Animal Farm As a Dark Satire on the Corrupting Influence of Power: Book Review

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Animal Farm , an allegorical novel, by George Orwell is based in a world where animals are much smarter than they are in the real world and where they could communicate with animals other than their own species as well. The plot is based on a farm named ‘The Manor Farm’ in England which is run by Mr Jones and his men. They treated the animals in a very harsh way by making them work for long hours every day, whipping them and keeping them underfed. Old Major is a prize middle white boar who is the eldest of all animals on the farm. He inspires the animals to start a rebellion against mankind and propagated self-rule by the animals arguing that this would lead to prosperity for all the animals. The rebellion happens spontaneously one day when Mr Jones and his men forget to feed the animals and the hungry animals revolt against them throwing them out of their farm. After freedom, the animals led by Pigs decide on Seven Commandments to live by which imbibe the spirit of equality, justice, mutual respect, avoiding the evils of man, unity and brotherhood among animals. All goes well for some time, but the utopia is short-lived and this newly-acquired power leads to a turn of events that establishes a society very different from what Old Major had envisioned. Animal Farm is a dark satire on the corrupting influence of power and is heavily inspired by the Russian Revolution. Those who are educated and informed about the Russian Revolution will be able to understand the symbols and characters of the book in a deeper and more meaningful way but even those who are not acquainted with it will still get the message anyway.

George Orwell was a democratic socialist who wrote this book in 1945 to describe how the Russian Revolution failed to create a just and equal society. He blamed this failure on the greed of leaders for power and influence, and their tyrannical means to achieve their ends. Animal Farm starts off as a fantasy novel with animals talking to each other and one might be forgiven to think that it is a children’s book, but as the novel progresses it becomes crystal clear that the novel focuses on the most important issues that each country faces which include narcissism and tyranny by leaders, false propaganda, rumours, and fake news, crushing of dissent, ignorance of the general public. These are the major themes of the novel which are as relevant today as they were 75 years ago when this book was first written. The story really picks up speed in aftermath of the rebellion and beginning of self-rule by animals. From this point the book keeps the reader hooked and keeps amusing them with various twists and turns. The narrative is gripping and each new page brings a newer and more unpredictable set of surprises that stirs a range of emotions within the reader for various characters. Sometimes it is admiration, other times it is hatred and disgust and a few times it is downright pity.

As the story progresses further, it becomes more and more relatable and seems like a reflection of many countries in the world. The fast-paced narrative is one of the primary reasons the book is able to hold on to the interest of the reader from the start till the end. At last, the author tops it off with a brilliant ending, especially the last chapter: Chapter 10 which is easily the best piece of allegorical fiction I have ever read! It gives us a whole new perspective towards the world and our administrators. The book gives ample food for thought to the readers and forces you to think about the world in a completely different way, and the ideas in the novel stay with you long after you have forgotten the story. The author also adds humour to the story at regular intervals such as Squealer skipping from side to side and whisking his tail to persuade the other animals, this is a satire of politicians using theatrics and dramatic gestures in their speeches and presentations to persuade the public. This and many other humorous moments in the novel only enhances the reading experience and forces us to think about the sheer stupidity of many of the things that our leaders do. Socio-Political commentary is also weaved effortlessly into the story in a subtle manner and it is especially evident in the tragic climax which makes you laugh and feel sad at the same time. All in all, Animal Farm is one of those few allegorical novels that is able to blend just the right amount of intellectual symbolism for sending across a message and gripping storytelling for the reader’s entertainment, making it a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the social structure and status quo around them. The book is a fascinating read for those who like a good political thriller and also a good recommendation for fans of historical fantasy.

All in all, Animal Farm is one of those few allegorical novels that is able to blend just the right amount of intellectual symbolism for sending across a message and gripping storytelling for the reader’s entertainment, making it a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the social structure and status quo around them. The book is a fascinating read for those who like a good political thriller and also a good recommendation for fans of historical fantasy.

Johari Window of Napoleon clearly depicts that the shrewd dictator has the personality of an interrogator, someone who has a large hidden/mask/facade area which means that he hides a lot of things from others and does not reveal much about himself. This description perfectly matches Napoleon’s character in the novel as he is not much of a talker and he does not let anyone know what is going on in his mind , and what will be his next move. Due to this reason, many of the things that Napoleon does in the story comes off as a shock for the animals but they could not do anything because he has already deployed his dogs and other pigs to crush any protest before it even starts.

One of the biggest examples of Napoleon’s Interrogator personality is his strategy to take away nine sturdy puppies away from their mothers in a secluded room in the farm where he raised them to be fierce, enormous dogs almost as big as wolves to use them to get rid of Snowball and establish his reign.

