Protest Novels Essay, Research Paper
Eric Arthur Blair was born on June 5, 1903, in Bengal, India. His father was not a wealthy man. He supported his family only on the salary of a civil servant. When his writing career began, his penname became George Orwell. Orwell received his formal education from Eton Academy during a period ranging from 1917 to 1921. After completion of Eton, Orwell did not continue his education; instead he joined forces with the Indian Imperial Police in Burma. He served with the police until he began teaching. He was a high-ranking officer during his years on the police force. His life was poverty stricken until the mid-1930?s. He was considered to be a ?combination of middle class intellectual and working class reformer? (Stewart). Orwell chose to live among tramps in England and the working class in Paris. His experience in England and Paris was the basis for his first book Down and Out in Paris in London, first published in 1933. For many years, Orwell worked as a teacher. A Clergyman?s Daughter was based on his experience as a teacher (Borman 5-6). Considered a novelist and a social critic, Orwell?s fame began in 1945 with the publication of his first protest novel, Animal Farm (Stewart).
Animal Farm is just one of Orwell?s protest novels, but disputably the best protest novel of all time. The novel is allegedly based on the Russian Revolution. Animal Farm is an allegory of the political strife in twentieth-century Europe (Brown 72). According to Orwell his inspiration for Animal Farm came from
a little boy, perhaps ten years old driving a huge cart-horse along a narrow path, whipping it whenever it tried to turn. It struck me that if only such animals became aware of their strength we should have no power over them, and that men exploit animals in much the same way as the rich exploit the proletariat. (Williams 339)
During the Russian Revolution, leaders such as Russia?s Joseph Stalin negotiated with England but made plans secretly with other leaders and nations. In Animal Farm various animals personify or represent political leaders and factions of the Russian Revolution. In the novel Old Major represents Karl Marx, a German economist of the Russian Revolution. Joseph Stalin is portrayed, in the novel, by Napoleon. Stalin was known for negotiating with England but also leading acts of corruption with other countries. In Animal Farm Napoleon negotiates with Mr. Pilkington yet secretly, leads negotiations with other farmers. In the novel Pilkington represents England because he makes deals secretly with Animal Farm (Telgen and Hile 5). In the novel Benjamin expresses political views very similar to the views of Orwell. Telgen and Hile said, ?Benjamin represents the cynical intellectual who refuses to get involved in politics and so fails to affect the meaningful change. His cynicism is much like Orwell?s attitude toward life? (4). Many critics believe that Animal Farm is not related to the Russian Revolution?they feel as if the novel is the average attack against totalitarianism. Animal Farm is an attack on totalitarianism but does not advocate capitalism (Brown 71-73). Many believe the following of Animal Farm:
Although the novel is written in direct response to his bitter disappointment of the Russian Revolution, instead of establishing a people?s republic, established an essentially totalitarian state, its continued relevance is possible because his criticism stands against any and all totalitarian regimes. (Telgen and Hile 8)
Even though Orwell?s purpose for writing Animal Farm is a disputed topic, many have formed their opinion about Orwell?s purpose. Some feel Animal Farm was written to parallel the Russian Revolution, as others feel the book was written to predict a future political upheaval. No one can seem to agree on Orwell?s purpose for writing Animal Farm. Some people, however, seem to agree with Spencer Brown when he said, ?It is, says Boslye Crowther in the New York Times, ?a pretty brutal demonstration of the vicious cycle of tyranny?; it presents the leaders of the new Power State as pigs and conveys as sense of monstrous hypocrisy of the totalitarian leader type? (Brown 71-74). By using animals, Animal Farm helps to relay a message that is universal among society today. The motto of the Animal Farm establishment that is found in the novel is: ?All animals are created equal, but some more equal than others.? The motto of the Animal Farm establishment applies to society because, ?A number of societies have historically ?voted? that portions of their populations were not equal because of their faith, their skin, or their ancestry? (Telgen and Hile 8).
Animal Farm was not Orwell?s only prophetic protest novel. His 1949 claim-to-fame, 1984, is a ?frightening portrait of a totalitarian society that punishes love, destroys privacy, and distracts truth? (Stewart). 1984 is a novel about a man named Winston Smith who is upset with the government control in the totalitarian nation of Oceania. He begins to rebel by writing in his diary?an act forbidden by the thought police. He falls in love with a woman. The two commit and act of adultery. He is arrested for his sexual act and imprisoned in the Ministry of Love. Winston Smith is the main character in the protest novel and Julia is his lover. O?Brien is a representation of oligarchy, as Big Brother is a representation of Joseph Stalin. Smith?s, arrest based on love, is the totalitarian punishment that invades privacy (Borman 10-11). Many agree with the words of Philip Rahv stating that Orwell?s 1984 is a premonition of the harmful possibilities of totalitarianism. In ?The Unfuture of Utopia,? Rahv states that
in Orwell?s narative the further stage of terror that has been reached no longer permits even the slightest sympathy for the revolutionaries turned totalitarian. Here Utopia is presented, with the fearful simplicity of a trauma, as abyss into which the future falls. The traditional notion of Utopia as the future good is turned inside out, inverted?nullified. It is now sheer mockery to speak of its future. Far more accurate it is to speak of its unfuture. (340).
1984 is a strike against totalitarianism. The novel presents that a government in the hands of a corrupt leader can neglect the citizenry of its natural freedoms. The narrative is based primarily on the Soviet Union, but Orwell also points out some hazards of unchecked powers in Western democracies (Hall ?George Orwell?). 1984 lacks the allegory or personification present in Animal Farm. Instead, the ?work of political imagination, and the appeal is exercised with gravity and power? (Rahv). It is said that if one reads the novel and only gains a prediction from the book, then the reader had misread the book. Many feel that the novel is not a mere prediction, but is a warning to the Western Hemisphere of the dangers customary of a totalitarian society (Rahv 340).
Both Animal Farm and 1984 are very similar. Both novels protest totalitarianism, though 1984 predicts the fall of totalitarian nations and presents a warning to the Western world. ?Orwell utilizes his similar yet distinct characters to unravel the shared theme of the two novels, absolute power corrupts absolutely? (?A Comparison of Orwell?s Animal Farm and 1984?).
Orwell died in 1950 of tuberculosis. His two most famous novels warned the world of totalitarian governments and perhaps encouraged people to become a part of the government as Benjamin of Animal Farm did. The two writings are said to contain autobiographical features of Orwell?s life as a socialist. Orwell?s essays, on the other hand, provide a feeling of immediacy and conviction (Stewart). Some critics feel Animal Farm is a weak novel with no meaning. Spencer Brown, however, feels Animal Farm is the best antitotalitarian novel ever written (71). Brown also feels as if many critics of Animal Farm avoided the truth of Orwell?s writing??the evils of communism? (70). According to Edmund Wilson, ?Animal Farm even seems very credible if we compare it with Voltaire and Jonathan Swift? (Telgen and Hile 12). 1984, acclaimed one of the best antitotalitarian novel, is also comparable to many great works including Koestler?s Darkness at Noon?also a critically acclaimed protest novel (Rahv 340). As his writings reflected, Orwell was truly a socialist and despised totalitarianism (Telgen and Hile 8).