle.” Richard (1976) continues his argument by adding that what distinguishes satire from other kinds of literature is its approach to the subject. Therefore its subject-matter forms the most important aspect of satire. Despite he introduces the cruellest facts of life, the satirist mean to make people laugh and In order to make people laugh, he employs some techniques.
Techniques of Satire
The satirist may use different forms of literature in prose or verse. But for the satirist some particular techniques are necessary to achieve his aim. Richard (1976) suggests two main techniques that the satirist use: the first one is reduction and the other one is invective and irony.
Reduction is the act of decreasing or reducing something. It is the main means of the satirist to attack his subject. People can more easily criticise those who they can laugh at. Since, laughter loosen muscles and is anatomically relaxing. if you laugh at someone, then your critical mechanism are set free, your criticism is revealed easily. Through reduction the satirist aims at to make the reader laugh at his subject. Degrading, says Richard (1976) may be employed “on the level of plot and will almost he continued to the level of style and language.” He puts Gulliver s Travels as the most outstanding example of reduction. Animal world is continually used by the satirist for this aim.
Invective is the expression of bitter deep-seated ill will. As it can be expected the satirist, writing satire, expose himself to counter-attacks by those who attacked. Richard (1976 )says:
this danger becomes the greater, the more the writer is committed to invective and abuse. Invective is of course one of his most useful weapons, and it is an art its own: it requires elegance of form to set off grossness of content, and learned allusiveness to set off open insult. But although invective has the sanction of holy writ, the best satirist use it only occasionally, for shock effect (p.130).
Irony is one of the figure of speeches. It includes the reverse meaning of what is said. It is one of the main devices of which the satirist make use. As Richard (1976) wrote,
“Irony assumes double meaning and double audience one of which is deceived by the surface meaning of the words, and another that catches the hidden sense and laughs with the deceiver at the expense of the deceived. In order to operate irony, the satirist uses imaginary or fictional characters or events by which s/he allow the double flow of meaning to be maintained (p.130).
METHOD OF RESEARCH
This chapter is concerned with the procedure of the research which was carried out to collect necessary sources for the study and method of the study.
Since the subject of this study mainly concerns with George Orwell s Animal Farm, first the book was read. After reading the book, sources about George Orwell s life and Animal Farm were cited. When investigating Orwell s intention in writing the book and his political convictions, mainly his essays were used as primary sources. During this period it was found that the Spanish Revolution was of great influence. Information on the Spanish War was mainly drawn from secondary sources.
Since the book is strongly related to the Russian Revolution, Socialism, Communism and Marxism, several sources and Internet sites were searched for to find out important dates and events in the Revolution, and to gather basic information about the principles of above maintained ideologies. In the parts related to these subjects of the study, again, mostly secondary sources were used.
Information about Satire is mainly drawn from secondary sources.
Finally, comparison of Animal Farm and the Russian Revolution in terms of characters, events and some specific elements, mainly based on the information gathered from primary and secondary sources.
ANIMAL FARM AS SATIRE
In this chapter, under the light of information given in the chapter-1 and chapter-2, Animal Farm will be examined. It aims at to show the elements of satire in Animal Farm, and to compare characters, events and some elements of Animal Farm and The Russian Revolution
Elements of Satire In Animal Farm
Orwell, as quoted before, clearly explains that his main purpose for writing Animal Farm was to write a satire on the Russian Revolution (In Shelden, 1991, p.399). Through animal satire, Orwell attacks on the Stalin s practices in Russia and in wider scope, on totalitarian regimes. Taking Bozkurt s (1977) classification into consideration, Animal Farm would be said to be a Juvenial satire. Since, it is clearly seen that Orwell bitterly criticise Russian Communism and Stalin.
Summary of The Plot
One night after Farmer Jones has gone to bed drunk, all the animals of Manor Farm meet in the barn for a meeting. Old Major, the prize Middle White boar, wants to tell them about a strange dream he had. First, he narrate “the nature of life” as he has come to understand it. Animals, though work very hard.