He is an allegory of Joseph Stalin and is the main antagonist of the novel. He has a cunning mind and a desire for power. He is a proud, egoistic and tyrannical leader who cares for nothing and no one but himself, and this is displayed on multiple occasions, the biggest example is when he sells Boxer, the most hardworking animal on the farm to a knacker to buy himself whisky and he very cunningly makes Squealer give a moving account falsifying Boxer’s death when the animals realize that Boxer was sent to the slaughterhouse, not veterinarian.

Self Serving Bias:

Self Serving Bias can be defined as the tendency to attribute our successes to internal factors and blame our failures on external factors. Napoleon suffers from self-serving bias as he attributes every success in the farm to himself and even discredits others to make sure that he is the one who is remembered for the achievement. Examples are :

Battle of Cowshed: When Napoleon attributes the success of Battle of Cowshed to himself and discredits Snowball, stripping him of the military decoration of ‘Animal Hero, First Class’ and awarding it to himself instead, along with ‘Animal Hero, Second Class’ as well.

Windmill: After Snowball’s expulsion, Napoleon announces that Windmill will be built and also explains that how Windmill was actually his idea and that Snowball had stolen it from him, which is completely false.

Snowball’s Nocturnal Activities: Whenever something went wrong in the farm due to mismanagement of Napoleon , like the grains getting spoiled, losing the key of cowshed, breaking of eggs, and most importantly Windmill falling down due to a very weak structure, it would be said that all of this is a conspiracy by Snowball who came during night time and performed all kinds of mischief, hence blaming Snowball for every failure.

Rokeach’s Value Survey:

This concept can be used to differentiate between the two main characters of the novel: Napoleon and Snowball.

Terminal Values: ENDS

Napoleon:

Gaining Power and Prestige.

Becoming the leader of Animal Farm.

Better life for himself and all other pigs.

Snowball:

Betterment of life of all animals on the farm, creating the Utopian society envisioned by Old Major.

Gaining Power and Prestige.

Instrumental Values: MEANS

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Napoleon:

Expelled Snowball forcefully and became the undisputed leader of Animal Farm.

Centralized all the power with himself.

Executed all the dissenters and rivals by declaring them traitors.

Banned the singing of ‘Beasts of England’, removed the white hoof and horn from the flag and buried the skull of Old Major to remove all symbols of rebellion.

Amended and changed the seven commandments secretly and finally removed them.

Made the Animal Farm into a cooperative enterprise owned by the pigs jointly.

Abolished the name ‘Animal Farm’ and renamed it to ‘The Manor Farm’.

Snowball

By debating and proposing initiatives, projects at the meeting.

Building the Windmill to produce electricity which would be used to automatize most of the tasks, so that the animals would have to work for only 3 days a week.

Through Democratic means, by giving brilliant speeches to canvass the majority vote in his favour.

By supplying the animals with various amenities such as electric light, hot and cold water, and an electric heater for everyone.

Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions Theory:

According to Geert Hofstede, the effects of society’s culture on the values of its members and effects of values on behaviour can be understood through 6 dimensions. Using these 6 dimensions we will understand the culture of Animal Farm:

Power Distance: In Animal Farm, there is a clear hierarchy structure with the pigs and dogs at the top, and all the decision-making power is in the hands of the pigs who also own the farm. Even though Animal Farm was envisioned to be a free, just and equal society for all the animals, over time the pigs due to their greater intellect and desire for power assumed leadership roles, at first it was with the approval of the animals but over time especially after Snowball’s expulsion, the corrupting influence of power made them more and more detached from other animals and changed the structure from democratic to dictatorial. Thus Animal Farm would score very high on Power Distance Index(PDI).

Individualism vs. Collectivism(IDV) : Animal Farm can be described as a Collectivist society because the animals generally see themselves as a part of the group and since there is no monetary system in place within the farm, all the animals on the farm are interdependent on each other for fulfilling their basic needs. The animals addressed each other as ‘comrades’ and even had sub-groups or ‘in groups’ among them that took care of them in exchange for loyalty, like the sub-groups of Pigs, dogs, hens, cows, and even the sheep. There was a high sense of loyalty among the animals in these sub-groups as they never went against each other, and always supported one another. During protests, all the hen stood up against Napoleon’s plan to sell 400 eggs a week. Thus, Animal Farm would have a low score on the Individualism Index.

Masculinity vs. Femininity: Animal Farm would score moderate on the masculinity index as there does not seem to be any real competitive spirit among the animals (absence of a key masculine trait), but at the same time other masculine traits such as bravery, courage and valour are present. The animals care for each other, which is evident on many occasions, especially when Boxer gets injured as about half of all the animals rushed to save him. Also, great emphasis is placed on the quality of life which is another feminine trait. Hence the score would be around the halfway mark.

Uncertainty Avoidance: Animal Farm’s score would be low on this measure as on many occasions we have seen the animals undertake projects which are uncertain to succeed, the first example is the Rebellion itself, it was highly unlikely to succeed but they still went ahead with it, and the decision to trade with humans, whom they did not trust but still went ahead and did it, which eventually resulted in Frederick scamming them with fake currency.

Long Term Orientation: Animal Farm has a very long-term orientation and hence will score very high in this index. This is evident from the fact that the animals were ready to sacrifice short term gains and gratification for long term benefits, such as them working during rest time to spread awareness about the Rebellion, putting in long hours to build and rebuild the windmill and even accepting to reduce rations for purchasing electrical equipment. Boxer’s mantra to solve any problem in life was “I will work harder.”

Indulgence: Animal Farm has a culture where indulgence is practiced by the animals at the top of the hierarchical structure such as pigs and dogs but rest of the animals practice restraint and control their impulses and desire. Pigs and Dogs spend their free time having parties, drinking liquor, having the best food and living in luxurious conditions (especially the pigs) whereas the other animals hardly get any free time and are often working every waking hour, they also adjusted themselves to survive with mediocre food. Thus, Animal Farm would score moderate on this aspect.

Reinforcement of Behaviours:

Behaviours can be reinforced in 4 ways which are Positive reinforcement, Negative reinforcement, Punishment and Extinction. The rulers of Animal Farm, i.e., Napoleon and the other pigs use the reinforcement method of punishment(negative behaviour followed by negative consequences) to make the other animals behave in the desired way. For example, when the Animals are asked to do extra work on Sunday afternoon, not many agreed but then they added a new rule which stated that whoever does not work on that day will have his/her ration cut by half, and hence all the animals worked on Sunday afternoons as well.

  • REFLECTIONS from ANIMAL FARM (Lessons from Animal Farm) :
  • TOTALITARIANISM: When a person is given unparalleled power without any system of checks and balances to keep him/her accountable, it will lead to totalitarianism which is never good for any society.
  • YES-MEN and SYCOPHANTS: A leader who truly wants to improve the lives of others around him needs to stay away from and never be caught in the bubble of Yes-men and sycophants, to keep himself/herself attached to the ground reality.
  • DEMOCRACY: Corrupting influence of power can pollute leaders with even the purest of intentions and hence to make sure that the rulers work for the welfare of people and the objectives of leaders and general public are in the same direction, democracy is the best option. Leaders aim to acquire or hold on to power and the general public wants betterment of life, in democracies most of the times, leaders are able to retain power only if they are able to improve the lives of citizens.
  • PROPAGANDA: If propaganda and marketing techniques are used effectively then it can work wonders in hiding the failures and exaggerating the achievements, which creates a perception in the minds of people that is far removed from the reality like, by taking out rallies and presenting fudged production numbers to show that the animals are more prosperous than ever, again and again, leads to the animals starting to believe that its true and that their lives are better than ever before, but in reality their life is even worse than how it was during Mr. Jones times.
  • EDUCATION: Being an informed, literate and educated citizen is very important to make sure that our leaders are not able to mislead and fool us. It is our duty to actively participate in government’s activities and decision-making process, and evaluate their performance. One of the main reasons why the pigs were able to rule over other animals was because they were educated and literate whereas the rest were ignorant, illiterate and uneducated due to which they were not able to identify the lies and fudged numbers that were being served to them by the pigs. Benjamin, the donkey, was literate but he always stayed away and did not participate in any of the discussions, and hence his knowledge was of no use as well. The novel tries to highlight that the only way to identify and fight against totalitarianism to be informed and learned.

“ All animals are equal. But some animals are more equal than others. “

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Animal Farm As a Dark Satire on the Corrupting Influence of Power: Book Review. (2022, March 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 4, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/animal-farm-as-a-dark-satire-on-the-corrupting-influence-of-power-book-review/
“Animal Farm As a Dark Satire on the Corrupting Influence of Power: Book Review.” Edubirdie, 17 Mar. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/animal-farm-as-a-dark-satire-on-the-corrupting-influence-of-power-book-review/
Animal Farm As a Dark Satire on the Corrupting Influence of Power: Book Review. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/animal-farm-as-a-dark-satire-on-the-corrupting-influence-of-power-book-review/> [Accessed 4 Jul. 2022].
Animal Farm As a Dark Satire on the Corrupting Influence of Power: Book Review [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Mar 17 [cited 2022 Jul 4]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/animal-farm-as-a-dark-satire-on-the-corrupting-influence-of-power-book-review/
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